The lean methodology continues to outperform

And waterfall development continues to underform

Imagine pouring your sweat and tears and all the money you’ve worked hard to raise money into your startup. You've spent six months painstakingly moving pixels around in Figma, chatting back and fourth with your dev team, and putting together spreadsheets of what your revenue will look like after launch.
The launch day arrives, your heart is pumping as you post on Product Hunt and you wait for users to flood in… and… nothing. You spend thousands on Google Ads, only to find that users don’t stick around. The devastation sets in and you begin to realize that all of your hard work and money were wasted. This scenario isn't just a nightmare; it's a common scenario that we’ve seen many founders succumb to, and that we actively work hard to help them avoid.

You may have read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. Perhaps you think it was a great concept back in 2011, but that the markets of today are different. Or perhaps you’re unfamiliar, and that’s ok too.
That said, The Lean Startup is as relevant today as it was when it first came out if not more so. And, while it may have “Startup” in the title, it truly applies to every organization at every size, right up to the mega corps with millions of employees. In fact, the final third of the book is dedicated to showing how the Lean Startup methodology can be implemented within large companies and government institutions.
A startup is any human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty. This includes nonprofits, big companies, and government!
The Lean movement started at Toyota with manufacturing cars in small batch sizes. In software (and some hardware like 3D printing), a small batch size means pushing new releases frequently. It can even mean pushing updates many times in the same day. Small batches and frequent updates allow you to find out almost immediately if a new feature is valuable to users, or if it causes users to get frustrated and leave. They also allow you to detect bugs quickly - in fact, continuous deployment is highly correlated with increased stability and a decrease in bugs - not the other way around. The art of deploying code automatically and frequently is the focus of DevOps.
Deploying code many times per day is highly correlated with increased stability and a decrease in bugs - not the other way around!
Another core piece of the Lean Startup methodology is A/B testing: you should always be testing your assumptions. You may believe that users want to pay $200/month for your software, when in reality, they’re willing to pay $500. At Thoughtful, we are huge proponents of A/B testing and plan tests and analytics into each phase of development. We use tools like StatSig and Mixpanel to achieve this.
Lastly, bugs (aka defects) are deadly. If your software is buggy, users will leave - not because they don’t want your product, but because they can’t get it to work - which will bias your ability to learn about your users and give you false negatives. What’s worse, bugs and poorly architected software can cause technical debt to build up, which causes the entire future of the company to slow down and future development to stagnate - not to mention developer burnout. It’s extremely important to focus on quality early on in a startup’s life.
At Thoughtful, we’ve seen our share of clients who operated lean, and those who stuck with more traditional waterfall methods of development. When we first started this company, we figured that the traditional clients had good reasons for why it made sense not to follow a lean / agile methodology. But over the years, we found that even those clients who confidently felt that they knew what they were doing and skipped the lean methodology actually ended up failing at a higher rate than the lean startups. In the end, we’re extremely convinced that it’s never a good idea to abandon the lean methodology. To Eric Ries’s point: it’s not too little funding that kills startups; it’s too much.
We’re always thinking about how to help our clients operate leaner. We actively seek out opportunities to challenge assumptions, A/B test new features, create higher quality code, and have a low tolerance for technical debt.
If you’re interested in how we can help your organization adopt lean practices or build lean software, let us know.

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