My “Product Management” Reading List — 2017
An evolving collection of books, articles, and talks I’ve found useful this year
How can I read more and gain more actionable knowledge?
- Create a distraction-free reading environment
- Find time by cutting back on junk reading
- Your next book should always be waiting
- Track what you read
- Record the knowledge you’ve gained
The first one is straightforward — remove distractions like your computer from the place where you do your reading, switch off your phone and use noise-cancelling headphones.
I tackled 2) and 3) by creating a prioritized backlog of books and articles I want to read next. This post is about how I apply 4) and 5):
Whenever I read a book or article valuable enough for me to take notes from it, I add it to this post. It serves as my reference list and complements my actual note-taking system where I record the knowledge I’ve gained.
This list is subjective and biased towards my own needs at the time i was reading, and my prior knowledge. Nonetheless, I want to make it public as it might contain value for people who want to get into product or new starters.
The reading list is organized by topic and areas of skills:
This list only scratches the surface as it is limited to what I read this year. Have you come across a book or article around product management which really changed your way of thinking? I’d love to hear about it — please post in the comments below.
“The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.” Herbert Spencer
You can find the whole list below — within the broader categories, the resources are in no particular order.
- ‘Product Leadership: How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams’ by Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson, and Nate Walkingshaw (248 pages book). Lots of great advice around product management in general, career planning, prioritization, roadmaps, and product vision.
- ‘How to Get Your Development Team to Love You’ by Ron Lichty (45 min talk). How to become a great PM by a long-time Apple veteran. I copied all of his principles and remind myself of them on a regular basis.
- ‘Behind Every Great Product’ by Martin Cagan (30 min read). General advice and great description of the PM role. Mentions competition and how to find a balance between ignoring it and obsessing over it.
- ‘Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager’ by Ben Horowitz (5 min read). A bit dated, but has some timeless general advice on product management.
- ‘The Power of the Elastic Product Team — Airbnb’s First PM on How to Build Your Own’ by Jonathan Golden (15 min read). There are 3 different types of product managers: pioneers, settlers, and town planners.
- ‘Getting to “technical enough” as a product manager’ by Lulu Cheng (10 min read). How to gain enough technical knowledge as a non-technical product manager, by a PM at Pinterest. Also includes data fluency.
- ‘What Makes a Great Product Manager’ by Lawrence Ripsher (10 min read). How to become a great PM, from a PM at Pinterest.
- ‘Working Backwards’ by Werner Vogels (2 min read). Amazon’s philosophy of starting development with a press release first.
- ‘Top Hacks from a PM Behind Two of Tech’s Hottest Products’ by Todd Jackson (15 min read). How to become a great PM, by the PM of Gmail and the Facebook News Feed.
- ‘Be A Great Product Leader’ by Adam Nash (13 slides). There are 3 buckets of things you can deliver: metrics movers, customer requests, and delight. It’s extremely rare to have all 3.
- ‘7 Brilliant Little Skills To Master Your Role As A Product Manager’ by Janna Bastow (26 min talk). Ask open questions to get people talking.
- ‘So you want to manage a product?’ by Rohini Vibha (7 min read). Being a product manager is not about getting wrapped up in the fact that you have “manager” in your title. Sure, you get to call the shots. But you also get to be accountable for every up and down of your product. If a user doesn’t understand your product, that’s on you, not Marketing. If your product comes at the wrong time, that’s on you, not Strategy. If a user can’t find the button, that’s on you, not Design. And if a target user has no use for your product, that’s on you, not him.
- ‘An alternate framework for PM’ by Ellen Chisa (6 min read). Product management can be seen as a balance between empathizing vs. systemizing. Effective PMs will make sure they keep the two in balance, and rely on them equally.
- ‘Rarely say yes to feature requests’ by Des Traynor (10 min read). Beware of the fre-cently bias. You assume the things you hear frequently or recently should without doubt be road-mapped. “Sure we’ll build that, I’ve heard it twice today already, says the founder with 4,800 daily active users, to the unbridled joy of 0.0625% of her customer base.”
- ‘The One Cost Engineers and Product Managers Don’t Consider’ by Kris Gale (8 min read). Complexity cost is debt you accrue by complicating features or technology in order to solve problems. An application that does twenty things is more difficult to refactor than an application that does one thing, so changes to its code will take longer. The initial time spent implementing a feature is one of the least interesting data points to consider when weighing the cost and benefit of a feature. Your best tool for eliminating complexity cost is data — discard also features with neutral impact.
- ‘Why Chefs and Soldiers Make the Best Product Managers’ by Jim Patterson (12 min read). 6 things to look for in PM’s: Being able to lead without authority. Always taking blame while giving credit away. Strong decision-making with imperfect information. Valuing intense preparation. Methodical in how they recover from mistakes and crises. Operating optimally under extreme pressure.
- ‘What is Good Product Strategy?’ by Melissa Perri (7 min read). Learned what strategy is not, the distinction between strategy and tactics, and what makes a good product strategy.
- ‘Position, Position, Position!’ by Ryan Singer (5 min read). Interesting definition of product positioning as a location in the space of trade-offs. Introduces the ‘less about/more about’ format which I found very helpful.
- ‘Google Ventures workshop: Lean product management’ by Dan Olsen (80 min talk). Thorough definition of product-market-fit. Framed product management as a step-by-step process to achieve it. Defines problem vs. solution space.
- ‘The mechanisms of growth’ by Itamar Gilad (50 min talk). Lots of structure around growth: growth patterns, growth engines, growth models, growth templates, and retention. Also mentions the right time to start working on growth is only after you have a sticky product.
- ‘Business Insider interviews T-Mobile CEO Jon Legere’ by Richard Feloni (15 min read). Example of how to make strategic choices based on customer insights. Interesting case study on positioning T-Mobile US as the ‘un-carrier’ in a crowded market. I used it as an example in a JTBD workshop.
- ‘Strategy Is Not A To Do List’ by steve blank (4 min read). Strategy is not a to do list. It drives a to do list.
- ‘The First Question to Ask of Any Strategy’ by Roger L. Martin (3 min read). Look at the core strategy choices and ask yourself if you could make the opposite choice without looking stupid. If the opposite of your core strategy choices looks stupid, then every competitor is going to have more or less the exact same strategy as you.
- ‘Navigating the Product Maze’ by Nathan Bashaw (5 min read). Think about developing a product in terms of “making changes” rather than “adding features”.
- ‘Clayton Christensen on jobs to be done’ (5 minds video). People hire products to change something for the better, to move from where they struggle to a better situation. They don’t get active because everything is fine, but because something is wrong. Introduced me to the JTBD framework.
- ‘Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”’ by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, David S. Duncan (18 min read). Introduces the dimension of jobs (social, functional, emotional). There are large and small jobs, and negative jobs. How to find jobs from current solutions. A new way of looking at competition, e.g. Slack’s biggest competitor is email.
- ‘Jobs to be Done: from Doubter to Believer’ by Sian Townsend (37 min talk). How Intercom came to use jobs to be done across the whole company to define what they build. Great introduction to the topic, I use it for teaching others.
- ‘This is not a map’ by Des Traynor (3 min read). Real-life example of applying jobs to be done from Intercom. Very useful for teaching.
- ‘What I learned from doing 100 Jobs-To-Be-Done interviews’ by Amrita Gurney (6 min read). Non-consumption is often where many opportunities lie. How to set goals for JTBD interviews.
- ‘Why You Are Asking the Wrong Customer Interview Questions’ by Teresa Torres (13 min read). There’s a gap between what people think they do and what they actually do. Instead of asking, “What matters to you when buying a pair of jeans?”, start with, “Tell me about the last time you bought a pair of jeans.”
- ‘Customer interview tips’ by Hiten Shah (email newsletter). How to find themes in the data. Effective ways of sharing the insights.
- ‘3 Best Practices for Adopting Continuous Product Discovery’ by Teresa Torres (30 min read). Continuous discovery means weekly touch points with customers by the team building the product, where they themselves conduct small research activities in pursuit of a desired outcome. Use customer interviews, rapid prototyping, and product experiments.
- ‘Damien Peters on how technical a product manager really needs to be’ (6 min read). There is a balance between what users are telling, what they are asking for, and what will actually meet their needs. While Damien was in gaming, the number one requested feature was “more free coins”.
- The 4 Stages of 0->1 Products by Julie Zhuo (7 min read). Surface problems vs. root problems. Surface problem: “I need to order food from my phone”. Root problem: “I need to eat here and now”.
- ‘Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days’ by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz (288 pages book). How to run a design sprint, I facilitated the first one at Typeform. Learned the prototyping mindset: you can prototype anything, prototypes are disposable, build just enough to learn not more, prototypes must appear real.
- ‘Making sense of MVP (Minimum Viable Product) — and why I prefer Earliest Testable/Usable/Lovable’ by Henrik Kniberg (15 min read). Great narrative to explain MVP to stakeholders. Notion of earliest testable / usable / lovable. Caution around misuse of the term MVP.
- ‘Six Steps to Superior Product Prototyping: Lessons from an Apple and Oculus Engineer’ by Caitlin Kalinowski (15 min read). Declare your non-negotiables. Don’t give anchors before you actually commit. Start with what’s hardest. Prepare decision-making. How to determine when you’re ready. Release early & often. Awesome read.
- ‘Your Team Is Brainstorming All Wrong’ by Art Markman (4 min read). How to generate better ideas.
- ‘Frankenbuilds; if Agile is so good, why are our Products so bad?’ by Gabrielle Benefield (45 min talk). Think in outcomes over output. Features by themselves have no value — beware of frankenbuilds / feature farming. Create options to reach your target outcome, and move fast.
- ‘How to create your own Google Ventures Design Sprint’ by Jake Knapp (5 min read). Why common idea generation methods like team brainstorming don’t work.
- ‘10x Not 10% — Product management by orders of magnitude’ by Ken Norton (10 min read). Measure the impact you want to have. “We will have accomplished this” not “we need to do that.”
- ‘What Can You Remove From Your Product?’ by Tomasz Tunguz (3 min read). When you keep features which are used by tiny fractions of your user base, you create product debt. It introduces lots complexity downstream: confusing experience for customers, maintenance for engineering and product design, etc. Decide a threshold for features to stay (he suggests adoption or revenue metrics).
- ‘Templates Suck, Here’s Our Lean Startup Template’ by Tristan Kromer (8 min read). A good experiment will generate an invalid hypothesis about half the time. If our hypotheses are always valid, then we’re not testing risky assumptions. You can never prove a hypothesis, but you can always disprove it.
- ‘What Type of Lean Startup Experiment Should I Run?’ by Tristan Kromer (8 min read). Generative experiments — Research techniques which don’t necessarily start with a hypothesis, but result in many new ideas. e.g. Customer Discovery Interviews. Evaluative experiments — Testing a specific hypothesis to get a clear yes or no result. e.g. Landing Page. When our hypothesis is specific and falsifiable, we can run an evaluative experiment. When our hypothesis is vague or we don’t even have a hypothesis, we need to do generative research to get new ideas or refine our hypothesis.
- ‘Amazon’s Friction-Killing Tactics To Make Products More Seamless’ by First Round Review (14 min read). Friction is anything that gets in the way of a customer and a task. How to detect and anticipate points of friction. There are three stages of the product experience where customers are most vulnerable to experiencing friction. How to reduce or mask friction.
- ‘How to adapt UX research for an Agile environment’ by Amanda Stockwell (6 min read). Schedule user research every week, no matter what. Break hypotheses down into smaller components.
- ‘Doing UX in an Agile World: Case Study Findings’ by Hoa Loranger (8 min read). Do UX work at least one sprint ahead of development.
- ‘Agile Development Projects and Usability’ by Jakob Nielsen (5 min read). Don’t overlook the integrated total user experience and look at your product as one coherent system. Avoid patchwork. Use low-fidelity prototypes.
- ‘Top 10 Tips for UX Success From Agile Practitioners’ by Hoa Loranger (9 min read). Think iteration, not perfection. Turn user research into team-driven events. Secure strong stakeholder engagement. Set explicit roles and responsibilities. Modify your method until it works.
- ‘Building Badass Users’ by Kathy Sierra (48 min talk). People don’t want to be amazing at your tool. They want to be amazing at the context. It’s not “I’m amazing at using this camera” but “I take amazing photos” or “I’m an amazing photographer”. // Cognitive leaks are anything which takes brain cycles for thinking, processing, questioning, worrying, self-control, focus, etc. Users saying to other people “This thing is awesome” depends on us removing cognitive leaks in our products.
- ‘BJ Fogg on Simplicity’ (12 min talk). Simplicity means building the minimally satisfying solution at the lowest cost. Simplicity depends on the person and on the context. It lives outside the product: it’s the perception users have of the experience of accomplishing a task. 6 elements of simplicity: time, money, physical effort, brain effort, social deviance, and non-routine.
- ‘The Quintessential Guide For Building An Unforgettable First-time User Experience’ by Wayne Chang (14 min read). You have to earn the right to more of your users’ time. Make the experience — especially the first time i.e. onboarding — amazing, the rest will follow. Awesome quote: ‘We didn’t need marketing. We didn’t need to overspend in those departments other startups allocate so many (too many!) resources to. When you make something lovable, the product speaks for itself.’
- ‘Crossing the Chasm’ by Geoffrey A. Moore (227 pages book). In progress.
- ‘Correlation does not imply causation’ on Wikipedia. Serves as a reference base to make sure not to confuse correlation with causation.
- ‘Metrics Versus Experience’ by Julie Zhuo (10 min read). Make sure you measure the right thing. Single metric < Suite of metrics. There are typical instances where metrics fail us. Look at how people use your product, never at data alone. Magic wand technique. Growth doesn’t work without retention. Suggest counter-metrics and stay skeptical.
- ‘Data Visualization and D3.js’ by Udacity (7 weeks online course). Learned fundamentals like data types and false positives. Visual encodings. Types of diagrams and when to use them. Pre-attentive processing. How to use color. Gestalt principles of perception. Narrative structures. Chart junk. Lie factor. The grammar of graphics. Learned D3.js.
- ‘Product people KPIs aren’t about the product’ by Chris Butler (6 min read). 5 principles of good KPI’s.
- ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’ by Clayton Christensen (288 pages). In progress.
- ‘Learning Agile: Understanding Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban’ by Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene (420 pages book). Understood the agile manifesto and agile values. Learned the mindset behind Scrum, XP, and Kanban. Lean values, waste, kaizen, and genchi genbutsu. Kanban is not a system for managing projects, it’s a method for improving your process.
- ‘Coaching Agile Teams’ by Lyssa Adkins (352 pages book). Good facilitation means to create a “container” for the team to fill up with their own ideas . The container is a set of agenda questions or other lightweight structure. You create the container, the team creates the content. The team always goes first: “it’s their meeting, not mine”. Observe the room and ask powerful questions. Every meeting needs a purpose. Basics of coaching. Shu Ha Ri model of learning.
- ‘Scrum Mastery: From Good To Great Servant-Leadership’ by Geoff Watts (288 pages). Characteristics of great servant leaders. Focus on mindset and first principles over process. Balance coaching, teaching, and mentoring. Be respected, enabling, tactful, resourceful, alternative. I only read half of this book.
- Scrum and XP from the Trenches by Henrik Kniberg (140 pages book). Learned good practices and traps to avoid for standups, sprint planning, sprint review, retrospectives, user stories, backlog, and estimations. Planning does not mean predicting the future.
- ‘How Google sets goals: OKRs’ by Rick Klau (81 min talk). Detailed explanation of what OKRs are. How to define effective OKRs. Rules of OKRs. Benefits of OKRs.
- ‘Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great’ by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen (200 pages book). How to better prepare and structure retrospectives. Lots of activities and tips on how to select them.
- ‘Popcorn Flow — Continuous Evolution Through Ultra-Rapid Experimentation’ by Claudio Perrone (60 min talk). If change is hard, make it continuous. The gap between expectation and reality is not success/failure, it’s learning. Popcorn flow to structure and organize team experiments, which we use at Typeform and has been incredibly helpful.
- ‘Enter The Matrix — Lean Prioritisation’ by Andy Wicks (5 min read). 2x2 matrix for prioritizing: value vs. effort. That’s exactly how we prioritize at Typeform. Article has a great narrative structure to explain the process to stakeholders.
- ‘Great Products Don’t Happen By Accident’ by Jon Lax (15 min read). You can use ‘playbooks’ — like in American football — to visualize and communicate the product process. Built a product playbook for Typeform based on this.
- ‘Babe Ruth and Feature Lists’ by Ken Norton (5 min read). Introduces an interesting prioritization exercise to try with stakeholders. When you ask your customers, don’t prime them with your ideas.
- ‘How bad ideas get on the Roadmap’ by Christian Bonilla (2 min read). How to treat small wins and things on the roadmap that don’t fall within the core product vision.
- ‘Building with creative confidence’ by Julie Zhuo (25 min talk). Written version ‘Building Products’ on Medium. Facebook’s 3 question product framework which inspired me to change the way I write my own product vision documents. Also talks about how to explore ideas and measuring success.
- ‘My product management toolkit (4) — Problem statements’ by MAA1 (5 min read). An interesting way to phrase customer problem statements.
- ‘Why This Opportunity Solution Tree is Changing the Way Product Teams Work’ by Teresa Torres (20 min read). There are 4 common gaps in product thinking today: we don’t examine our ideas before investing in them, we don’t consider enough ideas, we don’t multitrack in a systematic way, and sometimes our solutions don’t connect to an opportunity or our desired outcome at all. A way to tackle these is the ‘opportunity solution tree’.
- ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman (384 pages book). Emotional intelligence can be divided into self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill. These have further subdomains — very helpful for structuring further reading, connecting ideas and topics, and identifying strengths and weaknesses.
- ‘Emotional Agility’ by Susan David (288 pages book). The 7 basic human emotions. Emotional rigidity vs. agility. How we become hooked by emotions and thoughts, and how to unhook yourself. Bottlers and brooders. Showing up, stepping out, walking your why, and moving on. Lots of actionable ideas to try.
- ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ by Robert B. Cialdini (336 pages book). The six principles of influence: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. These concepts explain a lot of things, from sales techniques to UX design.
- ‘Find the Perfect Word for Your Feelings with This Vocabulary Wheel’ by Patrick Allan (5 min read). Comprehensive list of emotions which is helpful to expand your emotional literacy.
- ‘Successful people use these techniques to speak up for themselves — and stay likable’ by Adam Galinsky (10 min read). We all have a range of acceptable behavior. When speaking up, we should take the perspective of others, provide flexible options, for allies and ask for advice, and tap into our passion.
- ‘Why we all need to practice emotional first aid’ by Guy Winch (18 min talk). Learned the concept of emotional hygiene: pay attention to emotional pain and protect your self-esteem.
- ‘Brené Brown on Empathy’ by RSA short (3 min talk). 4 qualities of empathy. Empathetic statements rarely, if ever, begin with ‘at least, …’.
- ‘Recovering from an Emotional Outburst at Work’ by Susan David (5 min read). Many people in a work context have alexithymia: a dispositional difficulty in accurately labeling and expressing what you’re feeling.
- ‘How Leaders Become Self-Aware’ by Anthony K. Tjan (5 min read). Without self-awareness, you cannot understand your strengths and weakness. Leadership is a balance between projecting conviction while simultaneously remaining humble enough to be open to new ideas and opposing opinions. Strategies to increase self-awareness: test and know yourself better, watch yourself and learn, and be aware of others as well.
- ‘How to Win Friends & Influence People’ by Dale Carnegie (288 pages book). Awesome recommendations and principles centered around communicating effectively and improving emotional intelligence / social skill.
- ‘The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen’ by Andy Raskin (8 min read). The 5 elements of a powerful sales narrative.
- ‘Active Listening’ by Shane Parrish (11 min read). Core components of listening are comprehending, retaining, and responding.
- ‘5 ways to listen better’ by Julian Treasure (8 min talk). How to improve your listening skills.
- ‘5 Mistakes Employees Make When Challenging the Status Quo’ by Lois Kelly and Carmen Medina (4 min read). Mistakes to avoid: you fail to prioritize your ideas, you go solo, you flunk the pitch meeting, you give up to soon.
- ‘Writing That Works; How to Communicate Effectively In Business’ by Kenneth Roman and Joel Raphaelson (193 pages book). In progress.
- ‘This 2 Minute Read Will Make You Write Better Forever’ by Niklas Goeke (3 min read). Refuse to use the word “thing.” No brackets. Fewer prepositions. Eliminate redundant references.
- ‘The Two Minutes It Takes To Read This Will Improve Your Writing Forever’ by Josh Spector (2 min read). Delete the word “that.” Delete the words “I think.” Avoid words that end in “-ing.” Short sentences. Short paragraphs. Shrink your opening sentence.
- ‘Want a Better Pitch? Watch This’ by Andy Raskin (5 min read). Learn how to tell a story when pitching an idea. Based on a presentation by Elon Musk.
- ‘Google’s CEO Doesn’t Use Bullet Points and Neither Should You’ by Carmine Gello (3 min read). Use visuals over text and bullets. 3-seconds rule: If viewers do not understand the gist of your slide in three seconds, it’s too complicated. One idea per slide.
- ‘How to speak so that people want to listen’ by Julian Treasure (10 min talk). 7 deadly sins of public speaking. 4 cornerstones of good communication: honesty, authenticity, integrity, love. How to speak better.
- ‘Think Fast, Talk Smart: Communication Techniques’ by Matt Abrahams (60 min talk). Reframe it as a conversation, not a performance.
- ‘Pitching a product idea’ by Julie Zhuo (5 min read). How to pitch product ideas: Describe the problem you’re solving. Describe how many people have this problem. Talk about the solution in terms of the experience, not the product. Let go of “mine” or “yours”, embrace “ours”.
- ‘Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High’ by Kerry Patterson et al. (272 pages book). The pool of shared meaning. Fool’s choices and how to escape them. Make it safe. Silence and violence. The contrasting technique. Master your stories. The path to action. Clever stories. Inquiry skills — AMPP. How to move to action. Awesome book.
- ‘Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations’ by William Ury (208 pages book). Interests vs. positions. BATNA. How to prepare a negotiation. Don’t react / step to the balcony. Stone walls, attacks, and tricks. Don’t argue against their emotions. Don’t reject their position / reframe. Don’t push against their dissatisfaction. Don’t escalate and undermine their power. Awesome book.
- ‘No No No’ by Julie Zhuo (6 min read). Learn when and how to say no. Good discussions come from good frameworks — if you don’t have those, build them and prevent No from getting personal.
- ‘Leadership That Gets Results’ by Daniel Goleman. Depending on the circumstances, use a different leadership style. Learn how to use coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching styles of leadership.
- ‘Management 3.0: Leading Agile Developers, Developing Agile Leaders’ by Jurgen Appelo (464 pages book). Leadership priests. Team values and individual values. Trust & respect to empower people. Systems theory. Intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. How to foster innovation. 7 levels of authority: tell, sell, consult, agree, advise, inquire, delegate. How to delegate. Advantages of autonomous teams. Read about 1/3 so far.
- ‘4 Keys to Being an Inspirational Leader’ by Daniel Goleman (4 min read). Behaviors to be an inspirational leader: Focus on the group/organization and its larger mission, not on your own success. Walk your talk. Be trustworthy. Be able to think outside the box.
- ‘42 Rules to Lead by from the Man Who Defined Google’s Product Strategy’ by Jonathan Rosenberg (11 min read). Valuable advice on how to be an effective (product) leader. One point was worded in a way I absolutely disagree — interesting to see how some people express themselves publicly: ‘Working from home is a malignant, metastasizing cancer’.
- ‘Leading Cross-functional Teams’ by Ken Norton (60 slides). How to work with Engineering, Sales and Leadership teams. Also talks about estimations.
- ‘How to Work with Designers’ by Julie Zhuo (7 min read). Apply different strengths of designers to different problems. The more senior the designer, the more abstract the problems should be. Spend time with designers and care about details. Not everything is measurable.
- ‘How to Work with Engineers’ by Julie Zhuo (7 min read). Explain what you’re doing. Build relationships. Understand engineering constraints.
- ‘The 5 dysfunctions of a team’ by Patrick Lencioni (41 min talk). Five dysfunctions in teams: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.
- ‘Navigating Conflict on Agile Teams: Why “Resolving” Conflict Won’t Work’ by Lyssa Adkins (43 min talk). Five levels of conflict: problem to solve, disagreement, contest, crusade, and world war. How to know which level of conflict a team is showing: hear complaints, feel the energy, focus on language.
- ‘Understand team effectiveness’ by Re:Work (online guide). Five key dynamics which set apart successful teams: Psychological safety (#1), dependability, structure and clarity, meaning of work, impact of work. I can influence a lot of this as a PO.
- ‘The Best Teams Hold Themselves Accountable’ by Joseph Grenny (4 min read). In the weakest teams, there is no accountability. In mediocre teams, bosses are the source of accountability. In high performance teams, peers manage the vast majority of performance problems with one another. If team members see others violate a team agreement, they speak up immediately and directly. Foster a culture of universal accountability.
- ‘Customer Inspired; Technology Enabled’ by Marta Cagan (10 min read). Provide engineers business context. Connect engineers with customer pain. Understand constraints vs. requirements. Give engineers time in discovery. Measure product team as a whole. Competent and confident product managers.
- ‘Top Tips for Negotiating With Stakeholders’ by Edward Scotcher (5 min read). Secure your home base, don’t play games, and follow up meetings with actions.
- ‘Addressing executive swoop-ins’ by Julie Zhuo (5 min read). Don’t tell your team “The boss wants us to do this, so I guess we have to do it”. Don’t ignore executive requests. Don’t blindly follow direction that you don’t fully understand. Don’t frame the situation as “us” vs. “them”. Instead, find common ground and prevent swooping entirely by sharing early and often.
- ‘Playing Office Politics Without Selling Your Soul’ by Robert B. Kaiser, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Derek Lusk (5 min read). Four dimensions of political skill: social astuteness (the ability to read other people and the self-awareness to understand how they see you), interpersonal influence (a convincing ability to affect how and what other people think), networking ability (the capacity to form mutually beneficial relationships with a wide range of diverse people), and apparent sincerity (seeming to be honest, open, and forthright).
- ‘The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever’ by Michael Bungay Stanier (242 pages book). 7 questions to guide a coaching conversation. ‘And what else’ (A.W.E.) question. Difference between wants and needs. Contains lots of advice on how to ask great questions and how to listen for answers.
- ‘Coaching Agile Teams’ by Lyssa Adkins. Agile coach as mentor, facilitator, teacher, problem solver, conflict navigator, and collaboration conductor. The arc of the coaching conversation. Know your limits.
- ‘How to Prioritize Tasks With the Eisenhower Matrix Productivity System’ by Joel Lee (7 min read). Distinction between urgent and important tasks (the Eisenhower matrix). How to translate this knowledge into a task management system.
- ‘Warren Buffett’s “2 List” Strategy: How to Maximize Your Focus and Master Your Priorities’ by James Clear (4 min read). There are things you love, but which don’t love you back — they don’t help you advance. Getting rid of those is hard. Article suggests a strategy for this.
- ‘How I Read More Books’ by Ken Norton (5 min read). Cut back on your junk reading. Create a distraction-free reading environment. Track what you read. Your next book should always be waiting. Record the knowledge you’ve gained. As you can see, this post inspired me to try quite a few new things.
- ‘Cognitive bias cheat sheet’ by Buster Benson (12 min read). Awesome summary of pretty much all cognitive biases there are. Reminder to re-read thinking, fast and slow. Also learned how effective radial tree diagrams can be to visualize hierarchies.
- ‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business’ by Charles Duhigg (371 pages book). A lot of what we do every day are habits — automatic behaviors we do without thinking. What forms a habit: cue, reward, routine. How to change your habits. Very insightful.
- ‘This Simple Trait Distinguishes Good Managers From Bad Ones’ by Walter Chen (3 min read). Written communication > verbal communication. Just talking and having a PowerPoint presentation conceals lazy thinking. “There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking.” — Jeff Bezos
- ‘The Condensed Guide to Running Meetings’ by Amy Gallo (8 min read). Keep meetings small and short. Ban devices. Make sure everyone participates and cold-call those who don’t. Never hold a meeting just to update people. Always set an agenda ahead of time — and be clear about the purpose of the meeting.
- ‘Why and How You Should Take Breaks at Work’ by Amanda Conlin and Larissa Barber (2 min read). Two things make breaks effective: psychological detachment, and experiencing positive emotions. Contains examples of breaks that are effective, and some which are not. Led me to change my behavior.
- ‘Making Good Decisions as a Product Manager’ by Brandon Chu (11 min read). Deciding how important a decision is, is the most important decision you can make. The less important a decision, the less information you should try to seek to make it. Effort in gathering information follows a Pareto principle. Getting 100% of information is exponentially harder than getting 80%. Most decisions are not important.
- ‘How Resilience Works’ by Diane Coutu (19 min read). 3 components of resilience: a staunch acceptance of reality, A deep belief that life is meaningful, and an uncanny ability to improvise (‘bricolage’).
- ‘To Build Your Resilience, Ask Yourself Two Simple Questions’ by Srikumar Rao (4 min read). When something ‘bad’ happens, ask yourself: “Is there any possible way in which this could actually turn out to be good?”. Then think about what you can do to make this happen, instead of foreboding.
- ‘Product Managers, Level Up Your Problem-Solving Skills’ by Teresa Torres (11 min read). Well-structured vs. ill-structured problems. Explore the problem space to generate better solutions.
- ‘How To Run a Meeting’ by Antony Jay (35 min read). 3 types of meetings depending on roles & number of people attending: assembly, council, and committee. Tips on how to prepare and run a meeting, how to write effective agendas, and how to follow up.
- Behavior Model by BJ Fogg (website). Three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger. I also joined BJ’s tiny habits program which helps practise creating new habits, and teaches how to celebrate success and finding good triggers/anchors.
- ‘The Surprising Power of Small Habits’ by James Clear (52 min talk). Systems vs. goals. Start small when changing habits. Cold vs. hot triggers. Trigger T-chart exercise. Keystone habits. Per-commitment. Designing your environment. The Seinfeld strategy (“never miss twice”) which I implemented for going to the gym.
- ‘5 Common Mistakes That Cause New Habits to Fail’ by James Clear (7 min read). Common mistakes that cause new habits to fail: trying to change everything at once, starting with a habit that is too big, seeking a result instead of a ritual, not changing you environment, and assuming small changes don’t add up.
- ‘How to Break a Bad Habit and Replace It With a Good One’ by James Clear (7 min read). How to remove/change bad habits. Most are caused by stress and boredom. Start with awareness. Replace bad habits with good ones that provide similar benefits. Cut out as many triggers as possible. Join forces with others. Plan for failure. Think “I don’t” instead of “I can’t”, and be specific.
- ‘Willpower’ by James Clear (13 min read). Willpower is the ability to control oneself and the decisions one makes. It’s the ability to delay gratification and choose long-term rewards over short-term rewards.
- ‘How Willpower Works: How to Avoid Bad Decisions’ by James Clear (7 min read). Decision fatigue: willpower is like a muscle, and its strength fades as you make more decisions. Ways to deal with decision fatigue: Plan daily decisions the night before, do the most important thing first, make commitments instead of decisions, simplify, sleep enough & take breaks.
- ‘How Facebook’s VP of Product Finds Focus and Creates Conditions for Intentional Work’ by First Round (15 min read). Focus means you do things with a clear intention and make sure that all your decisions match your intention. Have weekly clarity meetings in which you question the decisions you made last week, based on your goals. Audit your calendar every 3 months and see if you spent your time on the most valuable projects. How to say ‘No’ to meeting invites. Schedule buffer time.
- ‘Learning in Product’ by Ellen Chisa (10 min read). How to figure out what to learn next: look at where you struggle now, where your company (or just you) is going next, reinforce your strengths, and/or reduce your weaknesses. Never ask yourself “do I need an MBA?” or “do I need to go to a code bootcamp?”. Instead, ask yourself, “what’s the best thing I can learn next? How can I learn that most effectively?”
- ‘How To Tell If Someone Is Truly Smart Or Just Average’ by Michael Simmons (15 min read). Solid introduction to mental models.
- ‘26 time-management tricks I wish I’d known at 20' by Étienne Garbugli (26 slides). The most interesting one for me: There’s always time. Time is priorities.
- ‘How to Run Your Own Annual Review’ by Jason Shen (11 min read). Step 1: Reflect Back. Step 2: Life Audit (very interesting!!). Step 3: Look Forward. Step 4. Chart The Path. Might try it end of this year.
- ‘A complete guide to designing your morning routine to double your productivity’ by Sean Kim (12 min read). Ways to improve my morning routine. Made me realize that even though I don’t do anything particular apart from snoozing several times, I do something — and that ‘something’ is a routine I can change.