Product Management from MVP to Product-Market Fit

Context: joining a start-up that has launched its MVP but not yet reached Product-Market Fit.

Your Job to be Done: get to Product-Market Fit.


  • What's on fire?
  • What's the current 5-10-year mission/vision?
  • What's the current rough Positioning Statement?
  • Start a writing culture (Org Writing Practices): is there a team-wiki-like doc-space integrated with the issue-tracker (aka confluence for jira)? Get it licensed, get permissions spread, start writing there.
  • Has the MVP launched? What are the user stats?
  • What analytics tools are available, if any? What user-action-data is being collected?
  • Understand the tech stack, sprint process/cycle, QA process, deploy process, etc. If there's a complex architecture, ask if there's documentation/diagrams. Start attending dev meetings (stand-up, etc.)
  • Ask everyone you meet with: What's the biggest business risk? What's your biggest pet peeve re the biz?

Is there a fire you can help get put out quickly?

Start building strategic context

  • Create a Lean Canvas if there isn't one already
    • multiple market segments being targeted? Separate canvas for each. And recognize that serving more than 1 may spread your resources too thin.
    • multiple stakeholders within a single segment's customer (e.g. enterprise user vs payer)? Usually best to put them in the same canvas (for consistency), but identify them explicitly and clarify which you're addressing in any box
    • multi-sided market/platform? Even messier, but still best to keep on one canvas.
      • if that market/platform expects to serve multiple significantly different segments on either side, things get messier. I might (a) make an n-by-m matrix (does Seller Segment X want all Buyer segments, or only Buyer Segment A?), and consider making (at least rough/partial) canvases for each cluster.
    • every box in the canvas is a hypothesis (Thinking in Bets): what evidence is there for each? Which boxes are riskiest?
  • have you done the Sean Ellis very-disappointed survey on your core segment? Is that segment big enough?
  • Is there a North Star metric?
  • Get all these notes/documents posted in the team-wiki.
  • Have internal meetings to get feedback on what you've created so far. It might be good to capture differing opinions/perspectives, rather than converging into a "new agreement" just yet....

Start talking to customers: active, churned, failed, etc. - open-ended Customer Discovery. Is the Problem your startup is targeting the Biggest problem for that person? If not, is it still a compelling problem to solve? Are they spending money/time to solve it now, how?

Did these conversations cause you to question the documents you just finished creating? Have meetings to discuss that, and update.

Start an Opportunity Solution Tree.

  • get all the (non-tiny) ideas people (inside and out) have mentioned included - it's ok to start with some in a "No Problem" Opportunity branch...
  • Did the customer interviews lead you to have an opinion over which Problems/Opportunities are most significant? Make the tree reflect that.
  • Have meetings to discuss/update the tree.
    • which Problems are most important to solve?
      • You might not want to decide this until you pick a North Star metric - otherwise, be more clear that you're kinda guessing.
      • You should definitely do some Pirate Metrics analysis before making these rankings...
    • generate more ideas attacking only the top 2 Problems
    • rank those ideas
  • user StoryMapping to build happy-path first, even if you don't release it yet

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