Escaping the Build Trap – Melissa Perri

Escaping the Build Trap – by Melissa Perri
Date read: 9/2/19. Recommendation: 8/10.

One of the most insightful overviews of product management as a discipline that I’ve found. This is a great resource for beginners and experts alike. Perri discusses the role of product, career paths, strategy, how to organize product teams, and the difference in product-led organizations. The core message of the book is that organizations who become stuck measuring their success by outputs, rather than outcomes, will fail. The build trap is when you obsess over the rate at which you’re shipping and developing features, rather than focusing on the actual value they produce.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.

My Notes:

Core components of a product-led organization:
-Role (right responsibilities and structure)
-Strategy (promotes good decision making)
-Process (experimentation)
-Organization (policies, culture, and rewards)

In a product-led organization, the primary driver of growth and value for the company is the success of their products. For comparison, in a sales-led organization, contracts define their product strategy. 

The build trap:
“When organizations become stuck measuring their success by outputs rather than outcomes. It’s when they focus more on shipping and developing features rather than on the actual value those things produce.” MP

Rewards busyness, rather than producing value for customers, hitting business goals, and innovating against competitors.

If you want to be more strategic, you have to stop measuring based on the quantity of features shipped. 

What is product? And what it takes to be good:
“Product management is the domain of recognizing and investigating the known unknowns and of reducing the universe around the unknown unknowns…It takes a certain skill to be able to sift through the massive amounts of information and to identify the right questions to ask and when to ask them.” MP

Product focuses on the why. Project management focused on the when. Answering the why demands a strategic mindset that understands the customer, business, market, and organization. “Project managers who are put into product management roles often become waiters waving a calendar.” MP

Tactical work in product: shorter-term actions, building features, getting them out the door. Senior Product and below. 

Strategic work in product: positioning the product and company to win in the market and achieve goals. VP of Product and above.

Operational work in product: tying strategy back to the tactical work. Director of Product.

A good company strategy has two parts, operational framework (day to day) and strategic framework (how company realizes the vision through product or service). 

“If you’re aligned coherently and you have a good strategic framework, you can then allow people to make decisions without a lot of management oversight.” MP

Product initiatives answer how? How can I reach business goals and objectives by creating new products or optimizing existing products? Netflix wanted people to be able to stream on any device. So they created an initiative and suggested solutions (AKA bets or options): Roku, Xbox, an app. 

The Product Kata:

  1. Understand the direction

  2. Problem exploration

  3. Solution exploration

  4. Solution optimization

Avoid the temptation to rush in and apply a practice at the wrong stage. Don’t start experimenting if the problem isn’t yet known.

“Don’t spend your time over designing and creating unique, innovative solutions for things that are not core to your value proposition.” Brian Kalma