Reviewed by Steve Starke, 2 September 2010
Take Charge Product Management
Time-tested Tips, Tactics, and Tools for the New
or Improved Product Manager
By Greg Geracie, July 2010
Publisher: Actuation Press
Availability: Currently available at Amazon.com
Greg Geracie has written a book intended to help product managers understand the discipline of product management and guide them, step by step, through the process of becoming product leaders. What I liked about this book was that it was not written in a reference format. Instead it was written through the eyes of an engaging fictitious product manager, Sean Knight. It was very easy to relate to the character and follow the journey that Sean was on. Although Sean is a fictitious character, it was clear that Sean’s experiences were based upon the author’s real-life experiences. As a result the author’s guidance is tangible and directly applicable to the corporate world and not based on theory.
I immediately felt connected to Sean and his encounters and found myself not wanting to put the book down as I anticipated his next steps. What was unique was Geracie was actually teaching through a fundamental tool that all product managers should know, "the user persona/ user story”. You don’t really recognize it until you are a majority of the way through the book, where you have the realization that you were just walked through a user story of the role that you’re actively playing in real life! If only text books were written like this, I think learning would be easier, more relevant, and much more enjoyable.
Besides the unique format, Geracie’s depth on certain topics makes this an essential read. For the first time, someone finally recognizes the different product management roles and how they change relative to the size of your company – yes size does matter. This understanding is crucial for anyone trying to build a Product Management organization. So often, organizations are not staffed with the right skill set and bandwidth to get the job done. This lens often gets focused on software engineering but gets ignored when it comes to Product Management. Geracie points out that you will, in fact, sacrifice innovation and your market, if you are not staffed with the right skill set within product management. He gets it right by saying, if you’re staffed correctly; you "shift from reactive to proactive product management”.
I found it refreshing that tips and tools were provided through each and every step of the product management process. Summarized tips were, by design, put at the end of each chapter which made pulling them out and hanging them on my bulletin board easy. The other thing I found very insightful, was how Geracie took you into the mind of the senior executive. Having an understanding and insight into how people in these senior leadership roles think, better prepares anyone going into the field of Product Management. My only problem reading this book was that I wish I had this book 10 years ago when I had started my career. Having a mentor in a book is invaluable. But what is nice about this book is that I know I will continue to use it for the next 10 years of my career.
Steve Starke is the Vice President of Product Management, Thomson Reuters