Lean startups: The Build-Measure-Learn cycle

Written by Dr Timothy Mansfield
Published on 1 April 2019

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Lean Startup

About the author

Tim Mansfield is a strategist, culture consultant and futures researcher, specialising in the cultural sector. He has been the CEO of the Interaction Consortium since August 2016.

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The primary process for lean startups is the Build-Measure-Learn cycle. This process, described on the lean startup website, has been the key for many lean startups to develop lasting success. Startups carry out the cycle quickly and iteratively to refine the idea for a product into something actual customers desire.


Before any building, the entrepreneur comes up with a tentative idea for the simplest possible version of the product, called the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Then, the team builds the product quickly using techniques such as agile development and continuous integration. Sometimes, the MVP may not even involve actual software – it may be partially simulated using human action behind the scenes. Testing with real users begins soon after this.


During the measuring stage, intense testing occurs with the target audience to see how well they like the initial product. Usability tests, real-time monitoring, and marketing tests collect as much data as possible to see if the product is a good fit. Continuous deployment occurs during this stage and when the product needs essential changes for the purposes of quick and effective testing.


During the learning stage, the startup carefully evaluates data from the testing, and further testing occurs to see how well users are accepting and desiring the product. The business quickly figures out what works and what doesn't by asking real potential users for their opinions. Throughout this stage, the business judges critically if it is a good idea to continue with the product. If not, the business can pivot, or change what they are working on. Additionally, if the product works out well, during this stage they identify changes that will improve the product.

By repeating this cycle rapidly while maintaining high quality via the use of testing, a lean startup will be best placed to create products that real customers want, while quickly adapting products to best serve their users.

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