Wednesday, April 03, 2019

The PM reading list

The "must-read" list to learn about the art of product management.

Caveat: This list is a work-in-progress, and the list will be ever growing.

The 10 best posts on product management.
The PM role

Good PM, Bad PM (Ben Horowitz, Andreesen Horowitz)

Remains one of the most succinct, insightful posts on the varied, crazy and challenging role of product management.

How to hire a PM (Ken Norton, Google Ventures)

Worth reading because many hiring PMs have some version of the criteria Ken laid out here in their mind when doing interviews.


A 10-step plan for working engineers (Ken Norton, Google Ventures)

A funny, memorable post that illustrates how should work with engineers by calling out the 10 things you definitely should not do.

How to work with designers: a cheat sheet for PMs (Julie Zhuo, Facebook)

No non-sense, informative post on how to work with designers from a VP of Design at Facebook who used to work as a PM and an engineer.


Product thinking: behind our new Messenger home screen (Brian Donohue, Intercom)

A detailed look at how the Intercom team went about re-designing their Messaenger home screen with tactical details on goals, mocks and outcomes.

A bad product decision (Brandon Chu, Shopify)

An in-depth overview of how one poor product assumption decision derailed an entire product launch. While painful to read, it's a great post that shows the importance of getting the details right.


Experiments at Airbnb (Jan Overgoor, Airbnb)

A thorough and analytically sound post on one of the most important aspects of modern day product management: running and analyzing experiments.

The Dangerous Seduction of the LTV formula (Bill Gurley, Benchmark Capital)

By far the best post on the critical topic of LTV, including an overview of the correct way to calculate it and all the pitfalls you need to watch out for.

Product strategy

Amazon's annual shareholder letters (Jeff Bezos, Amazon)

Great example of clarity of thought in product strategy and execution at a high level. All of them are worth reading, but a solid, recent one is the 2016 annual results letter.

The only thing that matters (Marc Andreesen, Andreesen Horowitz)

The seminal blog post on product market fit and why it's the "the only thing that matters" when launching a new company (or a new product).

Want to read more?

Aggregation theory (Ben Thompson, Stratechery)
Many leading consumer technology companies, e.g., Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc., have built up an incredibly strong position for themselves and Ben's post lays out convincing argument for the systematic and predictable ways this happens.
The origins of Product Hunt (Ryan Hoover, ProductHunt)
This is about as good as it gets for a tactical memoir of how a modern tech product was born. Covers everything from the email-first experiment to web app v1, including snippets of email conversations, early mocks and tweets.
Climbing the wrong hill (Chris Dixon, Andreesen Horowitz)
Great, general career advice from a former PM and founder. For anyone embarking on a PM career, it's worth reading to this make sure you're thinking about your job finding algorithm in the best possible way.
Maker's schedule, manager's schedule (Paul Graham, YC)
In a company, PMs are managers, not makers. While they do manage the product, they do not write the code, design the mocks, write the marketing copy, etc. As a result, the type of schedule they keep and the type of schedule their teammates keep will necessarily vary dramatically. This post explains why.
Get one thing right (Andy Dunn, Bonobos)
PMs are often tempted to build robust, fully-featured products that can solve every problem under the sun. The challenge is that doing everything well out of the gate is a recipe for failure. Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos, explains why getting one thing right is the critical first step.
The DNA of product management (Hunter Walk, Google, Homebrew VC)
Product management is a job of "many hats." Hunter Walk, an early Second Life, Google and YouTube PM, details what those "hats" a PM must wear are and why they matter so much.
Advice from 17 product managers (First Round Review)
A nice collection of tactical advice from seventeen different product managers covering everything from driving decisions with data to the best way to communicate with stakeholders.
The next feature fallacy (Andrew Chen, Uber, Andreesen Horowitz)
The TLDR: It's often tempting for PMs to think the next feature they launch will magically fix the product. The reality, almost always, is that it won't.
Writing is thinking (Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft, Andreesen Horowitz)
One of the core tools of the PM role is writing specs (or PRDs - project requirement documents) that define what a feature is, who it's for, and how it should be built. Given that, writing well is a key skill for PMs.

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