Here are some of my favorite books on products, innovation, and management. These should be in every product professional’s library.
Turn Ideas into Products by Steve Johnson introduces a nimble idea-to-market process with strong emphasis on personal experience with customers. From business planning to product launch, this approach for managing products empowers your product team to work smarter and collaborate better with colleagues and customers.
Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan is a good start for anyone planning to be a product manager. Cagan explains the challenges, the methods and approaches, and uses real-life examples to help drive his concepts.
Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value by Melissa Perri laments our fall in recent years from market-driven strategy to “feature factories.” She gives product professionals some great ways to talk about outcomes over outputs and describes what an effective product management can do for an organization.
The Product Manager’s Desk Reference by Steven Haines. Need to do a competitive SWOT analysis? See page 166. Need a strategic plan? It’s there too. Particularly for new product managers, this is the source for practical methods. You won’t read this; it’s not that kind of book. Instead, you’ll keep it handy for when you need a template or method that’s new to you.
The Art of Product Management: Lessons from a Silicon Valley Innovator by Rich Mironov offers a series of quick-read to explore how product management is practiced, particularly in Silicon Valley. One of my favorites is “Parenting and The Art of Product Management”which is spot-on and also funny. Also see “Where should PM report?” and “Product Management is Inherently Political.” This isn’t theory; it’s real-world lessons from someone who’s been a product leader in Silicon Valley for decades. The articles are easy to read but keep a pad nearby because you’ll take lots of notes!
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries. This is the book that everyone is talking about: how to turn your idea into a business by testing every step of the way. Good product management principles in play here.
Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works by Ash Maurya offers a step-by-step approach to implementing Lean principles with your product using realistic examples for validating your idea with minimal investment.
The Lean Product Playbook: How to Innovate with Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback by Dan Olsen gives a practical set of tools for Lean implementation plus practical tips for managing any product.
The Right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed by Alberto Savoia shares that, even if you do everything right, you can still have a product failure. But it’s not all bad news: you can protect yourself with a pretty straightforward approach of continuous validation with micro segments. Lots of actionable ideas for getting it right.
User Story Mapping: Discover the Whole Story, Build the Right Product by Jeff Patton. User story mapping is a valuable tool for software development. This book examines how this often misunderstood technique can help your team stay focused on users and their needs without getting lost in the enthusiasm for individual product features.
Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Clayton Christensen. You’ve heard of the Innovator’s Dilemma. Now the “Jobs To Be Done” framework discounts the traditional marketing approach focused on demographics; instead, its focus is problems and the personas who have them. A great discussion of “jobs to be done” with lots of real-world examples.
The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni, author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting. One aspect of success that no one talks about is “organizational health.” Trust and shared goals—on product teams and leadership teams—are the keys. If you’re in a dysfunctional organization, this book provides some great insights.
The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford. The Phoenix Project is a novel that seems too true—featuring too-familiar dysfunctions between marketing, development, and operations. With a revision in 2018, it’s as true today as when it was originally published in 2013.
The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management by Tom DeMarco. Imagine a management book wrapped in a novel. Our hero has been kidnapped to run a software venture, with too many resources. What to do? Run a series of experiments with teams that are too small and too large to see which are most productive. This is a fun read for product managers, development managers, and people managers.