Product management is one of the most exciting fields in tech right now.
Considering the complexities of the job right at the intersection of software development, design, and growth; product managers must keep ahead of the game to catch the latest trends.
Here are the best books for PMs to get a competitive edge and help to build the products that customers love.
1- The Lean Product Playbook
Many products fail today, mostly since they fail to hit the “product-market fit”. In his book, Dan Olsen goes in detail what brings about the product-market fit both on the product (UX, feature-sets, value proposition) and the market (target customers and their underserved needs) side.
For PMs wanting to build and iterate rapidly while developing their products and get to the product-market fit fast, The Lean Product Playbook offers a great framework for success.
2- Crossing the Chasm
Geoffrey Moore examines in detail in his phenomenal work, Crossing the Chasm, why a few products become hugely successful at disrupting progressively larger markets while others are only to lag behind.
According to Geoffrey, the secret to this massive success is the ability to cross the chasm as soon as possible, which is right in between the early market dominated by Innovators and Early Adopters, and Early Majority on the Technology Adoption Life Cycle. Written in the early 90s, the principles in Crossing the Chasm have surely stood the test of time and the book has become like the bible for product teams developing cutting-edge technologies for over a decade.
Crossing the Chasm also made its way into our other book list, Best Books for Product Marketing Managers.
Inspired addresses the single most important question for any technology company:
How to create successful tech products?
Marty Cagan scrutinizes in-depth how the most successful tech companies today—Google, Tesla, Netflix, Amazon— design, and build products that have billions of raving fans worldwide. Primarily focusing on product development, Inspired covers companies from early-stage startups looking to hit the product-market fit rapidly to long-established tech companies constantly in search of delivering new value for their customers.
For PMs wanting to carry their product game to the next level, Inspired is one of the most essential books available today.
4- Shape Up
Written by Ryan Singer, the Head of Strategy at BaseCamp, Shape Up defines the workflow and set of techniques that have been developed for over 15 years by BaseCamp while building their most successful products.
The main argument in the book is that you must first “shape” a project and then “bet” on that it could be finalized within 6 weeks by a self-dependent but a small product team. Shape Up is a must-read for product managers interested in Agile process beyond Scrum and the like, and implement well-planned and effectively-delegated development strategies at their workplace.
The good news is that Shape Up is freely available here on BaseCamp’s website.
5-Outcomes Over Output
When is a product “done”?
When it is ready to be shipped or right at the moment the end-user lays hands on it? What about Facebook, Amazon or Google? When are they just “done”?
In fact, products powered by software and digital systems are never done. So, how do we set goals for our product teams to iterate? We mostly ask them to build new feature-sets, which are often creating no or low value. In his book “Outcomes before Output“, Josh Seiden argues that if we give product teams outcomes to achieve, we can ensure focus and alignment, reduce unnecessary rework, and, most importantly, put our customers at the center of all of our efforts.
Published less than a year ago in 2019, Outcomes before Output is one of the latest works that PMs must definitely check out.
6- Escaping the Build Trap
In Escaping the Build Trap, Melissa Peri touches upon a similar issue on outcome-centric planning.
She argues that companies fall into the “Build Trap” by focussing too much on outputs, thus waste their valuable time and energy shipping countless features that offer little value. According to Peri, companies can avoid the trap by cultivating a customer-centric product culture if they can optimize how they communicate and collaborate within the company structure. For PMs looking to build a product management culture focused on successful outcomes over outputs in their work environment,
Escaping Build Trap is a must-read.
7- The Mom Test
It is said that you must avoid asking your mom about your business idea because she loves you hence, she will lie to you.
Authoring The Mom Test, Rob Fitzpatrick argues that you should not, in fact, ask anyone if your business (or product/feature) is a good idea because they will—unintentionally—lie to you. Fitzpatrick works through how to approach and talk to customers, and gather valuable insights without even mentioning the idea for eliminating any bias that will hinder the truth. Considering that talking to customers is the prerequisite of any effective product development process,
The Mom Test is an interesting read for product managers wanting to ensure their product’s success.
8- Measure What Matters
Written by one of the earliest investors of Google and maybe the most important VC in Silicon Valley, John Doerr, Measure What Matters introduces the revolutionary approach to setting goals and making tough decisions in business: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
Used by Intel, Google, Amazon, Uber and many more tech giants, OKRs have been seen as the main drive behind their explosive growth. Exploring new approaches to management in tech, Measure What Matters is certainly one of the most essential reads for PMs expected to set and accomplish higher goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
😎 Who is a Product Manager?
A Product Manager is someone who is job is to manage every aspect of the product from development to customer service, ensuring the product’s success.
❓Why is Product Management important?
As Product Managers ensure the internal teams of a company are aligned under the same vision, they maximize the chances of a product’s success.
📚 How can I learn Product Management?
Books are great resources to learn anything, it applies to product management too. You can also watch videos and attend courses.