Part I. The Build Trap

The build trap is when organizations become stuck measuring their success by outputs rather than outcomes. It’s when they focus more on shipping and developing features rather than on the actual value those things produce. When companies stop producing real value for the users, they begin to lose market share, allowing them to be disrupted. Companies can get out of the build trap by setting themselves up to develop intentional and robust product management practices. At that point, product managers can find the opportunities to maximize business and customer value.

“Chris, your problem isn’t just your product managers,” I said. “They’re definitely green, and you’re going to have to hire some more senior people, but you have process, strategy, and organizational issues, as well, that are preventing you from hitting your goals.”

The CEO of Marquetly, Chris, had called me to talk frankly about the state of Marquetly, an education company that provides online training for marketers. Experts in digital marketing, Marquetly professionals create classes through their online platform that any individual can take for a monthly subscription.

Six months earlier, Chris had hired me to train and coach the company’s product managers. Marquetly was growing rapidly, with revenue growth year-over-year holding steady around 30%. The company hired hundreds of people in ...

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