Maximum Viable Product

How good can you make a Minimal Viable Product? Last night Allen Pike tweeted about a talk proposal on “Maximum Viable Products”. A conversation ensued. I thought more about what Allen proposed and whipped up a graphic of the wide spectrum of Lean product development:

From the left, you have no product. Just some wireframes or an Unbounce-style landing page for purposes of exploring whether or not a product is out there (the smoke test). The rightmost yellow line represents viability. Go beyond that and you will end up with a Homer. That bit in the middle is what Allen wants to focus on — a very interesting proposition. What is represented by that space between MIN and MAX? And just this morning David Aycan wrote a piece Don’t Let the Minimum Win Over the Viable. Seems like a hot topic.

In our short Twitter conversation, Allen proposed that MIN-MAX represents “cheap” versus “best”. A single tweet cannot encapsulate a whole argument, so the following is entirely my interpretation. Lean product development is about paring down the features and functionality to the bare minimum. This is so the promise of the product is understood immediately by the customer, and to control all variables in trying to determine product-market fit. Maybe what Allen is proposing is that once you’ve pared down, now you can refine that experience to ensure the customer has a good experience while solving their problem. We will have to hope Allen’s talk gets accepted so we can find out.

Based on the above, I think Lean proponents will argue that MIN == MAX in that you are trying to develop the right product for the customer as soon as possible. It becomes “the best” to use Allen’s term, when it is done. MVP is a process rather than an end state.

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