Workshop: Lean Spec For Engineers, Product Managers, & PMs


Tech Liminal – 1130 Clay Street Oakland, CA 94607 – View Map


Projects are notorious for falling apart as they progress. Whether it is through feature creep that pushes them over budget and over schedule or a showstopper appearing at the end of a long development – product managers and engineers face difficult challenges keeping a project running. Many times these problems are traced back to misunderstanding, miscommunication, and omissions in specification that happened at the very beginning of the project.

The Lean Spec is a Product Definition Process designed to address these issues by getting at the underlying issue of an incomplete conceptualization of what is actually meant to be built. It works by extracting the functionality of a product into its features, behaviors, and interfaces to create a complete picture of the product being built.

The Lean Spec: Product Definition Process

  • helps reveal potential showstoppers early enough so that they do not kill a project;
  • generates an agreement between the engineering, the product manager, and marketing about what is being built which helps control feature(s) creep;
  • forms the basis for more accurate scoping by providing a way to directly map the engineering functionality into budget and schedule;
  • takes the idea for your product and produces a structured and complete picture of what features it will have and how it will behave;
  • provides a concise description of your product and a consistent vocabulary that will make it easier to convey your idea to engineers, programmers, and investors.

What will I learn?

  • A new way of conceptualizing the entire functionality of a product pre-build;
  • An ability to effectively implement the process of Product Definition;
  • A methodology for creating a complete description of a product and capturing it in documentation;
  • A methodology for determining impact of product complexity on budget and schedule;
  • A more coherent product narrative for investors and stakeholders with documentation to back it up.

What makes this workshop different?

Attendees will be trained in visualization techniques to conceptualize the product before its built and prior to any physical prototypes.

The Product Definition Process methodology was developed by Malcolm Knapp from over ten years of project experience starting from building a low cost rechargeable lantern in 2004. Malcolm’s education includes a combined BA in Science, Engineering, and Society from Pitzer College, a BS in Electrical Engineer from Columbia University and an MS in Electrical Engineering from Columbia. He chose this type of degree because politics, economics, and culture, effect what is built just as much as what is technically possible and he wanted to understand how.

How is this workshop structured?

This is a dynamic, interactive workshop. Participating attendees work on their own product to apply the methodology of the product definition process.

Who is this workshop for?

  • developers, programmers, engineers, managers
  • software and hardware products as well as new product development
  • technical project managers, product managers, program managers

What are the pre-requisites?

  • have experience or exposure to developing technical products of some kind – either hardware or software
  • some understanding of systems thinking
  • currently have role and responsibility or seek to advance career in technical product development and/or management

What are suggested background readings?

(these are not required for attendance)

Who is the trainer?

Malcolm KnappMalcolm Knapp is a freelance electrical engineer and production developer who helps clients clarify the problems they face and determine the appropriate solution. Malcolm is a co-organizer for Make:SF, has created classes for Workshop Weekend including Applied Electronics: The 5X5 Badge Explained, Systems Thinking, the Many Ways to Blink labs, and the state machine-based Over Temperature Alarm. Malcolm teaches The Engineer Accelerator to forward electrical engineers.

Tech Liminal – 1130 Clay Street Oakland, CA 94607 – View Map


You must be logged in to post a comment