Book Report: The Principles of Product Development Flow

I highly recommend this book for any engineer but particularly for a software engineer transitioning to a management role. I heard about it from a coworker when he organized a reading group.

Unfortunately, I my calendar conflicted with the reading group but I’m very glad I read the book anyways.

Your products will be as awesome as this waterfall.

Reinertsen discusses a number of theories in product development and compares them to classical manufacturing. If you’re already familiar with the general concept of lean manufacturing and the value of small batches then some of the book will be a bit of review.

However, PPDF radically changed how I think about product development.

1. You must always understand the economics of your decisions.

If you can’t assign dollar values to your decisions then you’re effectively flying by the seat of your pants.

There’s really no way around it. You need to understand a rough dollar value of your prioritization decisions. Without that economic understanding it’s all speculation and which client can shout the loudest.

This is an incredibly novel and challenging way to think about prioritization decisions for me (and I expect for most other software engineers).

2. Queue theory is highly relevant (and pretty awesome).

The feeling I got reading PPDF’s application of queue theory to product development is similar to the feeling I taking linear algebra after working on my physics degree for a couple years.

It was the missing piece of the puzzle and it was beautiful. All those separate threads of physical concepts were tied together through wonderful, simple mathematics.

Similarly, queueing theory provide a mathematical framework for thinking about all the gut instincts I have about product prioritization and scheduling.

⚠️ Warning to the reader. ⚠ ️

This book is not a beach read. It is extremely content rich but also quite dry. Be very ready to spend 5 min reading half a page and then another 10 min staring into space pondering what you just read.