Are you all on the same page? A 20 minute Test.

Giff Constable management, startups

When you are in the weeds building, testing, and iterating, communication challenges can pop up.

  • First, you want everyone on the same page as to how the “value proposition” has evolved, what needs to be validated next, and why.
  • Second, when your business feels like a moving target, sometimes it can be awfully hard to explain to others in clear English what it is you are doing.

contractsBack in January, Kent Beck made a wonderful recommendation on the lean startup circle: write a short, fictional letter from a happy customer. His advice stuck with me and we put it into practice today. I loved the results.

Kent’s suggestion was as follows: “tell the story of their dilemma before they happened to find your site, how they found it, how they interacted with it, and what happened subsequently. It doesn’t need to be long–just 4-5 sentences will do.

I actually recommend quickly writing three or four letters.  Don’t agonize over them, keep it real, and keep them short.  They don’t all need to include everything in Kent’s list but they should all list one reason why the customer is happy with your service.  I also think you can have some or all of them end with a criticism or suggestion.

Have your teammates do the same exercise, without reading anyone else’s letters.  Then share.

This exercise helps you channel your customer and spell out your value in plain English. It also allows you to see the entire team’s individual assumptions both on the mission, and, if you write fictional criticisms/suggestions, where the company might be falling short.

Give it a shot.  It takes no time, and I bet you’ll find the exercise quite useful.