- A. A barely functioning prototype, possibly just a mock-up, designed to test key hypotheses for a potential future product, that — depending on the customer feedback — may or may not go ahead.
- B. The very first version of a new product, designed to solicit useful feedback from early-adopters that will be used to shape subsequent iterations.
- C. An almost complete product that we can confidently release to market once the project delivers, with all the "fat" trimmed.
- D. A substandard product that leaves out essential features, but is all we're going to be able to deliver, given budget and tight timelines.
The key idea behind an MVP is to maximise learning with a quick, early version. Practitioners of real MVP leave time and budget in the kitty to change course based on customer feedback and development team insights.
As a bonus, by releasing early you establish that your development team are capable of delivering something (which also helps their confidence, especially for a new team). And you slash technical risk by forcing early resolution of issues with your production process early on, while the product is still small.
Answer A leans towards mock-ups, design sprints, or concierge MVP to test assumptions, but doesn't prove development capability per answer B.
Answers C and D are problematic. They hint at a mindset or culture with a low tolerance for ambiguity and complexity: this leads back to the old-fashioned desire to reduce anxiety through over-control by nailing down scope up-front. It's also highly likely that you need to start listening more to your customers, not the HiPPO (highest paid person in the office) [pdf].
Another test: if your MVP is around 80% of what you think you'll need, you've missed the point. MVP should be more like 5 to 20%, the smaller you can get away with the better.
Nowadays, most everyone claims to be Agile. But can you pass the MVP test?
Passing the MVP test is a necessary, but not sufficient test of Agility. It's a good indicator, but not the whole story. Let's talk about other aspects another time.