Enough people have asked me ‘how’s the book going’ that I figured I’d write an update. The short version is: I’ve finished the beginning.
Working title: Good Product Management
The working title started as ‘product thinking’ but has switched to ‘good product management’. I’d always preferred ‘good product management’ but then I saw Lou Downe’s book ‘Good Services’ and figured it was too close. I’ve not found anything I liked better. ‘Product thinking’ felt like I was clutching at straws. And nothing’s original anyway :) So I’ve gone back to good product management. Got the domain name and everything. By the way, Good Services is on my reading list, it’s been recommended to me by several people.
Who’s the book aimed at?
I’m going to focus on products and services that improve lives because that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. So I’m imagining it’ll be of most interest to folks working in government departments or agencies, local authorities, charities, non-profits, social enterprises, and non-governmental organisations.
What’s the book’s ‘hook’?
I’ve been trying to find an ‘in’ to the book and think I’ve got it. I was chatting with my partner recently, describing what I’d actually done in my career over the last few years. They said ‘ah, it sounds like people find change uncomfortable and you help them with it’. Which seemed like a good summary and gave me the ‘hook’ for my book. People find change hard. Groups of people find change particularly hard. My experience of product management is that I’ve created space to decide on the right change to make at the right time, to improve the value of products and services for users and the organisation. It normally starts with big changes, and then becomes smaller, more frequent changes.
What’s my approach?
A colleague recently asked me if I’d seen that John Cutler has recently paused work on his product management book. I can empathise with his reasons: lockdown is hard and needing to be there for his partner and baby. My situation sounds similar. What I’ve taken from this is: I’m not going to stress if the book doesn’t happen, or I need to pause it for a while, or if it takes a while. I’m doing it for fun. If it stops being fun then I’ll stop work on it. My guess is that it was a hard decision for John but once it was made it felt like a weight had been lifted.
I’m still enjoying writing at the moment but I have made a decision to keep my scope narrow. I’m definitely not trying to write THE definitive book on product management. Instead, I’m going to share my personal product management story. It’s not going to be an exhaustive list of every method of split-testing software (for example). But what it will be is an honest account of me trying to figure out what the hell I’m doing as a product manager, a story that I’m uniquely qualified to tell.
Some of my friends have written books, including Adam who wrote Football Clichés. He already had a successful blog and the book collated and improved his posts. I remember speaking with Adam at the time and he said that having his blog posts as a starting point was a huge help. I’m fortunate to be in a similar position, with blog posts stretching back for the last 7-8 years that will help me with early drafts.
I’ve started a newsletter as a way of chunking-up the drafting process. The first edition of the good product management newsletter went out to a hundred people on Friday. Many thanks if you’ve subscribed. Half of the distribution list opened it up within a few days, and it’s been opened over 600 times - which I’m guessing means it’s been forwarded on by a few people too. The next newsletter is being drafted and is likely to come out soon. Once it does, that means the bones of my introduction and first chapter are out in the world being tested. Sign up if you fancy getting an early look at bits of the book.
So it’s the end of the beginning of the book. I’m taking it slow and keeping it fun, hoping to draft a chapter every few weeks and see how it goes. Fingers-crossed.