Learning #Prodmgmt on the go: Innovation Tools and The Lean Windup

For everyone who follows Karthik’s podcast series, Design Your Thinking, I have some good news for you! Last week my podcast with Karthik on Innovation in the Digital Age and the Lean Windup Challenge went live. You can listen to the whole podcast here: https://designyourthinking.com/innovation-product-lifespan.So what is the Lean Windup Challenge you may be asking? It is a brand new concept in product management that is set to fundamentally change the way we manage and decommission products.

The Lean Startup

Everyone knows about the Lean Startup product development methodology so I won’t go into any detail here. If you haven’t heard of it I recommend you read Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup.The idea around the Lean Windup is to take the Lean Startup and apply it in reverse. In reverse? Yes, instead of developing products, let’s decommission them.One of the greatest challenges companies have is the drain on resources that legacy products have on a company’s time and staff. Instead of being able to work on new projects, employees are forced to maintain legacy or unproductive products as they don’t know how to wind them down effectively.Why not simply take them off the market you say?It’s not that simple.For many companies, one of their most important assets is their brand and the trust they have developed with their loyal customers. If they were simply to remove products from the market willy-nilly, they would frustrate and annoy their existing customers and lose a lot of the good will they’ve built up. So how can a company successfully remove a product from the market with a focus on customers? The Lean Windup!

The Lean Windup

If customers rely on your product, then you need a method to successfully remove from the market in a low risk way. You need to provide them with a pathway to stop relying on the product or service and given the uncertainty in doing this, a proven way of testing hypotheses and managing risks for products is the Lean Startup. So why not use it in reverse to decommission a product?Currently decommissioning a product is really something that is done very poorly by many companies. Companies find it often OK to simply discontinue a product and announce this early enough to give customers enough time to switch. Is that the best we can do?No.We can apply the same customer development and learning cycles of the Lean Startup to inform us of the best ways to remove the product: either with a new service or product which covers similar functionality, a simplified and easy to maintain version of the current product or service, etc.By following the principles of the Lean Startup in reverse, we can successfully decommission products from the market and free up more resources for new product development and keep our loyal customers happy at the same time.However, what does “following the principles of the Lean Startup in reverse” mean?It means creating hypotheses around ways to remove your product or service from the market and testing them in an iterative fashion. We can use all the same methodologies for launching the product for removing it. Beta tests, focus groups, market research, etc. Build, measure and learn.

Every Company Will Need This

In fact, at some point every company will need this. The simple act of updating an app, software, the look and feel of a physical product, etc means decommissioning the previous version. Normally the changes and differences are small enough that it can be easily managed without much thought. However, sometimes many updates have been a complete catastrophe because of companies failing to think effectively about removing the older version from the market.It even goes further than this, as the principles can be applied to rebranding, relocating offices, etc. Any aspect that denies existing customers access to your company in some way needs to be planned properly.

My Challenge To You

What products and services have you decommissioned and how did you do it? Is the Lean Windup something you’ll try in the near future? How would you do it?Want to learn more? Send me a message on Twitter, LinkedIn or post on my book Innovation Tools’ Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/innovationtoolsbook/

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