I am the victim of Minimum Viable Product mentality. Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a product development methodology popular with start-ups to focus a product on the minimum viable features that will appeal to a customer. Unfortunately, engineering and business culture often focus on minimum features and forgets the viability part. This results in products that are unstable, unusable, and just plain unacceptable.

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is all the rage in the startup community. The idea is laudable, to focus on core elements of a product that will appeal to early adopters, then build from there as customer needs are uncovered and customers developed. The intent behind the MVP idea is to minimize wasted effort and risk — to focus the product on only the key elements that will capture the imagination of early customers, let them understand the vision and direction, and see the product as an early demonstration of that vision.

Deeply embedded in product development culture is the notion of a “feature” — often taken to be an atomic unit of functionality. Development culture (and product management culture, for that matter) seems obsessed with features. We prioritize them, count them, and try to optimize the number of features we implement. But the very notion of a feature is incomplete. It focuses only on what is to be done, not how it is to be done. It screams functionality, and only whispers viability.

The Minimum Viable Product is a great idea. It focuses teams on what is important. I feel, however, that it has been misused because of too much focus on minimal and too little focus on viable. Releasing products that aren’t viable just begs them to be tried and discarded. App developers for mobile devices know this. They know that an app must be totally usable the first time out, or people will delete it after 10 seconds.