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August 4, 2012

Negotiation - The road to Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

     Are you spending time in unfruitful, never-ending, repeated meetings to discuss the solution - the single silver bullet - that meets all of customer requirements? And do you care to get the shit out of that quagmire? The first thing to realize is that you are not on the road to MVP. Secondly, you should seek to hit the road to MVP. Lastly, read further and digest the lesson :)
     Imagine God from nowhere appears in front of you and asks, "My dear, what do you want?" Would you ask for ask for just an item or an endless list of items? Without exception, each one of you would ask for the latter. The situation is no different even in the business context of the software projects that we undertake. Thanks to the excellent efforts and works of the Sales or frontline folks. The customer looks at you as an all powerful Angels if not as God. Their business wants are limitless and they expect you to solve it magically in one go.
     You and your team are now in deep shit. You should be wise enough to know that all the customer wants can't be met in a single go. If you are not in a same page as I am with this statement, you better be :P Now, assuming that you are in the same page as I'm, what will you do given this circumstances? Commit that you can and end up not delivering. Bummer! You can only take one bite at a time. Don't be foolish to think that you can have everything in one gulp - that will be your road to disaster.
     So, what is the way out? NEGOTIATE.
     And to learn one of the best lessons in successful negotiations, you don't really have to hit the Harvard; you can learn it from the conversations between a mother and her kid. When a kid makes a ton of demands to its mother, the mom gives a patient hearing to what her kid has to say and subsequently repeats the wishlist of her kid to both assure the kid that she has been listening all the while and also to ensure that she understood the demands right. She would then truly collaborate with the kid to prioritise the list and finally makes the move - promise to fulfil the needs in incremental instalments as per the agreed priority. That to me is a successful win-win negotiation.
     The advantages to this incremental fulfillment are many fold. Any requirement could have been mis-understood. The requirements might change. The priorities might change. There are very many factors that influence the wishlist and the strength to fulfill it. Think about it. Didn't you in your everyday life practice this "incremental priorised delivery" to meet some of your personal needs. You merely have to apply the same principles in your business with the client. Negotiate by education to fulfill all their needs but in prioritised incremental delivery that adds business value with every single delivery.
     To rephrase, the road to MVP in typical business will look like below:
  1. Get the Business Vision and Mission statement.
  2. Elicit the customer wishlist.
  3. Make attempts to understand them and pronounce your understanding of the wishlist. In essence, you repeat the wishlist to the customer to showcase your understanding of the same.
  4. Prioritize the wishlist based on the business vision and mission statements.
  5. Promise to deliver in incremental installments of business value.
     Don't trust me. Give it a shot in your current gig and feel free to share your experience by way of comments to this blog post. I'm looking forward to having a conversation with you :)