Essential reads for product people and their colleagues


Recently, a friend of mine asked me for a list of recommended reading for Product Owners and Product Managers. It’s a question I get asked a lot, so here are some reading suggestions for her, and for you.

Whether you are taking on one of these roles, hiring for these roles, or simply working with people who occupy these roles... hell, if your company has a product, go read these now. They’re short and they’ll change the way you work.

Straight up, my favourite is Product Manager You Are… a janitor essentially. Distilled, there’s no better summary of what I do every day:

You are a CEO. You are a coach. You are an engineer. You are a janitor. You’re a hammer. You are a router. You are a super-user. You are an inventor. You are a ghost. You are the product.

Then we’ve a couple of classics. Firstly, Ben Horvitz’s definitions of good and bad product managers.

Good product managers don’t give direction informally. Good product managers gather information informally.

Next must-read is Ken Norton’s guide on how to hire PMs. It’s essential, whether you are hiring or trying to be hired. It’s no exaggeration to say I owe more to this article for my career than I do my CV.

So what do I look for in a PM? Most importantly, raw intellectual horsepower. I’ll take a wickedly smart, inexperienced PM over one of average intellect and years of experience any day.

As a Chief Product Owner, I find this checklist vital for keeping me and my team honest about whether we’re doing our jobs or getting distracted. It also helps convey the scope of our roles. This Agile Management blog series is great for debugging some common PO/PM challenges, and I find myself sending Stewart McCall’s article on asking for design feedback around more than any other. Many of our problems are of our own making.

Being more intentional about who to ask, when, and about what, can go a long way in reducing miscommunication in the product dev process.

‘How we build software at Intercom’, from their blog

Focus is key to product work. Learning how to say no is tough, but Intercom has a few great tips on why and how to do it. Their recent post on Lessons Learned From Scaling a Product Team is packed with insight.

Finally, if that’s still not enough, someone (of course) did this before me and better than me: 54 Articles and Books that will Make you a Great Product Manager. The Lean Startup is on that list. If you had to read only one book, I’d make it that.

Did I miss anything?