Jumpstarting the OODA with Hypothesis Driven Development

An actionable lean development process

@swombat has a blog post up called How to evaluate and implement startup ideas using Hypothesis Driven Development. It’s a great post. You should read it.

We applied a quick and dirty version of this strategy during a period late in the life of 1000 Markets, and we learned a ton from it. If you aren’t doing this for your business, I highly recommend it. The tl;dr version is this:

  • Meet weekly (or more often if you can manage it)
  • Identify the single most important question facing the business
  • Break it down into parts that feel answerable
  • Figure out how you can get answers (or partial answers) quickly
  • Get those answers before your next meeting, then repeat

We were in a customer development phase of our business at that time, so the questions we were trying to answer were things like “people see X as a real pain point” or “people will pay to have the pain of X taken away”. At a different place in our business the questions might have been things like “if we offer free shipping, our conversion rate will increase by a meaningful amount” or “we can acquire traffic through Google ad-words at $X CPC and it will convert at Y%.”

The strategies for getting answers to the questions we had almost never involved writing code. When this happens, it can be deeply frustrating for your team, because it seems like you aren’t making progress on a product. We recognized that this was a false trade-off, but in a less functional organization, I can easily imagine discussions like:

tech guy: We can use phone calls and surveys to get this information in 48 hours.

business guy: Can’t we just code it and see what people think, then we’ll have real product?

tech guy: Why code something we won’t end up wanting? It would take longer, and we can make phone calls today.

business guy: So you’re saying the engineering team won’t make any progress on the product?

tech guy: *sadness*

This wasn’t us… but in a different organization, I can totally imagine this.

This exercise is a fast way to jumpstart your way into the OODA (Observe Orient Decide Act) Loop. It can be hard to figure out where to enter this loop and this approach is a solid way to get started. For more information on OODA and Lean Startups, check out this blog post from Eric Ries - Principles of Lean Startups