When things get very complex you need to get very lean and flexible. You can’t predict the future but you can adapt to it.
The Lean movement is about collaboration. Lean design, according to Jeff Gothelf, author of the upcoming book, "Lean UX," “brings a set of voices to the product definition and creation process that were not there before. Developers, product managers, quality assurance engineers, marketers, customer service reps and many others now participate in defining the future of business solutions.”
Lean UX promotes the concept of competencies over roles,” Jeff continues. “Many organizations hem their people in with job titles. The Lean UX approach says that people have primary competencies but they shouldn't be limited from contributing in other areas they feel passionate about. By incorporating many opinions both in the creation and validation of product concepts, the entire team builds shared ownership of the project.
In addition, as the team moves together from ideation to concept to validation to production they evolve a shared understanding of what they're building, who they're building it for and why they've made the decisions they have to date. This shared understanding reduces the team's dependency on documentation and allows them to move more quickly from step to step.”
Lean is about evidence. So, you have an idea, let’s test it. According to Jeff all assumptions “should be ruthlessly tested in advance of a heavy resource or financial commitment to their development.” Lean is about focusing on developing the “minimum viable product,” then getting it out there and rapidly evolving it based on customer reaction.
Lean “promotes outcome-focused teams,” according to Jeff. This is an absolutely essential shift. It is no longer enough to say we launched the website or app, or we put the content up. Are more people signing up? Are more people successfully troubleshooting? Do more people understand how this particular pension plan works? These are the real tests of success today.
Lean is a response to a rapidly changing world. “Lengthy upfront design cycles delay companies' abilities to get product into the hands of customers,” Jeff states. “A ton of risk is built up in lengthy design processes. With each passing moment and pixel placement more time and resources are sunk in a particular direction. Testing once, right before product is launched reveals many flaws that will never be fixed — relegated to the optimistic and non-existent land of 'Phase 2.'"
Lean UX advocates regular, rapid, lightweight testing with users to ensure that the team is headed in the right direction,” Jeff continues. “The team designs only what they need to know next and then test it. As they learn, they adjust course and head towards the more accurate solution to their business problem. Because of this testing with customers is the heartbeat of Lean UX.”
The lean approach does not mean just getting started with any old idea. According to Jeff, the biggest challenges the lean approach faces are “teams that are over-eager to get started and don't take the time to understand the historical, technical and business context of the problem they're tackling.”
Lean thinking is a big part of our future. It’s about truly understanding what matters to the customer (the top tasks). Get these top tasks up and running. Get them in front of the customer then rapidly evolve using evidence of customer behavior.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.