MVP – Minimum Viable Product – is an exciting approach that dramatically increases the chance of rapid learning in product development while at the same time drastically reducing the chance of absolute failure. In this article I describe how we apply this approach to our own website and what experiences we made with it.
Uncertainty is a mighty trigger
When we are faced with a new challenge in a complex world, we are sometimes overwhelmed by the numerous opportunities that the world offers. Making of a company website is probably one of them. At least we had that feeling ourselves and with our own website we immediately had countless questions and almost no answers:
What content do we want to present? – What is our target group? – How do we want to be indexed in search engines? Which usecases are there? – Which technology do we want to use? – How do we ensure that we have legal compliance? – Which layout do we want to use? – How can we keep the maintenance effort as low as possible? What could possibly go wrong? – Do we really want to invest so much time? – …
The feeling of uncertainty thus becomes ever greater
In fact, we even asked ourselves briefly whether we would rather leave the subject for a little while longer. Do we really need a web presence these days? Can we really say that with certainty? We confess: the feeling we had was created in a 15 minute discussion – until one of us stood up and asked (yes, it got loud) if this is really the kind of approach we want to take as Komplexitäters. Of course not.
In deed, we ourselves had fallen into the habitual behavior of dealing with difficult things: Gain a sense of security through analysis and planning. Obviously our challenge was not complicated. It was complex.
Just do it – an experiment
Of course, the feeling of uncertainty we felt is quite normal in complex environments. None of us had ever been in the same situation before and in fact there is a mountain of (in)possibilities in the wide world of the internet.
An alternative way of dealing with this reality is the very conscious switch from thinking and analysing to acting. With one small difference in our attitude: we knowingly assume that we will make mistakes. So we learn as quickly as possible on the basis of real experiences and then adapt accordingly. Or in short – become a Komplexitäter!
One of the essential learning experiences in a complex environment
It requires long training to adapt your working methods accordingly. One of the models that can be helpful here is the MVP approach – the Minimum Viable Product. In our opinion, at the heart of the MVP approach lies the question that must be asked for every type of change: What is the fundamental hypothesis on the basis of which I make an adjustment? And how do I determine as quickly as possible whether this hypothesis is actually valid? Here is an article that describes this very vividly.
MVP or experiment: Is small even small enough?
Instead of MVP, we also like to use the term experiment (German only), as it clearly shows that the refutation of a hypothesis is as valuable as its confirmation.
However, at this very point we have seen in practice how difficult it is for teams to restrict themselves to the essential core of an idea. The answer often is: “You can’t make it smaller. That is already the absolute minimum in scope.” Now, as coaches, we are never the experts on the subject matter. Therefore, it is often all the more challenging to turn “small enough” into “Ahh, yet so small!”. So it’s time for us to experience this ourselves in the role of an implementation team.
From now on 6 hours till Go-live
Starting point at zero. Except the idea there was nothing else. Apart from a firm intention to go live tonight, no matter what. Time to launch: T minus 6 hours.
In the first step we defined a possible MVP. First question: What is exactly our hypothesis?
It soon became clear to us: “If we offer a central place of information to potential interested people ( whether they are potential customers, colleagues or simply people from our support network) for our topic, then this can increase the probability of getting into conversation together?” Of course, we can be totally wrong. So let’s give it a try.
The first MVP
So what needs an appropriate solution that can be implemented as quickly as possible? We collected our requirements on a flipchart:
- We as humans are visible and introduce ourselves
- It is explained why we exist as Komplexitäters
- The visitor learns how we work together with them to put this “why?” into practice
- We explain what services we offer in a concrete way
- You learn how to contact us
- We want to meet our legal obligations
- It is possible to check the correctness of our hypothesis by measuring the result (e.g. tracking)
Of course, we could have generated several more ideas at this point. It is not so easy to curb one’s own creativity in this discussion. T minus 5 hours and 30 minutes.
MVP: You can even go smaller
One of the questions that helped us at this point: “If we didn’t implement X at the end of the day, would we still go live?” Reality is tough at this point. Our MVP:
- Every experiment needs an evaluation possibility, so requirement no. 7
- We want to be in line with our own values, so requirement no. 6
- Of course we want to be able to test our hypothesis, so requirement no. 5 (so that we can be contacted at all).
That’s it. Nothing more. Free choice of the solution and by tonight we will be live on the Internet with at least this range of functions. Based on this MVP, we briefly defined the necessary tasks together and then got started. T minus 5 hours.
Less questions more answers
With this clear MVP focus we quickly created the first prototype. At the same time, questions arose that we had not even asked ourselves before. For example: “Do we need a central phone number?” – “Yes.” – “How do we implement this?” – “There are services.” – “Which one do we use?” – “The one with the highest ratings that offers a trial period.”
T minus three hours. Short stand-up meeting: What did we discover? What do we need now to go live immediately? Who will work with whom on what topic to resolve blockers? At this point we were almost unstoppable. It was on! When we were done with the requirements no. 7, 6 and 5, we suddenly even had time for no. 1 and then for no. 3 (we decided without further ado to create a blog as a solution – so you can read this article for example).
T minus 0. Launch.
In fact, at the end of the day we were live with a first MVP. The result surprised even ourselves. We had only agreed on this at the beginning of the day and the outcome was far better than each of us expected. A very good feeling. I personally would summarize the 6 hours for me like this: Out of the jungle of questions and possibilities and the feeling of uncertainty, the feeling of growing with every actual activity arises very quickly. And with every step you take, you gain in security. It is evident what lies behind you. And the goal becomes slowly and ever more clearly visible.
Our recommendation: Try it out for yourself. In the context of organisational development, the experimental approach (German only) can also help. What experiences have you had in creating MVPs? Did it work for you and what were the stumbling blocks? Please leave a comment.