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Product Management in Practice

Book Description

Product management has become a critical connective role for modern organizations, from small technology startups to global corporate enterprises. And yet the day-to-day work of product management remains largely misunderstood. In theory, product management is about building products that people love. The real-world practice of product management is often about difficult conversations, practical compromises, and hard-won incremental gains.

In this book, author Matt LeMay focuses on the CORE connective skills—communication, organization, research, execution—that can build a successful product management practice across industries, organizations, teams, and toolsets.

For current and would-be product managers, this book explores:

  • Real-world tactics for facilitating collaboration and communication
  • How to talk to users and work with executives
  • The importance of setting clear and actionable goals
  • Using roadmaps to connect and align your team
  • A values-first approach to implementing Agile practices
  • Stories that convey realities of product management in the field
  • Common behavioral traps that turn good product managers bad

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    1. Why I Wrote This Book: My First Day as a Product Manager
    2. Who This Book Is For
    3. How This Book Is Organized
      1. Stories from Working Product Managers
      2. Templates
      3. “Your Checklist”
    4. O’Reilly Safari
    5. How to Contact Us
    6. Acknowledgments
  2. 1. The Practice of Product Management
    1. What Is Product Management?
    2. What Is Not Product Management?
    3. What Is the Profile of a Great Product Manager?
    4. What Is the Profile of a Bad Product Manager?
    5. Summary: Sailing the Seas of Ambiguity
    6. Your Checklist:
  3. 2. The CORE Connective Skills of Product Management
    1. The “Hybrid” Model: UX/Tech/Business
    2. The CORE Skills of Product Management: Communication, Organization, Research, and Execution
      1. Communication
      2. Organization
      3. Research
      4. Execution
    3. …But What About “Hard Skills”?
    4. Summary: Changing the Conversation About Product Management
    5. Your Checklist:
  4. 3. Showing Up Curious
    1. Taking a Genuine Interest
    2. Cultivating a Growth Mindset
    3. The Gift of Being Wrong
    4. Spreading Curiosity
    5. Summary: Curiosity Is Key
    6. Your Checklist:
  5. 4. The Worst Thing About “Best Practices”
    1. Don’t Believe the Hype
    2. “But This Worked at the Last Place!”
    3. Goals First, Then Practices
    4. The Best Thing About Best Practices
    5. Summary: A Place to Start, Not a Guarantee
    6. Your Checklist:
  6. 5. The Art of Egregious Overcommunication
    1. Asking the Obvious
    2. Meetings Are Good, If You Want It
    3. One Weird Trick for Better Meetings: Disagree and Commit
    4. Creating and Protecting Space for Informal Communication
    5. Working with Distributed Teams
    6. Don’t Deflect, Be Direct
    7. Accounting for Different Communication Styles
    8. Egregious Overcommunication in Practice: Three Common Communication Scenarios for Product Managers
      1. Scenario One
      2. Scenario Two
      3. Scenario Three
    9. Summary: When in Doubt…
    10. Your Checklist:
  7. 6. Working with Senior Stakeholders (Or, Throwing the Poker Game)
    1. Managing Up for Clarity at All Costs
    2. “Our Boss Is an Idiot,” or, Congratulations—You’ve Ruined Your Team
    3. No Alarms and No Surprises
    4. Staying User-Centric in a World of Company Politics
    5. Tactical Trade-Offs, Not Emotional Manipulation
    6. Throwing the Poker Game in Practice: Two Common Scenarios for Senior Stakeholder Management
      1. Scenario One
      2. Scenario Two
    7. Summary: This Is Part of Your Job, Not an Impediment to Your Job
    8. Your Checklist:
  8. 7. Talking to Users (Or, “What’s a Poker Game?”)
    1. Stakeholders and Users Are Different
    2. Yes, You Need to Learn How to Talk to Users
    3. “Quick Wins” for Better User Research
    4. Leveling Up Versus Zooming In, or Another Way to “Why”
    5. Summary: No, Seriously, You Need to Learn How to Talk to Users
    6. Your Checklist:
  9. 8. “Data, Take the Wheel!”
    1. The Trouble with the “D” Word
    2. Don’t Hide Your Assumptions—Document Them!
    3. Focusing on Metrics That Matter
    4. “Up and to the Right” Is a Signal, Not a Strategy
    5. From “Accountability” to Action
    6. Acknowledging the Limitations of Obfuscating Quantitative Proxies
    7. Keeping It Accessible
    8. Summary: No Shortcuts!
    9. Your Checklist:
  10. 9. Realistic Roadmaps and Painless Prioritization
    1. It’s Not the Roadmap, It’s How You Use the Roadmap
    2. “The Product Manager Owns the Roadmap!”
    3. Structure and Facilitate Ideas for the Roadmap, Don’t Own Them
    4. Your Product Spec Is Not Your Product
    5. Wait, You Mean We Actually Have to Build This Now?
    6. SMART Goals, CLEAR Goals, OKRs, and so on
    7. Taking Your Goals for a Test Drive
    8. Making Room for Old Stuff and (Truly) New Stuff
    9. But This Is an Emergency!
    10. Prioritization in Practice: Same Features, Different Goals
    11. Summary: Let Them In!
    12. Your Checklist:
  11. 10. The Wonderful, Horrible Truth About Agile
    1. Debunking Three Common Myths About Agile
    2. Turning to the Agile Manifesto
    3. From Manifesto to Monster
    4. Using Alistair Cockburn’s “Heart of Agile” to Bridge Values and Practices
    5. Four Steps to Future-Proof Agile
    6. A Few General Caveats About Agile
    7. You Are Here
    8. Summary: Ambiguity Lives Here, Too
    9. Your Checklist:
  12. 11. In Good Times and Bad
    1. The Soothing Lull of an Organization on Autopilot
    2. The Good Times Aren’t (Always) the Easy Times
    3. Carrying the Weight of the World
    4. Summary: It’s Hard Work, but It’s Worth It
    5. Your Checklist:
  13. 12. Conclusion: Whatever It Takes
  14. A. A Reading List for Expanding Your Product Management Practice
  15. B. Articles and Blog Posts Cited in This Book
  16. Index