Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value Paperback – 30 November 2018
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About the Author
About This Book
This book is for every product person. It’s for the senior in college who wants to be a product manager but doesn’t quite understand the full landscape of the job. It’s for the first-time product manager who was thrown into the fray and is looking for guidance. It’s for the product manager, just promoted to VP, who needs a guide to set up their organization so that it scales successfully. It’s for the leaders of large organizations who are looking to obtain that competitive advantage.
The version of Escaping the Build Trap you are about to read is the fourth rewrite of this book in three years. It is a culmination of what I have learned about how roles, strategy, process, and organizational dynamics affect the value that a company can deliver.
This book is a guide to getting out of the build trap with great product management. We look at what it means to become and be a product-led organization, which involves four key components:
- Creating a product manager role with the right responsibilities and structure
- Enabling those product managers with a strategy that promotes good decision making
- Understanding the process of determining what product to build, through experimentation and optimization
- Supporting everyone with the right organizational policies, culture, and rewards to allow product management to thrive
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This book is about creating an effective product management organization. However, it is valuable to every team member, not only the product manager. Each of us should be thinking about what problems customers want to solve and how we can deliver chunks of that value frequently and sustainably. As a tester, I feel I have a lot to learn from the “great project manager” that Melissa describes in this book - able to collaborate with business stakeholders, technical team members, and designers. The kinds of questions that great product managers ask, as described here, inspire me to ask better questions from a testing perspective.
Techniques like the Product Kata are practical ways for teams to build a vision through continual learning and involving everyone in the organization. When we’re heads down in the trenches developing software, it’s easy to lose track of what’s valuable to the business and customers. The real-life examples here, with hypotheses supported by ways to measure progress, let readers see how we can apply these on our own teams.
The techniques for solution exploration are such effective ways to guide software development with business-facing tests and experiments. I’m lucky to have seen experiments like this succeed “in the wild”. No matter what your role on a team, particularly an agile team, the insights in this book will help you do a better job of getting value to your customer frequently.
First, Melissa sets the table with one of the most common problems facing folks in corporate America today: The "Build Trap" (output over outcomes). This is something the broader corporate world faces, not just firms operating in the of digital space.
From there she moves to covering Product Management as a leading role in firms. She covers the bad, the great, and offers some thoughts on career paths. What I specifically appreciated was highlighting the fact that a great product manager does not have to have a large staff or even a staff at all. A great Product Manager influences, questions, experiments, and even questions the analysis of results.
Melissa gives a nice overview of how one connects Product Vision through to execution and how Product Management helps lead this. In many organizations, we find PMOs or tech leaders dividing up these into "phases" or assigning them to silos. Melissa dispenses with that and leaves the ownership where it belongs: a Product Management organization that helps lead the teams in the right direction (that direction being the customer).
She follows this up with some tips for how to approach Problem and Solutions exploration. Her thoughts and examples on using a Product Kata (adapted from Mike Rother's work) is helpful and can easily help focus a team on how to get to effective solutions more crisply.
Finally, her overview of what a good Product Management Organization looks like cuts to the chase. It's a very solid overview of what "good" looks like. It's not a nirvana state to never be attained, but a realistic view into where companies can get to.
As a practicing Agilist, I appreciated this book since it is not an encyclopedia of Product Management, but rather it is a great overview of it. No author can solve your problem with their pre-baked solution. However, Melissa does not try to do that in her book. She provides a framework and mindset that helps people to consider ways to solve their own problems. This book is one that I can readily hand out to help start conversations, spark discussions, and paint a picture of where we need to go. Also it will help to align my fellow coaches, tech leaders, and product leaders AWAY from the Build Trap and towards real value delivery.
In addition to these great value adds, Perri documents a generalized product career path and org structure that makes sense! It was so clear to understand her reasoning and position, I was even swayed in my opinions about some minutiae around tasks for senior product leaders. An appendix that gives some examples of good questions to ask companies to find out if they are product driven was immediately useful the week that I read it.
Lastly, the book is only about 200 pages, which means every page is valuable. I handed this book to my boss when he was planning a round of hiring and even if he only read the first 20 pages, I know he got a lot of product knowledge from it. I look forward to reading it AGAIN! My two copies are already so heavily highlighted and dog-eared.