Seven Great Books for Product Managers

Deepen your product management skills with these fantastic reads

After my previous post on great reads for aspiring product managers, here is a list for people already in the product management job who are looking to deepen their skills. In this article, I am focusing exclusively on books that allow a deeper dive on some of these topics. Many of the non-book resources in my previous post remain relevant for seasoned product managers, too, so be sure to check them out.

Inspired (Marty Cagan)

InspiredInspired
The basic premise of Inspired is that the best tech companies create products in a manner very different from how most companies create p...www.goodreads.com

There are, by now, quite a few books that cover product management end to end. Among them, the second edition of “Inspired” is the one I consider my personal product management bible. The first time I read the book, I just felt myself constantly nodding because the book took so many bits and pieces that I had picked up here and there and managed to put them into one comprehensive framework. Inspired is chock full of actionable advice in short, easily digestible chapters.

Cracking the PM Career (Jackie Bavaro and Gayle Laakmann McDowell)

Cracking the PM CareerCracking the PM Career
Our goal for this book is to be the guide we never had. This book shares the skills, frameworks, and practices that my peers and I have p...www.goodreads.com

Cracking the PM Career” is a really useful toolbox for product managers of all seniorities. Every chapter is filled to the brim with battle-tested frameworks, methods, and advice that is immediately actionable. More than anything, this is a book “from the trenches”. I think every product manager reading this book will immediately take away some ideas to apply in their day-to-day work.

Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath)

Made to StickMade to Stick
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - The instant classic about why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to improve your idea's…www.goodreads.com

In my opinion, communication is the most important skill for product managers. “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath deals with the question how you communicate an idea so that the audience will remember it. The book outlines a framework called “SUCCESS”, which comprises the following factors for communicating ideas effectively: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories. For each of the parts of the framework, the book gives specific and actionable advice to improve your communication.

Lean Analytics (Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz)

Lean AnalyticsLean Analytics
Whether you’re a startup founder trying to disrupt an industry or an intrapreneur trying to provoke change from within, your biggest chal...www.goodreads.com

Modern product managers, for better or worse, have to be pretty data-literate. Once you understand that just shipping features is not enough, it also have to be the right features, you will also soon realize the need to measure how your products are performing. "Lean Analytics" is a very good introduction to the topic of metrics and measurement. Perhaps the most useful aspect of the book is that it walks through different types of products and gives an overview of the most commonly used and useful metrics for each type of product.

The Mom Test (Rob Fitzpatrick)

The Mom TestThe Mom Test
The Mom Test is a quick, practical guide that will save you time, money, and heartbreak. They say you shouldn't ask your mom wh...www.goodreads.com

While quantitative information helps you understand what is going on with your product, do you need qualitative insights to figure out why that is happening, what the needs of your users and customers are, and how you can better serve those needs. In the best case, you have access to a user research team that can help you answer those qualitative questions. However, most product managers do not have that luxury. In that case, “The Mom Test“ can help. It is a short and actionable read on how you conduct qualitative user research without unnecessarily biasing participants. I would absolutely recommend every product manager read this book.

User Story Mapping (Jeff Patton)

User Story MappingUser Story Mapping
How do you build a product that delights users? You must first know who your users are and how they plan to use what you're building.…www.goodreads.com

I will be honest here: for the longest time, I did not get the appeal of user stories. They just seemed to be a particular format of writing product specs. That only changed when I read “User Story Mapping“. In the book, Jeff Patton compellingly makes the case that user stories are not written, they are told, i.e., there needs to be a conversation among the team about the user story. Artifacts like specs and requirements should never replace this conversation, but rather act as “vacation photos“ that remind the team of the conversation they had.

100 Things Every Designer Should Know About People

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about People
We design to elicit responses from people. We want them to buy something, read more, or take action of some kind. Designing without under...www.goodreads.com

I have long searched for a book that is useful for product managers to hone their design-related skills. There is, of course, always the classic “The Design of Everyday Things”, which is a good read, but I did not find it as actionable as a product manager as I had hoped. “100 Things Every Designer Should Know About People“, on the other hand, I found very useful. The book covers topics ranging from how humans perceive the world over human memory and decision making through to motivation. The facts covered in the book will help any product manager both have more productive conversations with their designers and come up with better solutions to their users' and customers' problems.


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