Kent Beck updates the agile manifesto for startups and for what has been learned over the past ten years at at Startup Lessons Learned Conference.

Agile Manifesto

10 years ago the agile manifesto was a step forward, but it was a least common denominator of the people at the meeting.

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

There was a day when people thought that if you had the right processes and tools, you could get any monkey to build the software, and it would come out exactly the same. As it turns out that is true. However, people matter. “Individuals and interactions” make a difference in creating the right software. However, valuing “individuals and Interactions” optimize the performance of the individual. Team vision and discipline is a more effective value. It’s not how good a job I can do, but how good a job we are doing.

Working software over comprehensive documentation

People used to believe you didn’t have to talk to people, you just had to open a book and read about it, but the docs were always incomplete and often out of date. Documentation is not as good as having working software, but the goal should be validated learning, which often doesn’t actually require any software at all. In a startup environment, it is not that you don’t know how to write the software — you can’t measure success by working software. In a startup, you start out with “almost impossible assumptions.” It is always the crazy ideas that work out that are the highest values. To succeed, you have to find out which ideas are really impossible and which ones will work out. Working software is a way to answer those questions, but it is better to create a way to learn before you have working software.

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Customer collaboration was a big step forward, but in a startup you don’t yet have customers, so what do you do? Focus on customer discovery.

Responding to change over following a plan

Old adage: “Plan the work. Work the Plan” Responding to change was a big step forward. It was not enough to follow the plan because things change too much. However, in a startup nothing is changing yet because nothing is moving yet. You need to create momentum. You need to focus on initiating change. If you don’t initiate change in a startup, you aren’t going anywhere… you need to be moving.

Lean Startup Manifesto

  • Team vision and discipline
  • Validate learning
  • Discover Cusotmers
  • Initiate change

The process “build -> measure -> learn” instead should be:

learn -> measure -> build.

Brief notes on Eric Ries’ keynote at Startup Lessons Learned Conference.  If I can keep up I will live blog the conference.  Eric says: “I do not want your undivided attention.”  So here goes.  Twitter hashtag is #sllconf and the event is being live streamed.

Whenever you accomplish something, you don’t get a gold star, or a raise or congratulations, you get to survive to the next stage. As with all visionary customers, we ask not why aren’t there more of you, but what is wrong with you?

Entrepreneurship is awesome. The magic thing we call software is disruptive, but it creates opportunity.  However, entrepreneurship is not the best way to make money. Instead the goal of entrepreneurship is to:

  1. Change the world
  2. Build an organization of lasting value
  3. Make customers lives better

“A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Eric takes direct inspiration from lean manufacturing movement.  It about “validated learning about customers”  The unit of progress in a startup is learning.  The goal is to minimize this loop:

build -> measure -> learn ->

Fail fast doesn’t mean the company should fail fast. We want the bad ideas to fail fast.

Some questions that Eric is interesting in answering today…

  • What does progress look like in a startup?
  • How do you know when it is time to pivot?
  • What is the minimum viable product?
  • Do Lean Startup methods scale?
  • What is the role of design?
  • How do we reconcile vision and customer data?

I enjoyed watching this video interview of Eric Ries talking about “lean startup methodology.” It sounds a lot like agile development to me.

“a failure of an idea doesn’t mean the failure of the company”

I’m honored to receive am IMVU scholarship to Friday’s Startup Lessons Learned Conference. I am excited to spend time with a group of entrepreneurs who are pursuing (or at least interested in) this methodology. I have been hearing bit and pieces of this, but only recently did I realize how aligned it is with my own practice.

I am experienced in agile development methodologies and have been working to apply similar lessons to business development for both my consulting company, Blazing Cloud, which pays the rent, and my startup company, Mightyverse, which aspires to change the world by enabling cross-cultural and cross-language communication.

“The simplest thing that could possibly work” is a mantra of agile software development. Applied to my consulting business, I have deferred many of the trappings of a business until it was painful not to have them. For a small consulting business, it is easier: my metric of success has been whether I net a profit on each job. Applied to Mightyverse, it’s more complex since we’re investing in product development for longer-term revenue growth (along with non-monetary goals). Deciding to release the website and the iPhone app before we had something that we considered a minimally viable product was a tough decision, but we made it because we recognized that we needed more than software to have a viable product. With the website and mobile app out in the world, we can start building a community of contributors before we have a complete solution for either direct participation or consumption.

The key element of agile or “lean” methodology is to understand why you are doing what you do. When you understand your motivations and how you expect your actions to lead to your desired outcome, it can lead to unexpected and counter-intuitive decisions that are nonetheless effective.