Minimum Viable Product or just crap?

Having started my career in the heyday of Total Quality Management (it brings us back to the early 1980s!) and being educated to worship customer satisfaction in the Lean way, I am not very at ease with the Minimum Viable Product concept.

A minimum viable product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent.

Even so I fully understand and partly support the strategy, I am experiencing cases that keep fueling my distrust.

>Lisez cet article en français

The one that got me angry and triggered writing this post is about an app designed to manage social media.

I have several accounts within this app and to my surprise, the app has different behaviors and proposed features, depending the account I log in with.

This inconsistency is quite a surprise and does not suggest very good standards nor consistency in development strategy.

Over time, I experienced several bugs and even gave detailed feedback to help the developers’ team to improve. But it seems that every time they fix one, a new one appears. The latest denied me programming posts at desired time, which is the very basic function this app is made for!

I am using the free version and this is supposed to be the showcase for the premium offer. I’ll never go premium and I will quit using this app.

What I supposed to be ongoing improvement on a minimum viable product is just steadily proposing new crap. Hence my reservations about the concept, which is likely to be used to camouflage poor capabilities to deliver.

Any thoughts?

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Why 5S fail? We’re done!

Most of 5S assessment or audit systems I’ve seen are built upon a maturity scale, usually from 1 (poor or insufficient) to 5 (complete, satisfactory or the like) for each of the 5Ss and a schedule for the assessments or audits.

The way these systems are built is most often misleading, letting people believe that once the minimum level achieved to pass the audit is reached for every S, they’re done.

In fact they had one first turn of the PDCA wheel. Yet achieving this is sometimes painstaking enough that facilitators in charge are not eager to explain it was just a start and the whole has to be repeated over and over at higher level each time.

Management sees a good enough improvement of the situation and is not really willing to sponsor an activity that does not directly yield more output.

So there is a hypocrite general agreement that “they’re done” with 5S and it’s time to move on to something else.

This post is part of the Why 5S fail series

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Beware of bottleneck hunting!

In the following video interview, Philip Marris (answering Clarke Ching‘s questions) states that the five focusing steps of Theory of Constraints are wrong!

Well it needs some more listening  to understand the wisdom behind the provocative statement.

First, the five focusing steps (5FS) are basically ok. What bothers Philip is the fifth step after the first iteration.

In his view, accepting to go through the 5FS over and over is just bottleneck hunting and accepting the fact that the organization’s “strategy” is defined by the newest or the next bottleneck.

Philip is advocating to select the most suitable bottleneck, in order to keep mastering it, and surround this bottleneck with excess capacity resources. In this way, the bottleneck remains in one’s span of control, instead of moving upstreams to a supplier or to market’s demand, and keeps at the same point for a longer period of time.

If the 5FS are taken literally, this could lead to an exhausting periodic rearrangement around a new bottleneck, reshuffling the cards regarding strategy, sales, operations and so on.

Organisations need stability, especially factories. Therefore, this approach works well in operations.

Check out Marris-Consulting Youtube Channel for more


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Why 5S fail? Nobody is interested in housekeeping

This post is part of the series “why 5S fail”.

Nobody is interested in housekeeping.

This is particularly true in heavier industries with more male workforce, “housekeeping” is incompatible with (macho) pride and way beneath their dignity.

Lego_018aThey may not hesitate to manually lift heavy weights and handle greasy dirty parts, but would be reluctant to mop up spilled lubricant or dry-wipe a machine casing.

In most machist workshops they complain about being turned into “maids”.

Therefore announcing decluttering and cleaning up is never the best way to start, even in environments with lesser testosterone levels.

What is far most appealing is the call to join a challenge, for which 5S are a necessary condition but not telling it.

My way would be to find such a challenge and while searching how to achieve the goal, gently lead the participants to express themselves the need for order, cleanliness and suitable work environment.

When facilitating 5S deployment, I put myself in a learning posture and ask lots of questions, in a smart way. People usually love to share their knowledge, especially because on shop floor it is not that common that somebody pays attention to their work and experience.

A bit of flattering “you are the subject matter experts, you know best” is usually welcome and sweetens their day, which is also true and is what I really think.

Of course my questioning is not that candid but a way to surface the required basic conditions to achieve our goal.

Once these basic conditions listed, I manage to go through the 5S rollout quickly in order to start the next level of tasks, usually more appealing, like problem solving or technical improvements.

Of course, I do not hesitate to iterate back to sorting, arranging, cleaning and redefining the standards if the 5S maturity is not at desired level.

I simply explain why it is common to iterate and if my audience don’t know about, I’ll explain the Deming wheel (PDCA cycle) and its wedge.

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Why 5S fail

The 5S methodology / philosophy as such is around and fairly widespread since the mid-1980s, when the western industries sought the “secrets” of their Japanese competitors’ tremendous successes.

>Don’t know yet about 5S? Check my quick beginner’s guide to 5S

However, despite the 30 years of awareness and trials:

  • very few companies I visited have achieved a good level of 5S maturity with sustainable results. Most of them abandoned and slipped back after a while
  • my French 5S handbook (2nd edition) keeps selling well over the years (first edition: 2005)
  • young engineers keep asking for my advice as they are in charge of deploying 5S during their internship

So the seemingly mundane 5S deployment turns out a harder nut to crack.

What can possibly go wrong with the alleged simplest method of the lean toolbox?

In the posts series “why 5S fail”, I’ll share some of the reasons I identified, out of my experience:

Soon more. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to this blog to be informed about new posts.

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10 signs you need consider Logical Thinking Process

Here are 10 signs pointing to the need to consider using the Logical Thinking Process in order to help you solve your complex problems and structure your transformation plan.

Don’t know what The Logical Thinking Process is?
>The Logical Thinking Process in a nutshell

This article was originally written to promote the Logical Thinking Process training course with Bill Dettmer and Marris Consulting in Paris, an event I am involved in. I could not help but replicate it here!

The Logical Thinking Process is a great help if You:

  1. do not know how to properly state your Vision and Goal
  2. are unsure about what is required to achieve your Goal
  3. are afraid of costly and questionable “nice-to-haves” your staff is asking for
  4. have no benchmark for orienting and monitoring all efforts
  5. have no idea how far your organization is from the Goal
  6. are stuck with conflicting objectives or constraints
  7. do not know what to do to close the gaps and achieve your Goal
  8. are afraid about possible negative side effects and obstacles of your plan
  9. are uneasy about how to communicate the necessary changes
  10. would like to have a list of prerequisites for successful change

1. You do not know how to properly state your Vision and Goal

Surprisingly many employees, from shop floor to top managers, don’t know precisely what the Goal of the company is or have different views on it. How can they align their contribution if the Goal is not clear or understood in different ways?

The Logical Thinking Process starts with a clear and unambiguous Goal statement, an absolute must in order to meet success. A powerful multipurpose tool will help: the Goal Tree.

2. You are unsure about what is required to achieve your Goal

The Goal Tree describes all required Necessary Conditions to be fulfilled for achieving the Goal. These Necessary Conditions are listed from a sound and robust analysis using only “necessity-based logic”, in a scientific approach.

3. You are afraid of costly and questionable “nice-to-haves” your staff is asking for

With the Necessary Conditions listed, only those complying to the logical “necessity-based logic” will be kept. All others, not strictly necessarily will be discarded.

This is a very powerful means to filter out all the personal wishes and “nice-to-haves”.

4. You have no benchmark for orienting and monitoring all efforts

Once the Goal Tree is completed, it is a system-wide benchmark of what is required to achieve the Goal. The Goal Tree is then used to check the status of each Necessary Condition and the overall progress towards the Goal.

A Goal Tree is valid as long as the business environment does not drastically change, so the few hours investment in building the Tree is definitely worth it.

5. You have no idea how far your organization is from the Goal

Besides the Goal Tree, the Logical Thinking Process provides other tools among which the Current Reality Tree, describing the actual state of the organization in regards of gaps to the Goal.

The Current Reality Tree is built starting from difficulties and problems encountered by the organization and goes down to the very few root causes, discovered using the cause-effect logic.

Treating the few root causes will solve many problems at once as they are only multiple Undesirable Effects related to a same cause.

6. You are stuck with conflicting objectives or constraints

Among the obstacles on the road to the Goal, conflicting objectives or constraints are common. To tackle these conflicts, the Logical Thinking Process provides a tool called Conflict Resolution Diagram. Based like the other tools on logic, it helps to debunk myths and false beliefs as well as find win-win solutions to conflicts.

7. You do not know what to do to close the gaps and achieve your Goal

The Logical Thinking Process depicts the desirable future state with a Future Reality Tree in which the previously listed obstacles and problems have been removed or by-passed with appropriate solutions.

The “difference” between the Current Reality Tree and the Future Reality Tree are the gaps to fill in order to achieve the Goal.

8. You are afraid about possible negative side effects and obstacles of your plan

Simple elegant or sophisticated solutions may look good on paper but can mess up more than solve current problems. Fearing something could go wrong and lead to a worse condition can paralyze initiatives.

In order to prevent possible negative side effects, the Logical Thinking Process provides “stress test” and robustness assessments. Among them, any possibility for negative side effects to develop is scrutinized.

If one pops up, an appropriate preventative countermeasure is defined. At the end of the analysis, the robustness of the solution is guaranteed.

9. You are uneasy about how to communicate the necessary changes

The Logical Thinking Process and its tools provide robust and straightforward means to communicate what the necessary changes are, why and how to make the change happen.

As everything is based on sound logic, it is free from any emotional biases and verifiable by anybody, making the communication very robust and compelling.

10. You would like to have a list of prerequisites for successful change

Everybody wants a clear roadmap and concrete examples about what is to be done.

The Logical Thinking Process provides a logical Prerequisite Tree, listing all steps and Intermediate Objectives along the path to reaching the Goal.

The Logical Thinking Process is surely the most structured and robust way to lead the transformation of an organization, from its difficulties to its success.

If one of these 10 signs applies to your organization, you really should consider the Logical Thinking Process.

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Invitation for next Logical Thinking Process training, Jan 2016

After the successful June 2015 session in Paris, Bill Dettmer will come back in January 2016 for a new Logical Thinking Process training session in Paris.

Subscribers to this blog may know my interest in the Logical Thinking Process, the Logical Thinking tools and Theory of Constraints at large. I am therefore fortunate to organize the training with Bill and look forward for this second edition in Paris.

After presenting the upcoming event with a short cartoon, here is the master himself, inviting for the January session.

Description and registration :

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