The Story Behind The Lean Product Management Manifesto

Setting the Stage

In the past few years, I have had a lot of people come up to me and ask about Product Management (lean, agile, waterfall, whatever) and what makes a "good" Product Manager. They've also asked for resources. A lot of the resources on traditional Product Management tend to focus on story card grooming, lots of feature specs, and playing politics with the business. While these are necessary, I don't see them as the epitome of a "good" Product Manager. So I decided to formulate my thoughts around the values of a exceptional Product Manager in a tweet:

https://twitter.com/lissijean/status/501473921368334336

I got a lot of interesting feedback, had some great discussions both on and offline, and I've iterated on it since them. Thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas and feedback! That was the whole point of putting it out there in it's half assed state - to see what the community thought and hear others' stories quickly. Boom, Lean.

Surprisingly (to me) most of the feedback I got was "don't write a manifesto". Saeed Khan wrote an article on this. I agree with most of his points, but would like to address two important ones.

First, why am I calling it "Lean" Product Management manifesto and not just Product Management manifesto?

Excellent question! If you were to ask five Product Managers from different companies what they did, you would get five different answers. You'd find patterns between some of them, such as being able to groom story cards, write specs, and interface with the business. The problem is that we tend to focus more on the documents and features produced than the value those things bring to customers.

This is where Lean comes in. Lean’s core principles are found in delivering value, respecting people, customer pull, and reducing waste. These are things that should be applied to Product Management. To shift our focus from deliverables to value for customers. This isn't meant to be a list of all the principles and techniques of Product Management, but simply where we should start focusing our attentions more in our daily work.

Second, and most controversially, why am I writing a manifesto?

Honestly, I don't care what you call it. If you hate the term manifesto, you can call it "Lean Product Management Guidelines" or "Those things that we should probably value but we're not." I chose the term manifesto because I modeled it off the Agile Manifesto, and hey, people actually refer to and listen to that (and debate it, which I hope you'll do with this).

I'm not writing this to say "you must always do Product Management this way, it's a religion." These are a set of guidelines I have used to improve my Product Management practice and help others do the same. These principles should not be blindly followed. We are all humans who are capable of thinking, and you have the ability to use these (or not) as you see fit. Adapt them for your specific organizations and situations. And, as always, please improve upon them as you learn and practice.

And with that, here's The Lean Product Management Manifesto.