I approached this book with some skepticism. After having read “Who moved my cheese”, which is basically a repetition of a very simple idea for about a hundred pages, I expected something very similar here. I was very wrong. Not only was it a pleasant reading experiences, the book has many insights and teachings that are very important not only for entrepreneurs and startups, but probably any modern information worker who wants to succeed in his life.
My first surprise came in the introduction: “The stories in the magazines are lies: hard work and perseverance don’t lead to success”. There are so many places in the net that preach that if you work hard and follow your dream, you will succeed. This is not true. Hard work is definitely an important factor, but there are many others (and luck is definitely one of them).
Chapter 3 talks about learning, and start with a very strong concept that today is probably common sense: if you measure progress by making sure that work is finished, you are doing it wrong. You can finish on time, under budget, and with great quality… but if nobody is using your product then you have nothing. In the world of daily software updates, where you can measure what value you are giving to your customers, this should be your first priority. Understand what your customers want/like, experiment with them, find what they will want next, and iterate continuously (and yes, “learning is the oldest excuse in the book for failure of execution” :-)). “our job was to find a synthesis between our vision and what customers would accept; it wasn’t to capitulate to what customers thought they wanted or to tell customers what they ought to want”. From my experience we are usually wrong about what our customers want, and our most important job is not to try and predict what they want, but to let them tell it to us in the easiest way possible.
The concept of the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and why lean manufacturing works, which shows that short iterations and continuous improvement are not only for the software industry, but for any industry that desires to build products that delight customers. This book theorizes that behind every technical problem there is a human problem, and because of this we should use the “five whys” method, to dig out this human problem. While I completely agree with the theory, the five whys will only work in work environments where employees feel that they can talk without getting blame. And sadly most places I know are not like this, mainly because we are humans and like to have someone to blame for problems.
I could go on and on, but better if you read the book and enjoy it. You will learn a lot from it. You can buy it from Amazon, and I’ll get a cent or two, which makes me feel good even though the gain is purely symbolic :-).