May 132013

Book Short: Getting to MVP

Book Short:  Getting to MVP

Usually, when we hear the term MVP, we think Most Valuable Player.  But in my line of work, that acronym has come to mean something entirely different:  Minimum Viable Product.  Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works, by Ash Maurya, is an incredibly useful, practical how-to guide for any entrepreneur with an idea from concept through to MVP, or the smallest bit of functionality that you can get customers to pay for. This is one of the best books I’ve read that encapsulates most of the contemporary thinking and writing about product development in the early stages of a startup’s life from thought leaders like Steven Gary Blank and Eric Ries.

I read the book recently, as I was writing Startup CEO (original outline here), and I quoted liberally from it, including using his Lean Canvas graphic:

Lean Canvas

The basic principle behind the Lean Canvas is that the old way of doing a business plan was a ton of up front planning work, assuming you’re right, then building to spec.  The new way of doing a business plan is a really short series of hypotheses on a single page, then the time is spent de-risking the plan by systematically testing each element of it out.  The book includes several lists of checklists that walk you through how to test each box on the Lean Canvas.  As I’ve written about before, checklists are a really powerful management tool.

This is an essential read for entrepreneurs just starting a business.  But it’s also an excellent read for anyone running a growth company.  We have adopted more and more agile/lean methodologies over time at Return Path, and all of our product teams use the Lean Canvas with any major new features and projects.

(Side note – I’m writing this post on Friday, May 10, which is the 9th anniversary of my publishing this blog – 760 posts and one draft book later, it’s still an integral part of my business life!)

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