Book List for Product Managers
From the philosophical, to the nitty-gritty, here are books that will boost your PM IQ, EQ, and overall bad-assery.
“Thinking in Systems” — Donella Meadows. Why read: all technology products are systems, no interactions happens totally independent of other interactions. A “pay now” button goes to a payment system that has both front-end and back-end components. this book helps you to think systematically about systems.
“The Designful Company”- Marty Neumeier. Why Read: Because how you build your company is also how you build your product. Additionally, this well-written read full of good success stories makes the case for a Design Driven approach a sound business one. You will need to make this case often, and even more often to execs, so read it.
“Olgivy on Advertising”- David Olgivy. Why read: Only read if you expect to sell something at any point. If you expect you not to, then don’t.
“Making Meaning” -Diller, Shedroff, Rhea. Why read: Don’t think products can have affirming values like status or belonging? Then I’m guessing you don’t have any Apple products.
“How”- Dov Seidman. Why read: because how you do something is often more important than why. Inspiring book.
“Disrupt”- Luke Wilson. Why Read: Well, this one you don’t need to read unless you are entering a tired, old vertical, like…hm…eCommerce, this will help you ask yourself the right questions in order to figure out how to be different.
“Get There Early” — Bob Johansen. Why Read: . If your job is to scan the horizon and insinuate where the company should go from far off signs in the market, this book will teach you how to make sense of a cluttered, noisy environment.
Every Book by Edward Tufte Ever Written
“Blue Ocean Strategy” - W. Chan Kim , Renée Mauborgne. Why read: You want to decide on what merits your product will compete; this will help you figure that out. It’s practical, essential, use the second-half like a workbook. This is where the rubber hits the road.
“Zag” — Marty Neumeier. Why Read: Yes, feature parity is always a pressure, but really, do you need to follow competitors when you could create your own awesome path to your special brand? It is harder and more uncertain to position your products & services differently than everyone else in your vertical but this book will help you 1) learn how to find your own brand departure point and 2) frame it’s value to others.
“This is Service Design Thinking” — Stickdorn/Schneider. Why read: If your product is a service you should read this book.
If you are working in an Agile shop you should check these two books out even you aren’t a project manager. Both outline the roles and practices of teams so that you can know what to expect, and more importantly, be able to course correct if your Agile has gone awry.
“Interactive Project Management” A Geek Girls Guide. Nancy Lyons & Meghan Wilker. Why read: Because you want to get oriented very fast and understand all of the roles. OR if you want to institute better practices.
“Agile Project for Dummies” — Mark C. Layton. Why read: Say what you want about the Dummies Series (cue eye roll), this book has a good overview of what healthy Agile practices should look like across all roles.
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty day-to-day, Make Shit Rad.
“Business Model Design” & “Value Prop Design” —Osterwalder et al. Why read: Because 90% of how you can make a competitive product happen at the level of your business model, not the product. The good news? You fix business model issues there is a lot less you need to fix on the product. Also, read this HBR article.
“The Lean Startup” -Eric Ries. Why Read: Eric codified some practices and by “practices” I mean practical advice and how-to’s when you are launching a new product. Not a heavyweight thought leader by any means, but this is full of good day-to-day, get that idea out the door and into customer hands advice.
Now, for The Heavyweight thinker: Steven Blank. Read all of his books and his blog, “Product Design for the Web” — “Designing Connected Products.”
“Lean Product Playbook”- Dan Olsen. Why Read: You need to make a product customers want but HOW do you do execute the over-arching tasks of a PM? No really, how? These actual practices that will actually help you make a product awesome.
“User Story Mapping” — Jeff Patton. Why Read: Ok, so you have an idea of what you need, now how do you break that idea down into actionable, viable, build-able stories? Here is how.
Here’s a classic: “User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development.” Mike Cohn. Why read: You love requirements and processes; together they make your heart pound.
“Sketching User Experiences”- Greenberg et al. Why read: In grad school a prof once told me, “The person who jumps up to the whiteboard with a marker usually makes the most money.” Be that person.
“The Product Manager’s Desk Reference” — Steven Haines. Why read: Ya know, sometimes you just want to look something up.
“Data Driven” (Kindle Only I think.)- Patil & Mason. Why read? You want to make good decisions and this helps explain what mental frameworks and tools you need to do this. You think you know already and you are probably wrong, trust me. Also it’s free on Kindle so you have no excuse not to read it.
“Platform Scale. How an Emerging Business Model…” — Sangeet Paul Choudary. Why read: Because half of you think you are a building a platform and actually aren’t, and the other half need to how to build one and don’t know how.
“They Say/I Say” — Graff & Birkenstein. Why read: Because a large part of your job is making a good argument, countering a good argument, and being a decent chap about the whole thing. This book literally shows what words work to do that.
“The Writing Life” — Annie Dillard. Why read: Because “…how you spend your days is how you spend your life.”
….I am sure there are more and I will add them as I think of them + lots of other links.