The Lean Product Playbook is a product development book by Dan Olsen, previously at Intuit (specifically working on Quicken), and now a product consultant. I actually read this book a few months ago but revisited recently to brush up on a few things related to product design. It’s good to have around as a quick reference on a lot of different things I encounter all the time.
I got see Dan give a presentation at the Product Austin meet up earlier this year and he did a pretty high level overview of what he had written. The book obviously went into a lot more detail and I learned a lot from it: mostly around how to make product decisions based on customer needs, and how to continuously gather feedback about how you’re product is doing.
What is it?
- A book about how to innovate with minimum viable products by talking with your customers (or users) and gathering their feedback.
- The book covers all aspects of the product development process under the “lean startup” methodology. That means there’s chapters on customer research, visual design, user experience, weighing product features, prototyping, measuring if your design is successful, and ultimately building your product (and of course continuing to track key metrics).
- He uses real world case studies which is what I tend to learn most from.
What was fascinating:
- How important it is to talk to your customers continuously, at all stages of the product development process. This is something I need to work on. I know how valuable this is but I struggle with implementing a process for some reason. I haven’t ever worked at a company that put a lot of emphasis on it, but I am working to change that.
- The level of detail you can go through to add math to your product feature decisions and effectiveness.
- You don’t have to build much of a product to determine if there’s product-market fit. One example from the book was backing all the way to a basic launch page, and use an email sign-up to gauge interest (might not work for all things, but I found that kind of cool).
- The importance of interviewing your customers (and potential customers) so you really get to know them – which helps with constructing user/customer personas.
- If you can set up a good process for product development, it makes deciding what to do much easier
What I’m still thinking about
- The book focused a lot on launching new products, whereas I don’t really get to do that but maybe once every year or so. Most of what I am tasked with is keeping current products up to date or adding new features to existing products. I think a lot of the same principles apply, but I’d like to see how people use the lean process here.
- In my mind it’s the same thing. Talk to your customers > build a prototype > test a prototype, and repeat until it’s right and sent to be developed. That makes sense, but some case study examples would have been nice.
- How can I build a good product process into an already existing day to day work load? This seems like a daunting task. I get that there’s value to a more lean process, but in a lot of ways it stretches the design and development process over a longer time period. How will that effect our outputs in the short term? In the end it will be more effective, but how can I change our current process over time to be one that outputs better products and user experiences?
Too often in the past I would rely on intuition or my own desires to drive product/feature development. After reading this book I put a lot more weight in identifying pain points in the customers user experience and using that to make better decisions on what to do. Furthermore, I learned a lot about the value or prototyping concepts with the same group of customers to make sure you got it right.
I really liked (and am trying to implement) the idea of bringing in customers/users to test stuff on a weekly basis. That way you’re constantly talking to customers, getting to know them, and getting feedback on whatever it is you’re working on. If anything, this customer feedback loop is something that should come before anything else.
All-in this is a good guide on what a process looks like to create products that people love.