Product vs. Project Managers: Marty Cagan’s Twelve Best Lessons for Product Team Work

Tremis Skeete
May 29, 2019 · 14 min read
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Marty Cagan,
Founder & Partner, Silicon Valley Product Group

1. Understand the Agile Method

“We need consistent, frequent release vehicles.”

2. Function Like a Lean Startup

“Innovation is function of iteration. It is a function of trying out ideas. And we need to learn fast in order to innovate.”

“I tell founders that if you want to have any hope of solving problems and build the right products, you’re going to need to have at least 50 to 100 iteration attempts. And there is just no way to do that by using your engineers to build four-month MVPs. If you have your engineers build a four-month MVP and deploy it, and it doesn’t actually do what you want, you have just wasted four months out of an 18 month runway.”

3. Project-Led vs Product-Led Companies

“Let teams take ownership of solving problems.”

4. Product Discovery vs Product Delivery

“Are we building the right product and are we building the product right?”

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Keep in mind, this is a conceptual model i.e. it’s designed to convey the idea that while you may think that you want to build a car, doing Discovery is about learning whether or not building the car is the right idea. Whereas in Delivery, the goal is not just to build a car, but to also build the car at scale. Source: https://svpg.com

“Discovering a solution is different from delivering a solution.”

5. Validating Products vs Discovering Solutions

“Prototypes are done in discovery. Products are done in delivery.”

“If your product fails, it isn’t because people don’t need their problem solved. It’s because your solution isn’t positioned to be better than the rest. In fact, in order to be successful, your product needs to be groundbreaking and be ten times better than the others.”

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6. Minimum Viable Products vs Minimum Viable Prototypes

“The easiest way to fix the confusion when it comes to building a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ is if you just communicate in situations when you’re doing discovery that you’re building a ‘Minimum Viable Prototype,’ many problems are solved. Prototypes are done in discovery. Products are done in delivery.”

7. Product At Scale: Build Products You Can Sell

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8. Create Two Roadmaps: Feature-Driven & Outcome-Driven

9. There Are Two Kinds of A-B Testing

“There is discovery A-B testing and delivery A-B testing. They are both the same concept, but they are used differently and for different reasons. Discovery A-B testing is much more limited and geared towards finding evidence. The bar for results is lowered, but the test is completed much faster. Some discovery A-B tests will even be invite-only, especially if it is B2B, rather than B2C. Delivery A-B testing, on the other hand, is usually done for statistical significance.”

10. Managing Ethical Risks

“The biggest group of people working at Ebay was the Trust and Safety Team at that time, because they knew that for their customers, trust was everything.”

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11. Competent Product Managers

“A product manager needs to understand how their product is marketed, sold, paid for, and monetized. They need to understand the legal, privacy, partnership, and contractual constraints. The only other job in a company that requires this level of knowledge is CEO.”

12. Product and Project Leaders Can Work Together


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Tremis Skeete

Written by

Product Owner | Executive Editor | Senior Product Analyst. To find out more, visit tremisskeete.co.uk.

Product Management Insider

The exclusive data and insights that enable 17,000+ product managers to win. Subscribe via email at productmanagementinsider.com. We are powered by Alpha.

Tremis Skeete

Written by

Product Owner | Executive Editor | Senior Product Analyst. To find out more, visit tremisskeete.co.uk.

Product Management Insider

The exclusive data and insights that enable 17,000+ product managers to win. Subscribe via email at productmanagementinsider.com. We are powered by Alpha.