Product Marty Cagan

This I Believe

This article is a little bit different, but if you make it to the last paragraph, I’m hoping it will help better explain where I’m coming from.

In the spirit of the inspirational This I Believe project, I thought I would share with you the beliefs that underly so much of my writing and teaching.

I believe in technology.  I love learning new technology.  I love how technology constantly changes, and I love how what is now possible is constantly changing.  This rapid and constant evolution in technology provides hope that we can continue to solve important problems for people and our world.

I believe in leadership.  True leaders inspire.  I am drawn to passionate leaders in pursuit of what they believe in, and often I’ll very willingly let myself get caught up in their reality distortion field, even when I’m skeptical about the business viability, because these are the people that make an impact in the world, and I want to help them achieve their vision.

I believe in honesty.  I believe that to be effective in helping people and organizations improve, you need to be honest.  You need to call things out, get them on the table, and deal with them.  I work hard to make sure people know that my criticisms are coming from a place of genuine concern and interest in them personally and their career.  Honesty also means that I never take money for recommending a tool, or introducing people in my network, or helping a company to fill a position.

I believe in people.  If I meet someone smart, willing to work hard, passionate about what they do, and sincere about wanting to improve, I just can’t help myself.  I want them to succeed, and I want to help them however I can.  Successful teams are comprised of these sorts of people, and the world needs as many as we can find.  I think today that one of my most useful skills is that after 30 years of working with technology product teams, I am pretty good at spotting talent and potential.

I believe in giving back.  There is no question that I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career and have had more than my fair share of great rides.  I am truly grateful to all the people that have helped me along the way, and I have benefited professionally, personally and financially from these opportunities.  So I feel a real obligation to give back to our industry.  Mostly I do this by writing, speaking, teaching and coaching others.  The surprising thing is that the accomplishments I feel proudest of today are not the actual products I helped create, but rather, the many people across our industry I have helped to hire and develop.  I love seeing them creating exceptional products, and leading great organizations of their own.  Karma.

I believe in continuous improvement.  Starting with myself.  Then of the people and teams I work with.  And especially of the techniques and methods that I advocate to others.  While I am currently a passionate advocate of methodologies like Agile, Lean, Design Thinking, Customer Development and more, I try very hard not to get too attached to, or to be too closely associated with, any particular school of thought or technique.  I know that if that happens, then I’ll become religious about that method, and when even better methods come along – and they always do – I’ll be one of those people resisting change, and hanging on to “my methods.”

If you want to see evidence of this sort of dogmatic thinking going on right now, all you need to do is look at all the people out there that built their reputation on Scrum, and how resistant and defensive they are about so many teams now moving to Kanban.  Just as there are still people left out there that built their reputation on Phase Gate.  Or Six Sigma.  Or UML.  I could go on.

Today I am a passionate and vocal advocate for Discovery and Delivery techniques and methods including Dual-Track Agile, Lean Startup, Customer Development, and Continuous Deployment, because they are the best methods that I know of.  But I also know that soon enough, there will be even better.