Book Review: Escaping the Build Trap

Escaping the Build Trap


Melissa Perri

My Rating

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"This masterpiece will help you become a truly product-led organization"

Melissa Perri has an expert understanding of what it takes for organizations to get the most out of product management in the current era of digital products and servicies. In Escaping The Build Trap, she articulates her expertise so clearly that any company who reads her book will know exactly what they have to do if they want to be a product-led company.

The build trap that her book refers to is an antiquated mindset still prevalent in many, maybe most, modern technology organizations. It revolves around creating big up-front plans and sticking to those plans no matter what, even if the plan is flawed.

People are rewarded for sticking to a plan even if they learn it is going to fail. It sounds so absurd and crazy. Why would anyone work in this counter-productive way? In my experience, it is the most popular way that organizations work.

Clear Examples

Escaping The Build Trap is the first book I would give to leaders of companies who are obsessed with plans. Melissa not only demonstrates why the build trap is a dangerous mode of operation, she shows how to move from the build trap to being a product-led company. But what is truly special about the book, is that Melissa demonstrates everything with examples.

Throughout the book, Melissa shows the transformation of Marquetly from a planning-obsessed to a customer-obsessed organization. The book is almost a novel. It is based on real life transformation, recounting Melissa's time working with Marquetly through their transformation.

Nothing is more compelling than clear examples of the truth. And there are many compelling stories in the book. I loved reading about Marquetly's approach to understanding their customer and then generating options using the product kata.

The whole piece about understanding why their users weren't creating courses at the rate they expected was poetry, and the follow-up piece about build vs buy vs partner decisions for content creation software was genuinely epic.

Clear Structure

The structure of the book also works perfectly in presenting product management topics in a logical order and helping the reader to understand how all of the concepts relate to different areas and roles of product management. The books moves from hands-on product management, to strategy and finishes with essential advice on changing the operating model and culture of an organization to be fully product-led.

Admittedly, the coverage is not so deep in the final section. My one wish would be to see more examples of the organizational aspects focusing on incentives, rewards, funding, budgeting, communication and so on. These are areas where a lot of organizations are still trapped in old ways of thinking and more detailed examples from the likes of Melissa Perri would be greatly-appreciated help. Melissa, please write another book.



"You are peanut-buttering your strategy — meaning that you have so many strategic initiatives spread over very few people."

"You tie people’s bonuses to shipping software, not to solving problems. They think they have to ship or they won’t get paid,"

"I’ve trained dozens of teams who are using SAFe, and I have never seen it work well. Although the appeal of having a framework that lays out everything you need to do technology-wise in nice neat boxes sounds appealing, in practice it usually breaks down."

"Product-led companies understand that the success of their products is the primary driver of growth and value for their company. They prioritize, organize, and strategize around product success. This is what gets them out of the build trap."

"This was a problem Marquetly fell into. They hired a few expert former marketers into the role of product manager, and, even though they really knew how to do marketing, they struggled with building products for an online education company."

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Designing Autonomous Teams and Services
Patterns, Principles and Practices of Domain-Driven Design