How to shrink your project with the Minimum Viable Product: 5 Tips for Minimum Viable Projects

Germany is known as the industrial nation with the 99.9% solution. We are expected to deliver a perfect engineering performance, but real innovation? You'd rather look for it in Silicon Valley. However, we all want to become faster - more agile and ready to react to our complex environment at any time. We want products to reach the market faster and customer problems to be solved more quickly. The Minimum Viable Product concept, which we know from product development, meets precisely this challenge.

In software development, for example, a Minimum Viable Product helps to minimize the number of feature requests to a feasible level. It is not a question of creating prototypes or drafts, but of creating a minimally equipped, yet fully functional product that can be used to obtain feedback from users.

MVP serves as a prioritization strategy by distinguishing functions that inspire the target group for the product from those that are quite nice but do not encourage potential customers to buy the product. According to the lean startup principle "Build - Measure - Learn", the product is further developed iteratively. Of course, agile project management methods are very well suited for this, but MVP can also be implemented in classic time planning.

The Minimum Viable Product

Where lean-startups are ahead of larger enterprises

Can this lean startup concept also help large companies to implement important projects faster and more efficiently? Long project durations and extensive project management with various committees, organisational regulations and hierarchical decision-making structures often make such companies as agile as a tanker.

This is why most large companies cannot be transformed into a lean start-up. But there will certainly be areas in which a minimum viable project can be implemented. And if you are lucky, a successful project develops such a radiance that it becomes a best practice for successful project management throughout the entire company.

Two questions arise: How much project organization is necessary for a project to succeed? How little project organization is possible? Before you go into the build phase of a Minimum Viable Project, you should first do your research homework. An anonymous online survey of experienced project team members, for example, can help to identify known obstacles to the efficient progress of a project.

All experienced project managers will know which answer will come most frequently: the resources are not sufficient. But the goal of a Minimum Viable Project is not to magically multiply existing resources, but to make the most of existing opportunities.

Five tips for Minimum Viable Projects

  1. Remember the essence of the project: What result must the project necessarily achieve so that it is of value to the company? Identify this value and communicate it clearly to the project team. All measures in the project are subordinated to this goal.
  2. Keep the project mission simple: Keep the project task manageable. The goal of a Minimum Viable Project is to deliver results as quickly as possible. This is doomed to failure if the team is flooded with change requests and additions to the project order. The phrase "While we're at it, we could still..." should be deleted from your vocabulary.
  3. Define simple indicators that tell you if your project is on track: Stay minimalistic and learn. Start with as few key figures as possible and avoid assigning employees exclusively to project controlling.
  4. Allow your team to make decisions: This requires courage and a positive image of people.  If you implicitly assume that your employees immediately use their freedom to the disadvantage of the company as soon as they are given the opportunity to do so, quick decisions will not be possible. Then everyone will have to make sure they get back to their supervisor and the supervisor's supervisor.
  5. Measure and learn! It must be clear from the beginning at which point you consider the project to be a success. The measurement of success therefore depends on a crystal-clear definition of objectives. With iterative projects, it is much easier to identify and readjust adjusting screws than is the case with "all-in-one projects".


Originally published in German on 2016-09-01: Schrumpen Sie Ihr Projekt!

Author: Dr. Andreas Tremel

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