Build half a product

Regardless if you believe in the whole Lean Startup idea or not, I think it’s just great business advice for understanding that you should always build upon a solid foundation. You want to be really leery of falling into the trap of building “everything but the kitchen sink” type of approaches. Building upon a solid foundation could also really just be replaced with build half a product, not a half-ass one.

Whatever your idea is you have to remember to make sure you have a strong core idea and product vision so you can adhere to what is truly essential. The easy and fun part is coming up with a laundry list of ideas, features, functionality, etc — the hard part is knowing when to say no. Many startups get killed not because their idea was bad, but in part because of scope creep. In the trenches, adding this little thing, or this small thing may not seem that consequential; however, almost every project manager out there would be peeling their face off. If you calculate an aggressive timeline for whatever it is you already had planned to build, but then add in all 20 of those must-have tweaks where did that time come from?

To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction: or the forces of two bodies on each other are always equal and are directed in opposite directions. – Newton’s third law of physics

If you don’t plan for it, it will affect something else. Maybe that means you just don’t sleep for another 4 days right? — That’s a whole different argument.

Make a visual anti-feature list

I don’t mean this literally. I don’t want you to be sitting there for a month just jotting down useless functionality that your product won’t do. Instead, what I mean is try and segment your project by a timeline and then cross reference that with what it’s not supposed to do. Your team (or you, if you’re a team of one) should have a clearly visible list of what they’re reaching toward, and what is out of scope. It will be a hell of a lot easier to notice how damaging those *little* things were going to be if you have them clearly labeled on a white board listed as Anti-features. Doing this will help by making sure communication is flowing smoothly and everyone isn’t building a MVP that’s really a piece of crap. Of course that list you create is really just a record of tasks that you all know you will eventually/probably need to get too asap; however, the goal is to thoughtfully schedule everything in so you can maximize a proper ROI.

It’s really a simple four-step process

  • Strengthen your core idea
  • Break down time estimates into smaller & smaller chunks
  • Work on core foundation and visually table anti-features
  • Get feedback and iterate
What are you thoughts on building off a foundation for startups? Do you think it matters for teams that range from 2 -24 people? What about different launch timelines — 1 month versus 1 year?

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