Strip It Down

It seems everyone’s got lean startup on the brain lately.

I find it very hard to come across a project of some kind that hasn’t got traces of Eric Ries’ fingerprints on it – at least in spirit. One particular focus that alot of project teams are honing on is the concept of minimum viable products or MVPs. No – this is actually not going to be a blog post on MVPs but actually something parallel that I feel gets overlooked – minimum viable teams.

While everyone is so focused on building out a lean prototype to get some validated learnings – they tend to be less focused on using a lean team to get it done. Now in a startup – MVTs are usually a default by circumstance. You and your co-founders tend to be the only members but as your business grows or god forbid you get into corporate projects- the team trying to build an MVP suddenly feels more like a cast of thousands. This also tends to be counter-productive to getting a lean prototype out the door. More people = more opinions. And you know what they say about opinions…

The reality is you don’t need a cast of thousands to get a lean prototype out. You need people that can just get shit out the door. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be elegant but it does have to work and get the job done. This means you probably just need 2-3 people max.

When it comes to minimum viable teams – skills count more than team size. David Weekly sums it up beautifully in his four archetypes: The Hacker, The Hustler, The Designer and The Operator.

I actually think for a true MVT – you only need 3 people: The Hacker, The Hustler and The Designer. Of course if you’re lucky you’ll have people that can cover multiple skill sets but each individual needs to have a primary focus on the three main areas of your lean product: the tech, the design and the sell-job.

The other thing I want to point out is that at this stage, a big mistake people make on building their MVT is they want to optimize immediately (even though they say they don’t). This means they go and search for skill and talent that fits a more mature product scenario. Take the Hacker for example. What you don’t necessarily need is a fully stacked dev that can build scalable systems with beautifully optimized code – yeah sure it’ll be nice to have but that talent is hard to find. What you really need is a guy or girl that can get shit shipped some way and somehow. Optimizing comes later. I don’t care if he or she built the system to bung everything into a single array and the code is totally inefficient – as long as it works – who cares at this stage?

So if you want to start on building your minimum viable product – make sure you have your minimum viable team.