Is Lean Startup just Agile on Steroids?

by Dave Sharrock

This year every company, small and large, is waking up to the lean startup concepts outlined by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup.

Eric makes a strong case that companies are building too much of the wrong things. Many companies spend months developing a new idea, only to launch it with a big fanfare to an uncaring world.

Lean startups avoid this by validating their ideas quickly before they have invested too much time and money.

In the world of the lean startup, a new idea is tested as fast as possible to evaluate how much customers want it, and in particular, how much they are prepared to pay for it.

Using the lean startup build-measure-learn cycle, a small prototype or dummy piece of the product might be developed in a couple of days, run past a few hundred potential customers, and the results used to decide whether or not to invest valuable time and money in further developing the product.

A business or product can develop in small, incremental steps while reducing much of the risk of behind-the-scenes development and big bang product launches.

This sounds very much like the iterative and incremental approaches of agile frameworks like Scrum or XP. But how different is lean startup from agile? Is it just another fad, something completely new and different, or somehow an extension of the original agile frameworks?

The goal of a lean startup is to validating the assumptions behind your ideas early and often in order to reduce the risk of investing heavily in new products that the market may not be ready for. It is based on the assumption that your organization is already agile, able to quickly deliver new features. While agile methods answer the question of how to deliver products iteratively and incrementally, lean startup answers the question of what an agile organization should build. Agile provides the means to create a fast-moving organization, lean startup makes sure that what the organization builds is meaningful to its customers.

At this year’s 7th Much Ado About Agile conference, you can learn more about how lean startup and agile concepts work together. You can listen to real experiences of using lean startup and agile methods from speakers such as Declan Whelan, or put the concepts into practice in the Lean Product Management tutorial.

AgileVancouver is holding its 7th annual Much Ado About Agile conference on Oct 1-3 at the Renaissance Harbourside Hotel in Vancouver.

Agile Vancouver
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Agile software development means that you provide the client what (s)he doesn't want in the first 30 days rather than after 180 days. You use the remaining 150 days to build what the client really wants with a "show as you go" strategy following each 30 day iteration. In 2001, Ken Schwaber, Kent Beck, Martin Fowler and Alistair Cockburn amongst others came up with the Agile Manifesto as... more

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Dave Sharrock

Dave Sharrock

Dr. Dave Sharrock guides organizational change and process improvement through the use of lean and agile methods. With over 15 years working with product delivery organizations, from Fortune 100 companies to startups, in fields as diverse as telecommunications and branded consumer goods, Dave helps companies and organizations understand and realize the benefits of applying an agile/lean mindset... more

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