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Supply Chain Management Solutions, LLC

January 26, 2016

Steven Brown, PMP, CSM

LEAN/Sigma Consultant at Supply Chain Management Solutions

Most of us have read about AirBNB's concept of a 'Minimum Viable Product' Or "Concierge MVP", used  to quickly test AirBNB's hypotheses. (The MVP is the smallest thing one can build that will create the value you promised your market).

But it has a doppelganger: The Minimum Viable Process--a kind of Anti-MVP.  It flows out in a familiar pattern:

1. A small start up--or a small team within an Enterprise company--using minimal funding and staff, creates and tests a new process.  It works wonderfully !

2. Excited, you pilot  the process with a few internal/external customers and, surprisingly, orders start coming in or, the process is implemented. Now, this can come in the form of actual revenue generating orders or an overly fast implementation of your MVP by a short-sighted management team.

3. Under the pressure to roll out the process and losing sight of the pilot the team quickly converts to production, and all is well. The company comes to depend upon the process. No further stress tests required ! 

4. Sooner or later a large order, or many small orders, or some other stressor arrives and...the process breaks, falters, and clearly does not scale—yikes !

5. Customer demand does not allow you time to re-engineer the process. 

6. You quickly hire more people to plug the holes in the process—after all, it’s only short term until you can fix the scale problem.

7. More orders roll in. You continue to hire more and more people and the process sort of scales.

8. The work-arounds eventually ossify in place and become “the way we do it around here.”  Scale is a distant thought and never discussed.

9. Competitors are faster and cheaper…suddenly you're left behind. Belated re-engineering efforts in the middle of production create firefights, frustration & failure. 

10. Reorganization, or Work Force Reduction is not far behind. Non-scaling baby, meet bathwater. 

If you've been around long enough, you've either led, participated in, or watched each scenario develop and metastasize into the mess described above. It starts at Point 1, when excitement over rides judgement. Eventual failure is assured by not setting manageable expectations with either customers or management or, by succumbing to the pressure of unrealistic urgency.  It may be training, excitement, youthful naivete or, more likely, pressure to produce from a company with a culture of "This Quarter's Profit!" 

My experience: it is best to quietly develop and test your process out of view of both customer and management--yes, vet your process early and often with a broad team, but control the excitement: no matter what the projected revenue or savings.  Don't. Blow. Past. Your. Scale.

There is a massive amount of business out there for Supply Chain Management consultants who specialize in helping those companies which have 'blown scale'. Get control early and exercise it often. 


Supply Chain Management & "The Minimum Viable Process"​