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Hey folks –
Happy new year! This March will be 7 years (crazy!) since I published my first article on Lean UX. It was called Lean UX: Getting Out of the Deliverables Business and it was kindly published by the good folks over at Smashing Magazine. That article called out the intense focus, at the time, on creating paper-based deliverables in the discipline of web and user experience design. It was meant as a rallying cry for moving away from lengthy up front documentation creation and towards greater cross-functional collaboration driven by increased team-wide conversation. The conversation soared from there about how to build and design better products but in the years since a big part of that idea got lost. In fact, many teams took away the idea that documents were inherently bad and to be avoided. That wasn’t the intended point.
The point instead was to rethink how to have the most efficient and effective conversation with your colleagues — how to move the conversation forward quickly with as little waste as possible. This was a tougher sell 7 years ago when many teams were being incentivized for the creation of deliverables. Today, it feels like the time has finally come to make this a reality.
Enter the minimum viable conversation.
At every opportunity where something needs to be communicated, teams, leaders and individual contributors need to ask themselves three questions:
1. What are we trying to communicate? In other words, what is the main point we need to get across right now that will help us move a step forward, learn something, get unstuck or simply help us feel like we’re making progress?
It could be anything from a proposed new form factor of an existing product to a brand new interaction model for your service.
2. Who are we trying to communicate to? The audience you’re targeting with your message — be it internal or external — will require different levels of detail and fidelity to understand your point of view. Do they have the context you have? If so you could get away with less fidelity. If not, you may have to go higher in fidelity. The main point is to understand what your target audience needs to get out of this conversation.
An executive may require a higher-level of fidelity than the developer sitting with the team. Similarly, your customers may understand your point with a low-effort prototype whereas your investors may not.
3. What’s the least amount of work we need to do to communicate this to this audience? This is the hardest part of the minimum viable conversation. We only want to do the amount of work that will move the conversation forward. That’s it. Nothing more. What should we create to get our point across quickly?
In some cases, a wireframe or sketch may be enough. In other cases, you may have to create a high fidelity version of your idea to ensure your point gets across.
The goal with the minimum viable conversation is not to eliminate documents. It’s to ensure that our efforts are spent on the most effective ways to move our products forward. Documents will always be necessary. The goal is to create only the ones we need, when we need them, at the fidelity level required at the time. These are not archives. They are transient artifacts that serve a temporary purpose and then discarded for the next minimum viable conversation. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.
Micro-hire me for quick discussions and consultations
Work with me in 2018! You can now hire me for short, remote consultations. Each consultation slot is 30 minutes long and you can reserve as many as you need. Get started by picking a time here that works for you.
Join me for these amazing events in 2018:
FREE — Jan 17 — Webinar with Ryan Jacoby: Innovation is not Digital Transformation. Join Making Progress author and former IDEO exec Ryan Jacoby and I for this informative discussion about the differences between an innovation practice and a digital transformation practice.
Certified Product Ownership Classes with Jeff Patton in GENEVA and LONDON — London is sold out but we’ve got about 10 spots left in Geneva. Grab a seat for your team at one of these two dates coming up in Feb 2018 in Geneva.
Amsterdam — March 20–21, 2018 — Lean Startup Conference Europe — Europe’s premiere 2-day Lean Startup event with presentations and workshops from Alex Osterwalder, Janet Bumpas, Tendayi Viki and myself among others.
Dublin, Ireland — April 25, 2018 — Sense & Respond: How to Build & Lead Successful Lean Practices in High Growth Companies — 1 Day workshop as part of Agile Lean Ireland.
Leading Business Agility — a multi-city tour with Barry O’Reilly, Josh Seiden and myself designed to work with leaders in high-growth and enterprise companies on increasing their business agility and improving their progress on digital transformation. Cities, dates and details here.
As always, if you want me to work directly with your company on training, coaching or workshops on the topics of organizational agility, digital transformation, product discovery and agile leadership, don’t hesitate to reach out.