Recommending reading

by Steve Johnson

These are some of the books we mention in our workshops and coaching sessions.

On Products and Product Management

In Turn Ideas into Products, author 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.
Product Management For Dummies by Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure covers a broad scope of topics in everyday language with lots of checklists and templates. Beyond the product topics, they explore different roles and titles, plus a nice chapter on planning your own career path. A great intro for the new product manager.
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 Practitioner's Guide to Product Management by Jock Busuttil. An excellent primer on product management at the intersection of business, technical, and market expertise.
Building Insanely Great Products by David Fradin. In Building Insanely Great Products, author David Fradin combines personal experiences, industry history, and powerful tools and techniques for a broad tour of product management activities. Fradin using his SPICES metaphor—Strategy, Process, Information, Customers, Employees, and Systems & tools—to touch on the most important aspects of product management.
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!

On Lean and Agile

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.
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.

On Building Products 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. 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.

On Organizations and Teams

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni. 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.
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Implementing change in your organization? You need to understand the three forces of change: the driver; the elephant, and the path. (Don’t worry; it makes sense in the book).
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull is a great book of managing, particularly on managing creative people and projects.
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