PRODUCTHEAD: Place your bets, please

PRODUCTHEAD: Place your bets, please

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

my product lung #


It can aid a team’s progress to make lots of small bets, rather than one large one in a quarter

Separate your outputs in a release plan from the outcomes in your product roadmap

Parkinson’s Law: work always expands to fill the time available

a favour: please share this with other product people

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Following on from my “Choose your own adventure” edition of PRODUCTHEAD the other week on product roadmaps, here’s another aspect to think about.

I once worked with an entrepreneur and product person who used to be a professional poker player, called Ludo Lacay. He told me that he saw his product roadmap as a collection of bets.

Everything on his roadmap was structured as an experiment. Namely, by doing a particular piece of work on their product, his team expected a particular outcome (something changing for people using the product), which they could measure.

Some of those bets were relatively safe, but had minimal return; others were much riskier bets, but the larger pay-off was worth taking the risk; and of course, there were bets that sat in between the two extremes.

Ludo was looking at his roadmap as this collection of bets, and what he was betting with was his team’s finite amount of time to work on stuff. He was trying to maximise the return on his team’s effort.

The amount of risk he was willing to tolerate in his roadmap was a reflection of his and his team’s certainty and confidence. He wasn’t going to bet the farm on a moon-shot idea by itself, nor could he tolerate moving really slowly by only working on items with minimal risk. So his roadmap was a balanced portfolio of bets that collectively represented their risk appetite at that point in time.

Here’s Ludo talking about how he stuck to a tactic of bluffing about half the time when playing poker:

“There’s a trick. You have a watch. Okay? Right side of the quadrant, you never bluff; left side, you bluff. And then at the second you say, oh, that’s that situation, I’m going to look at my watch. Now it’s a bluff. You bluff. Okay? You just, you keep yourself honest. The watch will do the rest, you will randomize the decisions.

“Cool. Yeah, that sounds good on the first day when, like it’s a normal tournament and it’s not the biggest part of your life.

“Now you’re in the semifinal at the world championship. You’re playing for millions, right? Your watch says bluff. You don’t want to bluff! You don’t want to bluff at all! You don’t want to bluff, you want to let the others bluff. I just want to make the final table. I just want to be a little bit lucky.

“So it’s very difficult because you’re fighting. You get to points where like you’re like, you don’t want to play that game any more. You cannot play that optimal game any more. You have to make decisions that you’re gonna be happy with.”

Ludo Lacay, CPO and co-founder of Napo, speaking to me and Ray Rafiq on The Pig Wrestlers podcast

Just as in a poker match, you’re constantly evaluating lots of variables: what the other players are doing, what you believe their hands are, whether they’re bluffing, whether you’re bluffing, how likely your hand is to beat theirs, and so on. All of this information causes you to constantly re-evaluate your risk appetite and betting strategy.

In much the same way, you’re constantly re-evaluating your product roadmap based on the information you and your team are gathering. A move by a competitor might cause you to accept a degree more risk and bring forward a new product release. You get the idea.

This means that your product roadmap is less a list of stuff you’re going to build, and more a snapshot of your current betting tactics in the light of the context of your users, team, product and company. However you choose to play, “you have to make decisions you’re gonna be happy with.”

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Two bets and other useful articles

A rich seam of articles and helpful prompts by John Cutler to frame your thinking on bets and roadmaps.

Two bets

How to think about bets, success metrics, and roadmapping (ebook)

Bets cheat sheet

40 roadmap item questions

[John Cutler / The Beautiful Mess]

Roadmaps are dead! Long live roadmaps!

Do you ever feel like breaking up with your roadmap? In his talk from #mtpcon San Francisco, C. Todd Lombardo takes on a topic that is emotional to most of us as product managers – the product roadmap.

[VIDEO] It’s not you, it’s me. (Actually it is you)

[C. Todd Lombardo / Mind The Product]

Roadmaps are dead. Long live roadmaps!*

When you have questions about roadmaps, it pays to talk to someone who has spent way too much of her life thinking about them. Janna Bastow – co-founder of both Mind the Product and ProdPad—has been trying to fix the problems of roadmaps for most of her professional life. In this episode, she joins us to give advice for anyone ready to break up with their roadmap.

[PODCAST] Another take by the queen of product roadmaps

* I know, right?

[Janna Bastow / The Product Experience]

recent posts

Will platforms conquer the world?

Product managers of software and hardware platforms face unique challenges that PMs of ‘regular’ products do not.

In this panel discussion, Hans-Bernd Kittlaus discusses platform product management with Samira Negm, Peter Stadlinger and Jock Busuttil.

Or have they already done so?

[I Manage Products]

As head of product, should I be a player-manager, or hire and delegate?

“There’s plenty that needs doing with the products. I could focus on the hiring process, but the only product manager on my team has their hands full, so I can’t delegate any more to them. I could get stuck in with the products myself as a player-manager, but this means I won’t have time to hire.”

Find the right balance

[I Manage Products]

Billion-dollar platforms — how they did it

I was asked recently whether platforms will conquer the world. My view? They already have. In this article I share how they’ve done it, and how you can successfully bring your own platform to market.

The ingredients for success

[I Manage Products]

can we help you?

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from a pile of foreign vocabulary.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a freelance head of product, product management coach and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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