PRODUCTHEAD: The demented game show

PRODUCTHEAD: The demented game show

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

i am a wicked product #


Some people think about problems directly; others think through the problem via potential solutions

Organisations often jump straight into action without establishing a foundation for coping with uncertainty

If one group has all the decision-making power, others cannot properly contribute

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every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


As a loose theme for this week’s edition of PRODUCTHEAD, we’re looking at the organisational dysfunctions we typically encounter as product people. Thankfully, each contributor also suggests remedies.

Janna Bastow interviews Matt LeMay, who talks about the realities of being a product manager, and how it doesn’t always make sense to apply the received wisdom. I particularly like his description of the theatre of product managers pitching a product idea to senior executives as a “demented game show”. That struck a painful chord for me.

John Cutler describes how organisations often dive right in to action without first establishing a firm foundation of strategy, culture and behaviour, which acknowledges uncertainty, rather than ignores it. Without that firm foundation in place, almost all “big-bang” plans will fail, and this in turn can create a vicious cycle.

Emily Webber gave a talk recently at Lean Agile Brighton on her concerns about professional specialism at the expense of collaboration. She argues that when organisations start to describe themselves as led by a particular discipline (sales-led, product-led, engineering-led, and so on), it tends to create a hierarchy biased towards that discipline. Emily also suggests some approaches that instead encourages collaboration across disciplines at the organisation, team and individual levels.

Speak to you soon,


P.S. You can now find me on Mastodon Social (an alternative to Twitter) at

what to think about this week

Product management in practice with Matt LeMay

What does the day-to-day life of a successful product manager look like? How do you avoid burnout? What does the role now look like in the era of remote and hybrid work?

In this month’s webinar, we explore product management in practice – none of this in theory malarky, but actually getting into the nitty gritty of what the day-to-day life of a product manager actually looks like.

Stop playing the demented game show

[ProdPad / YouTube]

Shaky foundations (and planning escalation)

John, my company seems to be in a terrible cycle. We are so reactive. Nothing is stable. Nothing lasts. There’s so much churn and pivoting. I want a sense of stability.

In my experience, this signals a shaky foundation. Without a strong foundation, humans create *certainty* by either:

1. Going into exploration mode to discover the foundation

2. Manufacturing big-bang plans (on top of no foundation)

Don’t manufacture artificial certainty

[John Cutler / The Beautiful Mess]

Why can’t we all just get along?

I’ve noticed an increasingly worrying trend in the industry of focus on specialisms at the expense of collaboration, shared responsibility and valuable outcomes.

There might be many reasons for this, from organisational structures, changing workforces or uncertainty in the world. However, this trend can create silos across departments, between roles, and even in teams.

These silos mean that all the value from a multidisciplinary team is lost, people get pigeonholed, and we lose focus on creating valuable outcomes for our users.

Avoid being led by any one discipline

[Emily Webber]

recent posts

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]

An exercise in stakeholder alignment

When your stakeholders each have their own interpretations of the product strategy, this lack of stakeholder alignment will cause you no end of problems. Here’s what you can do about it.

A practical exercise you can run

[I Manage Products]

can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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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 tiny, bite-size mince pies.

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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