Craig Strong – The Lean Product Life Cycle

Avatar Ben Fower | 07/01/2019

Craig Strong joined us in the studio to discuss his book, The Lean Product Life Cycle.

Hi, my name is Craig Strong co-creator and author of The Lean product life Cycle, which is an award-winning framework for innovation and product development across enterprises. So, Innovation isn’t easy, creating products and business models is not easy.

So, let’s just say you have an idea. And this is your idea. What do we know about ideas and product development today? Well, I can tell you right now over ninety percent of startups fail. Now let’s couple that with the conditions of the Enterprise many companies as you know, like Nokia. Who once lead the market for mobile technologies. You’ve got Blockbuster who lost out to Netflix and Kodak who invented digital photography were disrupted. So, although ninety percent of startups fail today, and they’ve got freedom in that ecosystem. It’s even greater in Enterprise.

And what’s sad about that is, in Enterprises, these ideas not only do they fail but they don’t even have the chance to live. So, governance in Enterprises are using management practices, which are outdated and no longer succeed in the environment we have today. By working with many Enterprises across the globe of all different sizes. The Lean Product Life Cycle has come together to create a framework of innovation and product development which connects the entire organization.

So, starting with strategy. We are able to capture the global or Enterprise intent for growth in that market position or even smaller companies who wish to grow into dominating positions across every organization, large or small, decisions get made and quite simply those with the invoice of the investment and the decision-making councils is sometimes abstracted from those people day-to-day doing the work and sometimes the Strategic needs of the board. So, what we’ve done with the product life cycle is simply connected the strategy through investment to ideas. So, whether you’ve got product council’s investment councils or just enabling bodies who make those decisions. We have a clear language. That means that those decision makers, they can recognize when an idea has got potential and those with the idea know who to go to actually get their idea heard. Also, with The Lean Product Lifecycle framework. We have provided an effective product management framework to manage product specifically at this stage of their life cycle. So, the context is key. And extending that further if you are in a company with many products what you can see through the lens of the product life cycle, is the entire portfolio and its performance and through that lens, you’re able to connect products together.

So, in short, this framework connects product management all the way to the board. So, let me tell you a little bit more about The Product Lifecycle itself. We have created a six-stage product life cycle the first of which is idea. So, what we have recognized is that ideas can come from anyone, anywhere traditionally to get your idea heard you may have had to present a business plan. The product life cycle we recognize that as a constraint. So just ask a few small lightweight directive questions. So, you can connect your idea to the strategic intent of the business. If you qualify with the part of counsel of the decision council with your idea, what we then do is advocate a phase called explore. The product lifecycle being an evidence-based framework doesn’t require a theoretical proposition but actually, advocates you getting out of the building speaking to customers. The stage explore asks a very small team, one to three people in some cases to go out and speak to customers in their environment. What you’re trying to understand there is how does the customer solve the problem today? How much are they investing in solving the problem where there are time and money and what have they currently sought as a solution for that problem? When you’ve got that information, which often takes weeks not months, not years you go back to the council who have funded you at that point and you present that information. At that point, a decision could be made to pivot continue or stop. Stopping an idea is not a bad thing to do it’s a good thing to do on the basis that learning can go back into the portfolio and you’re free to go on to the next idea. If you successfully present that idea and you provide evidence, there is a real need the next stage is validate.

In validate, what you’re really trying to do here is pull together a small team to explore the foundations of the business model and you’re trying to get to that stage of product Market fit creating that minimal lovable product to demonstrate that you can provide a solution to the problem you identified in Explore. So, when you present product market fit with a business model you’re saying, here’s the evidence here are the customers who are willing to actually pay for this solution. I’ve now got a business model which can grow, and that evidence goes into a strategic conversation of investing into this product and growing in it into new market segments.

So, the next stage is grow. Now if we look at the traditional pattern of a life cycle, we’ve got something like this. So, grow is the stage where you’re maximizing your growth potential. You have a business model and now you’re continuously going after those customers and market segments, but what you can do is use this engine of idea and explore to grow your market share. So those three stages act as the engine for growth you’re constantly exploring and validating those ideas and you could be in grow for years. This is where you’re growing a business, high-growth companies, and going into new markets and inevitably you go into the next stage, which is sustain.

Sustained is a great destination for most companies sustained is where you reached market saturation, you are a dominant player and what sustain is about is changing that trajectory from a high peak into a role in hell. You want to exploit that product as much as possible and that’s where you look at operational efficiency those profits that come out of that operational efficiency are recycled back in to the portfolio and actually fuel the next generation of ideas.

Inevitably the final stage is retire. And what retire is about is actually understanding the residual value of those products which have either strategically met their day either the market has shifted or just no longer profitable and the market conditions have seen them into state of decline. But there’s a lot of asset value in those products and The Product Lifecycle extracts that through questions and governance so you can recycle that knowledge back into your asset pool.

What we’ve got here therefore it’s two stages of the product life cycle, which is important distinction to call out the first three stages or phases if you may are searching for a business model. When you go in to grow and sustain, this is more about executing on a business model. And why are we call it that distinction is because when you’re innovating and searching for a business model, traditional business plans and budgets don’t work. We Advocate Innovation accounting and this is about really understanding the customer need and really understanding how you’re solving that problem for the customer. When you actually go into the execution stage, this is where you’re talking about Revenue. Enablement and when you go into the executing area, this is business as normal looking at revenue, enablement, budget and so forth. However still using that engine of growth from idea, explore and validate. And to support this we encourage, on the left pitching, and on the right reviewing. By using the product life cycle system, what we have seen in enterprises has been astonishing. Initially when we’ve gone into some companies particularly with portfolios. We have noticed the Innovation funnel sometimes looks like this. Where the idea sits up the top and this might be the grow stage. What problem that actually demonstrates sometimes is that ideas are actually coming through, but actually few and far between and they are getting bottle necked by constraints of the business. What we’re able to do with the product life cycle, by employing a very lightweight structure and a learn fast culture and philosophy, we’re able to expand that Innovation funnel. Without increasing total investment, and we do that with lean thinking all through the process. So, we learn fast and we can pivot ideas. I hope that’s given you an informative introduction to the product life cycle. I hope you enjoyed the video.

Thank you.


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