Consultant Dan Olsen shares what he’s learned in the Lean Product Playbook

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on September 6, 2018

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Menlo Park resident Dan Olsen started coding on a Commodore 64 as a teen, but it wasn’t until he landed at Stanford Business School that he discovered there’s a career field called product management.

“It fit me because it’s at the intersection of technology and marketing,” he said. “Then I got lucky enough to get a job at Intuit, where I learned 75% of what I know.”

After a decade consulting in the field, he’s put what he knows in a book, The Lean Product Playbook. “It took me over a year to write it as I worked on it nights and weekends,” he said. “It’s 335 pages — I wanted to say everything I had to say about product management!”

He explained what he defines as being lean: “It means trying to make the best use of resources. There are two components: not investing time in building the wrong thing but rather being mindful and smart to get it right. And it’s about embracing iteration and being customer centric.”

Being lean isn’t new, Dan explained. It’s started with “lean manufacturing” and Toyota. An earlier book published by his publisher, Wiley, was called the The Toyota Way. “I’d studied the original lean before I got into software,” he said.

In addition to speaking and consulting, Dan runs a Lean Product Meet Up. “I started it 4 1/2 years ago in 2014,” he said. “We’ve grown to over 7,000 members. It’s held at Intuit’s headquarters in Mountain View.” The next one is scheduled for Sept. 18.

Like many we’ve talked to who live in the Willows, Dan is a big fan of that Menlo Park neighborhood: “It feels like a real community, not just a place in the middle of Silicon Valley!”

Photo by Scott R. Kline (c) 2018

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