Are You Stuck in a Build Trap? How to Escape it

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Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value Melissa Perri

Escaping the Build Trap: How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value by Melissa Perri is mandatory reading for product people. A colleague recommended it to me and my only regret is not reading it sooner.

You may be thinking that you already know a lot of the content covered in Part 1. Don’t be so certain.

As you turn each page your eyes begin to glaze over. This all sounds so..familiar. Suddenly, it dawns on you. You have been in the build trap.

You might be wondering:

  • What’s wrong with building features for my customers?
  • If my performance is evaluated on my output how can I avoid the build trap?

And right there is precisely how many companies and product managers find themselves in the build trap.

You build all the features in the world that your customers didn’t even know they wanted. The problem is that you didn’t deliver true value for your customers. You valued outputs over outcomes.

Welcome to the build trap.

Real life footage of a PM in a build trap. Image from book.

Part 1 of this book will help you recognise a build trap, explain why product led value is important and explore the different types of product people.

Key Takeaways From Part 1: “The Build Trap”

  • Products are vehicles for value
  • Product led organisations understand that delivering value (driving outcomes) means investing the time to solve the right problems for their customers
  • To avoid building a product no one will use, explore with your customers what problems they have rather than asking what they want
  • You need to give your product managers the space to explore the “why” of what they are working on (product vision & customer research)
  • A bottom up approach is only going to work if the leaders set a clear vision that all of the product strategies can feed into
  • You will quickly find yourself in the build trap if you:
    • Derive value in terms of output (eg. features shipped)
    • Copy competitors
    • Lack an experimental culture
    • Lack a vision and strategy that gives everyone a direction to work towards
    • Don’t understand the customer problems and needs

Favourite quotes:

  • “A product is something that needs to be nurtured and grown to maturity.”
  • “Product management is a career, not just a role you play on a team. The product manager deeply understands both the business and the customer to identify the right opportunities to produce value.”
  • “A product manager must be humble enough in their approach to learn and take into account that they don’t know all of the answers. They need to know that there are assumptions that they must tackle along the way, approaching them with a scientific mindset to validate them and to reduce risk.”

Read on to hear a question from one of my readers and to find out about some of my build traps.

Have you read this book? What do you think about the build trap and escaping it?

I'd love to hear what you think!