Mehdi Boudoukhane
December 7, 2023
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4
 min read

The Product Manifesto: 15 principles to ship stuff people need

The Product Manifesto: 15 principles to ship stuff people need

There’s been a lot of talk about getting rid of the product management role. Some argue it should be merged with marketing. Others think it will be overtaken by engineering or dissolved into design. As product managers, we believe product management will thrive. But something is broken and we must fix it.

It’s not product management we should get rid of, it’s the “management” part of it. Truth is we don’t manage anyone and should not act like we do. By removing the “manager” word from our job title, it will be clear we are focused on enabling other teams as opposed to being their boss.

It's not a new idea. Back then, the PayPal team opted to call the product role “producers” instead of “product managers.” To call them “product managers” would have implied that their job was just to “manage things” as opposed to “make things happen.”

They dropped the “management”. And it’s about time we drop it too. There are as many ways to ship products as there are product teams but some principles are timeless. That’s why we’ve created this manifesto to collect what we consider the most important advice for (aspiring) product managers folks.

1/ Ship stuff people need

It's all about creating products that solve a “hair on fire” problem, not just scratch an itch. Build a painkiller, not vitamins.

2/ Share releases, not plans

“Don't tell people your plans. Show them your results.”

Talk is cheap. What counts is what you've actually built and shipped. Roadmaps change, but a release is proof you've moved the needle. Show, don’t tell.

3/ Dont *manage* things, make things happen

What makes great products is not process, it’s content. Anyone can oversee a process, but it takes a real builder to push through challenges, pivot when necessary, and turn ideas into reality.

4/ Product sense comes from talking to customers

Get out of your building – don’t hide behind spreadsheets. The best insights come from the front lines, not the boardroom. Engaging directly with customers gives you the unfiltered truth about your product – what works, what doesn’t, and what they actually need.

5/ Until folks engage with it, you didn’t deliver any value

Job’s not finished when it shipped, let alone when the PRD was written. A product is only as good as how much users engage with it. The real measure of success is in usage. If folks don’t know about it, did you even ship it?

6/ Premature optimization is the root of all evil

Getting caught up in perfection before you fully understand the problem is a recipe for wasted time and resources. Ship, test, learn, and then optimize – that's the order of operations.

7/ Never stop crafting the first mile of your product’s experience

First impressions are everything. If you don’t hook your users from the get-go, nothing else matters. Keep refining that initial experience; it’s your make-or-break moment. Your product’s onboarding is the only flow every user will experience.

8/ Ship it only if you’re proud enough to put your name on it

Every release should be something you'd stake your reputation on. It's not just about meeting standards; it's about setting them.

9/ If you're just using engineers to code, you're not getting half their value

Engineers are problem-solvers. They see angles and solutions that others might miss. Understanding the problem is only one part of the equation, you need to ship a better solution too, and you can’t do that without engineers’ creativity and analytical skills.

10/ Stand for something! Or at least don’t try to please everyone

Trying to be everything to everyone is a surefire way to be nothing to anyone. There are two kinds of products: products that take a stance and products that try to please everyone. Great ones take a stance.

11/ The story you tell shapes the product you build – make it cohesive from the start

A strong, clear narrative drives everything. It's not just marketing fluff; it's the backbone of your product strategy. Every feature, every update should tell a part of this story. Articulating product value in ways that will resonate with customers is your responsibility.

12/ A prototype is worth 10 presentations

In the world of building, seeing is believing. Prototypes cut through the bullshit and show whether an idea has legs. They’re the fastest way to validate, iterate, and move forward.

13/ Your superpower is empathy

Building great products is about understanding people, not just technology. Empathy leads to insights that data alone can't provide. It's about feeling the user's pain and joy as if it were your own.

14/ Ship less but better – in doubt, reduce scope not quality

It's about focus and craftsmanship. Don’t dilute your efforts trying to do too much. Deliver a few features, but make them exceptional. Quality beats quantity every time in this game.

15/ Enjoy the ride – great products are built by teams that have fun shipping them

Teams that love what they do build better products – period. Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy every bit of the journey! Also, keep things quirky and remember that great products are often slightly funny 😊

Want a copy of The Product Manifesto hanging in your office? Download it here or ask us to send you a printed version by mail.

Thank you to Scott Belsky, Mark Pundsak, Olivia Teich, Chris Pasquier, Caroline Clark, Anh-Tho Chuong, Alfie Marsh, Kelton Lynn, Youcef Es-skouri, Alana Goyal, Anna Debenham, Luuk De Jonge, Omar Pera, Amaury Sepulchre, Ellen Chisa, Olivier Godement, Shreyas Doshi, David Apple & Des Traynor for reading drafts of this manifesto.