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How to be a Lean Product Ninja

Page history last edited by Dave Nielsen 8 years, 7 months ago

Click here for the slides


SVPMA Product Camp

March 24, 2012


How to Be a Lean Product Ninja by Dan Olsen 


Notes provided by Jane Lee


Overall: This session covered what the definition of "lean startup" is, and practical tactics/best practices on how a product manager can learn from user feedback and achieve product-market fit. Specific topics included listening to customer needs, designing product and usability testing to optimize product.

Slide Location: Slides are up on http://www.slideshare.net/dan_o



  1. 1.     Definition of "lean startup" has four components:
    1. a.     achieving product-market fit <--this is product management’s responsibility
    2. b.     validating product with users
    3. c.     improving & iterating your product quickly
    4. d.     testing hypotheses & learning
    5. 2.     Being a "ninja" means that you are able to tackle the goal of product-market fit with 1) high expertise level, 2) self-sufficiency, 3) and various skills to get the job done.
    6. 3.     Product-market fit components (the first two are covered in the session - other topics are covered in other sessions):
      1. a.     meets customers needs
      2. b.     is better than alternatives
      3. c.     is easy to use
      4. d.     has a good value/price
      5. 4.     The "Ninja" way to determine product-market fit involves: 1) understanding customer needs, 2) defining product value proposition, 3) building a mockup (could be wireframe or more sophisticated), 4) getting user feedback, 5) iterating
      6. 5.     Problem Space vs. Solution Space
        1. a.     Problem Space = problem/need/benefit to address = "Product Requirement" 
        2. b.     Solution Space = Specific implementation to address the need/requirement 
        3. c.     Example: two space organizations shared the same problem: a pen wouldn't write in space (zero gravity). Two different solutions: 1) NASA spent $1M to create the space pen, 2) Russia gave their astronauts a pencil. 
        4. 6.     Sometimes the solution space result generates more end user benefits (in the Problem Space)
          1. a.     Problem Space (user benefit): I need to prepare my taxes. 
          2. b.     Solution #1: I can do my taxes via pen and paper. 
          3. c.     Solution #2: I can create Tax software (Turbotax/Taxcut) 
          4. d.     Solution #2 - Tax software creates new benefits (in the problem space area) like being able to e-file taxes, maximize deductions, reduce audit risk, etc.  New user benefits (in the problem space) include empowerment/confidence (reduce audit risk), time savings, money savings (max. deductions) 
          5. 7.     Benefits/features need prioritization based on customer value.
            1. a.     (slide 12) Can evaluate according to an importance vs. satisfaction framework - importance of need - PROBLEM space vs. Satisfaction with how product need is met - SOLUTION space. High importance + low satisfaction = opportunity to add customer value 
            2. b.     (slide 13) Another way to look at user needs vs. satisfaction is the Kano model - there are delighters, performance and must have needs/features.  Can ask users to rate each feature to gauge importance vs. satisfaction. Examples: GPS in car used to be in “delighter” category now more common; vs. seat belt in the “MUST have” needs category. 
            3. c.     Recommends reading - "What Customers Want" by Anthony Ulwick 
            4. 8.     Determining value proposition
              1. a.     Which user benefits are you providing vs. how do you rate versus competitors?  Put on a comparison matrix (slide 15) 



  1. 9.     Getting customer feedback requires wireframes/mockups/prototypes: 
    1. a.     Why?  Customers can't articulate problem space, but can react to solution space – therefore wireframe enables you to get customer feedback 
    2. b.     Variety of wireframing tools are available: visio/omnigraffle, powerpoint, photoshop, balsamiq, etc. 
    3. c.     (slide 19) Wireframing tool options can be placed on graph of fidelity vs. effort (lowest fidelity/effort is hand sketch, highest fidelity/effort is photoshop, mid-point is something like balsamiq or visio).  Perhaps best to leave Photoshop in hands of UI designer. Oftentimes there is not a UX designer available. 
    4. d.     Recommend that PMs should wireframe & specifically, recommends learning Balsamiq - easy to learn/use, can add click navigation. worth $79. 

10.  To get feedback – use the “Ramen” method of user feedback for startups: 

  1. a.     (slide 26) Need to navigate from problem space (mental model) to solution space (what can react to). Solution space is venn diagram with three circles - feature set, UI design, Messaging, and there are intersections.  
  2. b.     (slide 27) "Ramen" recipe = mockup + 1 customer + 1 desk + 1 person to conduct sessions + pen/paper.  It does not need to be complex. 
  3. c.     (slides 28-29) Customer Session Format has guidelines - there is a suggested schedule, and there are Do's and Don'ts – involves using wireframe and NOT using leading questions! 

11.  What to do with feedback?

  1. a.     (slide 31) Based on user feedback in solution space, can iterate the product "iterate product vector".  

12.  TrustedID Case Study

  1. a.     Goal - validate product-market fit quickly, cheaply, write no code, and determine if biz opp exists. 
  2. b.     Original concept was "marketing report" to enable consumers to control their direct mail. Tested "Shield" vs "Saver" concepts. "Shield" concept had: 1) reduce junk mail, 2) save trees, Between "Shield and Saver": 3) find out what "they" know, 4) marketing report, 5) marketing score, 6) marketing profile, and "Saver" concept": 1) money saving offers, 2) compare vs. others, 3) social networking 
  3. c.     Recruited people to test concept via phone-screen questionnaire, scheduled 3 groups of 2-3 for 90 minute concept testing sections. Were able to prioritize product space concepts - 3 of 9 had strong appeal.  Finalized findings showed that "shield" (anti-junk) was stronger than "saver" and "saver" concept components were not liked. Were able to take finding to refine the "shield" concept and validate with quick 2nd round of tests and created "junkmailfreeze" concept 
  4. d.     Results: from start to finish - was 4 weeks from 1st meeting, $1500 to talk to 20 users (small incentive for each), 1 iteration round, identified potential business concept, trimmed away non-valuable pieces 

13.  How to measure product-market fit?

  1. a.     can use surveys to determine importance & satisfaction, Net promoter Score (NPS), tool: survey.io/musthavescore.com 
  2. b.     Can Track user behavior (conversion, retention and frequency of use) 
  3. c.     Can optimize through iteration (cycle from measure metric to launching the enhancement) 

14.  (slide 45) Refer to the Lean Product Ninja - cheatsheet



Questions can be directed to http://olsensolutions.com

Twitter @danolsen


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