How to apply Agile to validate business models: the Lean Sprint
Most startups are familiar with agile development sprints of 1 or 2 weeks. They try to plan work that ‘belongs’ together and release a new version either at the end of the sprint or when the work is done. That structure works pretty well and helps to build a flow into your company. We used the concepts of Agile and Scrum to run continuous experiments over a longer period of time. We call this the Lean Sprint.
Lean Startup is easy in theory, but hard in practice. The books and blog posts are easy to understand, but how do you get into the flow of running Lean Startup? At NEXT Amsterdam we focus heavily on running multiple experiments to validate the business model as fast as possible. We developed our own NEXT Canvas to give startups better insight into their progress and even developed a software platform to keep running Lean Startup over a longer period of time. Part of this workflow is a combination of Scrum and Lean Startup, we call this the Lean Sprint.
The Lean sprint helps to get into the flow with Lean Startup. We try to run one experiment every two weeks. We start with a “Sprint Planning” strategy session to understand where we stand as a team and what is currently most risky and needs to be tested first. Because we know where we stand as a team, selecting the right experiment is easier. There are only a handful of experiments to validate a problem for example.
After selecting the experiment, we design the experiment together with the team on an Experiment Card or in our Innovation Manager. The team then runs the experiments.
At the end of the sprint, we come together again and discuss what we have learned. We update our assumptions on the NEXT Canvas and determine where we stand. Are we still validating the problem, solution or revenue model? Or have we gathered enough information to move forward?
As you can see in the image above, our canvas and experiment cards combined with the Lean Sprint gives a great overview of your progress towards validating your business model. The results of an experiment in Lean Sprint #6, can result in a new feature or change in development sprint #7. Combining the Lean Sprint with your development sprints gets the whole product team into the same flow and makes it possible to keep running Lean Startup for a longer period of time. It makes Lean Startup work.