Lean Means Your Never Done
I have just enjoyed reading the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. This talks about the minimum viable product (“MVP”) and deploying code continually to test hypotheses using the scientific method (e.g. A/B Testing). Anyone who has worked on Government Digital Services (GDS) in the UK who has heard of those terms but who hasn’t read the book should read it immediately. What is fascinating about the book is how in 2011 it was trying to start a “movement” which by 2016 was mainstream on large government digital services doing user-centric design. Of course like all Big Ideas™ much of the spirit of the approach has been lost in translation was it was codified into a process.
For example, the book is clear that continual learning can cause rework to happen at any point. A “pivot” to a new approach can happen at any time (“continuous alpha”). The book is also very clearly advocating putting something shoddy in front of real users from the very first sprint (“continuous beta”). Yet the government budget and funding process go against the letter and spirit of both Lean and agile. They do “wagile” with distinct waterfall phases known as Discovery, Alpha, Beta, and Live. You will be pleased to hear that some of the folk who were around when “wagile” subverted the intent of agile are now pushing teams to do true “always learning, always able to pivot” lean as per the book.