MINI REVIEW: ESCAPING THE BUILD TRAP
The power of a Product Mindset...
I received a copy of this book during an in-person training that Melissa Perri had done at my company years ago. At the time, I wasn't sure if the book contents would just rehash a lot of key ideas from the workshop so I wanted to save it for a time down the road when I felt like I needed a refresher. I have found myself at such a place in my career which led me to finally pulling this one off my shelf.
HOW I RATED IT
5/5 Refreshingly frank descriptions of problems companies often face paired with detailed advice on how to work through them is one of the main reasons anyone who's a current or future Product Manager should get a copy of ESCAPING THE BUILD TRAP.
While not a total rehash of the workshop I took a few years ago, there are definitely some concepts that were nice to revisit when it came to prioritization, experimentation, and the overall role of a Product Manager. What I wasn't expecting as much with this book is how much it focused on the broader, company-level aspects of Product Management and the importance of having a Product Mindset. Looking at companies like Kodak, Netflix, and Amazon for various dos and don'ts is always helpful and Perri's fictional example of Marquetly was also great. Perri doesn't really pull her punches when it comes to describing the many pitfalls that organizations fall into and how they can promote more of a feature farm mentality even when they are saying that they want to be customer-centric and innovative. Her frankness about the reality of challenges that people will face within different parts of the company is something I very much appreciated during her class and it's something that works well again here. So many professional development books sugar coat things or assume ideal conditions when giving advice, so this focus on why things aren't always so simple. This book also accounts for companies that run on different business models (explaining differences in companies where software is what is sold vs. companies that create software to support their products, such as insurance.) which I thought was a great touch as well.
While I liked the onus that Perri puts on top-level leadership to create a culture where everyone is able to adopt a Product Mindset, I wished there was more in here on how people at an individual contributor can impact this, even if it is just in their own corner of the company. There are little bits of this to be found and there is likely only so much that one person can do, but I think it would have been interesting to get more advice on how to operate with more of a Product Mindset even if your company or group isn't necessarily set up or empowered to do so.
Overall, the paperback edition is pretty nice. The cover isn't anything too eye-catching, but it is a nice color and the design felt appropriate for a professional development title. Fonts, margins, and formatting are all pretty well done, except for the interior margins which run rather deep into the spine, forcing you to peel the book open. Fortunately, I did not notice any damage to my copy after reading it. I also appreciated occasional use of graphics to illustrate concepts described.
In my opinion, this book is a must read for anyone who is either in a Product Management role or aspires to break into that career path. I think it is also really important for people who are in senior management or C-suite type roles if their company has any kind of digital product or presence.
(+) Examples of how a company can set itself up for success or failure.
(+) Great descriptions of the Product Manager job and how it is similar or different from a Product Owner.
(+) Emphasis on customer-centricity and experimentation.
(+) A realistic and honest take on some of the problems that individuals/teams/organizations/companies can run into.
(+) Short chapters make this easy to fit into any schedule and are organized into five key parts.
(+) Graphics to illustrate different concepts or ideas.
(-) Interior margins could have been better.
(-) Those in individual contributor roles might be left wondering how they can engage in some of these best practices without top-level support.