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What is the Lean Startup Approach? How Does It Relate to Agile?

What Is the Problem?

The “Lean Startup” approach is based on a book by Eric Ries of the same name. The fundamental problem that the book addresses is that many companies:

  • Think that they know what the market and their customers want,
  • Make a lot of assumptions based on that thinking
  • Launch a long and expensive product development effort to meet what they think are those needs, and
  • Then find out that those assumptions were wrong

That approach is typical for a company with a traditional plan-driven approach to project management. (That is what many people loosely call “Waterfall”). The problem isn’t really unique to startups; this problem can take place with any company of any size – it may happen more frequently with startups just because there is normally a higher level of uncertainty associated with a startup.

What’s the Solution?

The solution to this problem is to use an incremental and iterative approach to product development. That approach should have lots of customer input and feedback along the way. That approach is exactly what is used in an Agile product development effort. The approach would look something like this: