In this episode, product management expert Melissa Perri helps us to avoid waste and build products that customers truly want.


After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • Why detailed requirements documents often aren’t the best approach
  • Common reasons organizations get stuck in the build trap
  • What you can do to avoid building solutions no one wants 
  • How to experiment and find the right solution for the right problem


Not every idea is a good idea, so it’s better to take a little time to invest and learn if it’s a good idea.


The Build Trap

Organizations frequently get caught in the build trap.  That’s when they focus more on outputs than outcomes.  People believe that shipping more features is the key to satisfying customers and they don’t stop to ask if we’re building the right things.

Additionally, organizations stuck in the build trap don’t consider measurements or metrics to determine what success looks like.  Without considering what metrics would indicate success before deciding what to build and tracking those metrics after release, you’ll be unable to tell if you’ve had the desired outcome.

There’s also often a disconnect between what the leaders in the organization consider to be important and the work the teams are doing.  This lack of alignment toward organizational goals means that likely won’t achieve the right goals.  People are building things to keep busy rather than to move the company forward.

All of these symptoms of the build trap happen what we fail to ask why.


Causes of the Build Trap

There are several reasons organizations get caught in the build trap.

When organizational goals and strategy is too high level and doesn’t include metrics to measure what success looks like, it’s difficult for teams to create solutions that align to that strategy.  People need a clear understanding of the strategy, success metrics, and their part in supporting that strategy.

Alternatively, the goals and strategy may be too detailed.  The strategy may dictate how the desired outcomes will be achieved.  This puts us in the build trap because we don’t always know for certain what the outcome will be without experimenting and learning.

At a product level, Product Managers sometimes ask the wrong questions.  They ask “what do you want?” when customers may not know what they want.  Instead, you need to figure out what problems your customers have that we can solve in a valuable way.

The art of Product Management is understanding deeply what would be valuable to your customers and also understanding what’s valuable to the business.  From there, discover what products and services you can deliver that maximizes customer value and business value.

“The customer realizes value only when their problems are resolved and their wants and needs are fulfilled.” – Melissa Perri, Escaping the Build Trap


Avoiding the Build Trap

To avoid getting caught in the build trap (or escaping if you’re currently in it) is to help thee product organization by setting a clear and understandable strategy.  Setting clear goals and a compelling vision while allowing teams to experiment and find ways to achieve that vision is a powerful approach.

At a team level, start looking at everything you do as a hypothesis instead of certainty about the solution.  Start with questions rather than answers.


Listen to the full episode to hear how Melissa discovered that detailed requirements documents aren’t always useful and how she escaped the build trap.  



Look at what you’re working on now and reword that initiative or whatever you’re building as a hypothesis.  That will put you into the mindset of experimentation and learning.

An example hypothesis format is:

We believe that [by doing X], we will solve [these problems] for our customers and we will [move these metrics].


 Links mentioned in this episode:

Melissa Perri

Melissa Perri

CEO of Produx Labs

Melissa Perri is a Product Management coach and consultant and a keynote speaker. She’s the CEO of Produx Labs where she helps companies implement good Product Management. Melissa is also the author of the new book, Escaping the Build Trap- How Effective Product Management Creates Real Value.


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