Product Marty Cagan

Book Discussion Guide


Since the first edition of INSPIRED was released in 2008, there have been occasional groups and book clubs that have reached out asking for some suggested discussion topics.  These requests have gradually increased, but with the release of TRANSFORMED, we have received more than ever before.  

For an author, this is wonderful, as the real goal with this type of book is to encourage a product team or product organization to think hard about how they work, and where there may be real opportunities for improvement.

The purpose of this article is to share the discussion topics we suggest for each of our books.


You can read our books in any order, as they each address different challenges related to product, and they are each written to be stand-alone.

However, for people that ask, our recommendation is to begin with TRANSFORMED (for an overview of the product operating model), and then, depending on interest and needs: INSPIRED (product managers and product teams); EMPOWERED (product leaders) and LOVED (product marketing).

TRANSFORMED – Moving To The Product Operating Model

  1. Compare and contrast the model your organization is using today with the product operating model as described in the book.  Be sure to consider each of the three dimensions.
  2. Where do you consider the most significant gaps between how you work today and how you believe you should be working?  Consider each product model dimension, product model competency, and product model concept.
  3. Which product model principles do you think would be most immediately impactful for your organization?
  4. Are there any product model principles that you believe are not relevant to your organization?
  5. Discuss the reasons your company might consider moving to the product model.
  6. If you were to craft an experiment to test out this new way of working, how would you run this test?
  7. What would be some good examples of important problems to solve, and the relevant outcomes for those problems, that your company and your customers would value?
  8. What are some ways you can think of that a product team could do to build trust with stakeholders and executives?
  9. Which of the case studies do you think is most relevant to your situation, and why?
  10. Which potential objections are you most concerned about, and how would you address them?


Expand on your answers to questions 1-3 above in order to sketch out an organizational assessment, as described in Chapter 29.  Then propose one or more pilot teams that could test out the product model in the context of your company.

INSPIRED – How To Create Tech Products Customers Love

  1. Compare and contrast the roles and responsibilities of a product manager on an empowered product team, with a product manager on a feature team; and a product owner on a delivery team (aka Scrum team).
  2. Discuss the viability responsibilities of a product manager on an empowered product team.  What does this really mean for your business?  What are the various aspects of your business that have constraints that will impact your solutions?  Sales, marketing, finance, compliance, legal, privacy, manufacturing?
  3. Discuss the value responsibility of the product manager on an empowered product team.  What is the best way to measure value for your products?  Consider both qualitative and quantitative answers. 
  4. Compare and contrast the role of a product designer on an empowered product team versus a designer on a feature team, or as part of an internal design agency.
  5. Compare and contrast the role of an engineering tech lead on an empowered product team versus the engineers on a feature team or on a delivery team.
  6. Consider the technique of a high-integrity commitment.  Is this something you have done before?  If not, discuss the possibility of trying this out the next time the team is asked to commit to a date.
  7. Pick something your group is currently working on, and discuss each of the four key product risks.  How serious is each risk and what would be the best product discovery techniques for mitigating each risk?
  8. What actions can you take to raise the skill level of your product managers, product designers, and engineering tech leads to the level necessary for an empowered product team to be trusted by your company’s senior leaders.
  9. If you wanted to try out user prototypes in product discovery, what product team would you pick, and what problem would they be working to solve?
  10. Discuss the differences between shipping output (features) and achieving outcomes (business results).


Pick three different approaches to an important problem to solve.  For each approach, enumerate the various risks, and discuss the various techniques that would be used to address those risks.  Discuss the types of prototypes you would do for each, and how you would test those prototypes on users, customers, stakeholders, and the members of your own product team.

EMPOWERED – Ordinary People, Extraordinary Products

  1. Compare and contrast the role of a Chief Product Officer / Head of Product for a company operating in the product model, versus one operating in the feature-team model.
  2. Compare and contrast the role of a Chief Technology Officer / Head of Engineering for a company operating in the product model, versus one operating in the feature-team model.
  3. Does your company have empowered engineers on every product team?  If not, discuss what would be required to try this out?
  4. Compare and contrast the differences between trying to scale with process, versus trying to scale with coaching.
  5. Discuss what you believe are the top 10 most important coaching topics for your company.
  6. Discuss the best way to introduce product coaching into your company.
  7. Do you have a holistic product vision of the type discussed in the book?  If not, what would be required for you to create such a vision?
  8. Discuss at least three different approaches you could take to improve your team topology.  What would be the advantages and disadvantages of each approach as compared to what you have today?
  9. Discuss the mechanisms that your company has, or would need to have, in order to identify and leverage the insights to power your product strategy.
  10. What mechanisms do you have in place to support each of the major sources of insights?


Discuss the case study of the jobs marketplace company, and compare and contrast that company with how your own company does each of the activities: product vision, team topology, product strategy, and team objectives.

LOVED – How To Rethink Marketing for Tech Products

  1. Discuss what product marketers do at your company with what you would like to get out of the function. As it relates to where product meets go-to-market, where do you want marketing to have more impact?
  2. Discuss the four fundamentals of product marketing: 1) ambassador 2) strategist 3) storyteller 4) evangelist. Which fundamentals does your company need to work on more? Why?
  3. Are you investing enough in product marketing’s customer, market or product knowledge? What are the constraints holding the function back from a deeper understanding in these areas? How can they more effectively bring this knowledge to product and sales or marketing teams?
  4. Do people outside the marketing team understand the when and why driving decisions around key activities? Are product teams aware of market opportunities or trends that should be leveraged in product decisions? How might teams more effectively leverage what’s already happening in the market to spur product adoption?
  5. Where is the product’s messaging or positioning falling short? Is there an over reliance on jargon to convey value? Are others outside the company able to effectively describe what your product does or why someone should care in a way most people would understand?
  6. Who are the biggest influencers impacting what the world believes about your product, service or company. Is this being leveraged or is it an impediment? What can be done to win and empower wild evangelistic fans of your product? Are you investing enough in making your point-of-view known? Do you have a clear point of view for ‘why’ behind your product decisions?
  7. Consider the technique of a release scale.  Is this something someone on your team has tried before?  If not, discuss the possibility of trying this out wherever product release cycles are planned.
  8. What actions can you take to raise the skill level of your product marketers and the product marketing acumen of product management, marketing and sales to lead to a stronger, more symbiotic version of product marketing that inspires leadership?
  9. If you’re trying to assess the market side of product market fit, what questions can you ask during product discovery to truly assess how valued your product will be relative to market alternatives or doing nothing?  Is the problem you’re solving known or painful enough?
  10. How can your approach to bringing the product to market become more experimental, integrated and agile? Is your GTM team learning as fast as it should? Is go-to-market learning making its way back into how the organization makes product decisions? What can be done to improve these areas?


Do a lightweight product GTM canvas session with a strong product manager, a curious sales rep, and a leader in marketing. How to allocate your time: 50% on customer, outside environment, current known product themes (the when). 10% on marketing strategies (the why). 40% on key activities important for all parties present (the what and how). See what shifts in product priorities and how key activity execution can be improved and more focused based on what it’s supporting.