80% of new products fail, 90% of mobile apps don't make any money, four out of five startups lose money for investors and 60% of new restaurants fail within a year. This might seem like starting anything new is expensive and scary but you can look at it another way - 20% of ideas have the potential to succeed. The problem is that we are not looking at enough ideas so we settle for the ideas that have a lower chance of ever being successful.
Like in your personal relationships, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. In business, you need to assess a lot of ideas to find the right one. No, No, No eventually gets to Yes. But this leads to another problem. We find it very hard to kill bad initiatives because we have either fallen in love with our solution or we’ve fallen victim to the sunk cost fallacy. This problem stems from the lack of defined criteria for idea assessment.
When we have a list of ideas, at least 70% of those will result in nothing. So we need to apply a light touch process to quickly remove the ideas with the least chance of success to get to the best ideas. In essence, we want to optimize the time it takes for a company to make decisions.
I’ve developed the Kiss, Kick, Kill framework, to quickly evaluate ideas. It helps teams make informed decisions by categorizing ideas into "Yes," "No," or "Maybe" based on their alignment with the product objectives. This framework enables teams to quickly determine which opportunities are worth pursuing, leading to more effective and efficient decision-making.
The first step captures ideas using a standardized idea assessment form which covers key items like background context, the problem, the solution, value, how it aligns with strategy, and any blockers, among other items. This allows for a fair and consistent evaluation of each idea.
This form is then initially assessed by a Product Lead or someone with experience in assessing ideas. They determine if the proposal has the kernel of a good idea or not. If they “Kiss” the idea they are voting to take it forward and help the idea-generator champion it in a cross-functional team meeting. They can also “Kick” it back for more information or to clarify how the solution will deliver value. Or they can “Kill” it. This is when the idea has been deemed a bad fit, or unlikely to deliver real value.
Since people can become very attached to their ideas it is important to keep a ‘kill list’ so we don’t waste time reviewing the same ideas over and over. We don’t want the same ideas with different names.
Lean Assessment Team (LAT)
The LAT is a cross-functional team of key stakeholders including Security, Marketing, Legal, Commercial, UX, Developers, Product, and other Subject Matter Experts, as appropriate for your context. The purpose of the team is for everybody to hear new ideas from the idea initiator at the same time and have the chance to input into that idea. The LAT is then responsible for teasing out any blockers or risks to decide whether they will support the idea or not. So again, Kiss, Kick, Kill. To keep the meetings short, the ideas are sent out ahead of the LAT sessions and the idea originator focuses the group on the initiative highlights and any issues.
The decision criteria vary between products but they have to be related to your strategic objectives. Typically, people are looking at the opportunity size, client impact, the alignment to strategy, the urgency of the solution, and the time and cost effort involved in delivery.
Improving your Odds
Most ideas fail. By creating an assessment framework for your ideas you can iterate through more ideas more quickly to get to the ideas with the best chance of success. The Kiss, Kick, Kill framework reduces the length of time it takes for a company to make decisions which is one of the key factors that can be correlated with an initiative's success or failure.