This is a big ol’ list of terms related to Product Development. Other glossaries exist, but this one is funnier, contains links, is easily navigated via the table of contents, and terms are listed in the general order of the actual product development process. Is the greatest product development glossary in the world? Maybe.


Product Development —- Term encompassing all activities done in support of creating a product, from identifying the market opportunity to launching the product into the market;

“The aim of any product or process development project is to take an idea from concept to reality by converging to a specific project that can meet a market need in an economical, manufacturable form.” – Revolutionizing Product Development

“New products and processes come to the market through a process that first transforms ideas and concepts into working prototypes through detailed design and engineering, then tests and refines them, and finally prepares the product design and factories for commercial operation.” – Revolutionizing Product Development

Best Books
Product Development is a very broad subject encompassing many disciplines (marketing, strategy, design thinking, product management, etc.). Listing the “best books” for each of those disciplines would make for a very long list, so instead of doing that, here’s a much shorter list of “high-level” books which effectively cover the entire subject of product development.

Product Design and Development – Karl Ulrich. This textbook covers most of the key concepts and is pretty readable for an academic book.

The Product Manager’s Desk Reference – Steven Haines. I think this is perhaps the first book you should buy if you want a comprehensive reference for all things related to product development.

Revolutionizing Product Development – Steven C. Wheelwright and Kim B. Clark. Full overview of the development process, as well as team structures, management insights, and how to build development capability.

Winning at New Products – Robert Cooper. Not a textbook, but fairly dense; I like to reference it and read in snippets; endorses the “stage-gate” method of development, which some see as a flawed approach.

Product Development Methodologies

Waterfall — A product development methodology that is mostly non-iterative (simply goes from start to finish) in which steps flow (like a waterfall!) from identifying a product’s requirements, designing it, building it, verifying it, and maintaining it; this method is mainly used on projects where making changes later in the development process is prohibitively expensive; contrast this with an agile development method, which is much more iterative and flexible in making changes later in the process.

Stage-Gate — A product development methodology that entails having a series of stages (or phases) separated by gates — a gate being a managerial approval process which confirms that required work has been sufficiently completed such that the team can progress to the next stage; created by Robert Cooper, who has written many books on the subject; most Stage-Gate processes are Waterfall; also called tollgate or phase-gate.

Agile — A methodology that is primarily defined by the values it emphasizes: being adaptive, responsive, iterative, incremental, cross-functional, continually improving, flexible. Agile development is less a process that is moved through until a product is launched and more of an ongoing process of improving and designing a product.

Lean — This term is abused in the product world, but to focus on purely lean product development, this methodology has many parallels with lean manufacturing: reduce queues and work-in-process, optimize how quickly value is added to work, reduce cycle time and cycle cost; lean product development seeks to improve efficiency by doing things concurrently, by empowering teams of experts, by focusing on process and reducing waste.

The Product Development Team

Strategy – The team with strategic decision-making authority. Strategy is about making specific choices to win in the marketplace.

Marketing – Primary function is to understand the market and customers. Manage the “4 P’s” of Marketing: Product, Price, Promotion, and Placement (distribution). Often tasked with identifying product opportunities. Responsible for identifying target consumer segments. Often oversee product launch. (Best textbook: Marketing Management; Marketing 101 content here:

Research and Development – In a product company, typically the team tasked with identifying new technology, performance, or value and applying these to products.

Engineering – The technical team; see also “the nerds.”

Manufacturing – Responsible for guiding product design so as to be manufacturing friendly (Design for Manufacturing), developing processes and capabilities, and managing the production system.

CAD – Computer-Aided Design Software. CAD team or CAD specialist is someone who uses the software.

Industrial Design – Discipline focusing on product aesthetics, ergonomics, and user experience; employ Design Thinking; sometimes catch-all for non-engineering product designers.

Product Manager – The CEO of the product. (Article: Good/Bad Product Manager.)

PMHQ has a good PM newsletter and course. Ken Norton also has a great website for all things PM.

Operations – Team responsible for logistical planning of production and product delivery (receiving, inspection, assembly, shipping).


Product —- “A self-contained unit of economic value” The Personal MBA. “The item offered for sale,” The Economic Times. Not always physical object (service, subscription, lease, etc.).

Innovation —- “Innovation is the process of creating and delivering new customer value in the marketplace.” – Innovation: The Five Disciplines.

Technology —- “The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.”

Research —- Systematic study of something (information, behavior) in order to establish facts, insights and conclusions.

Fundamental Research —- “Pure research” or “Basic Research”; Research into the first principles or underlying science; Research aimed at creating new knowledge.

Applied Research —- Research that is aimed at solving a real-world problem; much more commercially and pragmatically focused research.

Prototype —- An incomplete or unrefined preliminary version of the final product, typically created in order to test a theory.


Product – “a self-contained unit of economic value” The Personal MBA. “The item offered for sale,” The Economic Times. Not always physical object (service, subscription, lease, etc.).

Fundamentally New Product – A radically new product that likely uses an entirely new technology or addresses a new or unfamiliar market; among the highest-risk new product ventures.

Product Platform – A set of common elements (usually technologies or components) which are shared across a family of products.

Incremental Product – One type of product development project; involves upgrading or enhancing features, or adding features, but leaving some of the previous generation product intact; a “next generation” version.

Derivative Product – A new product which falls into an existing Product Platform; for example, a new smaller version of the Prius.

Ancillary Product – A product meant to complement another; the iPhone case.

Ecosystem – A collection of products and/or services which share some relationship to one another and often work symbiotically.

Augmented Product – Encompasses the product itself as well as any other extra value-adding sources, such as warranties, service, etc.

Commodities, Products, Services, Experiences – Framework of increasing differentiation in product offerings; products with progressively increasing economic value; commodities are interchangeable, experiences can be one-of-a-kind. (HBR article Pine and Gilmore “Welcome to the Experience Economy”; Daniel Pink Interview)


“Competitive Strategy is about being different. It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.” – Michael Porter, What is Strategy HBR.

“Strategy is an integrated set of choices that uniquely positions the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage and superior value relative to the competition.” – Playing to Win

Best Books and Articles

What is Strategy -Michael Porter (HBR article)

WTF is Strategy – Vince Law (Medium article)

Competitive Strategy – Michael Porter (10lb book)

Playing to Win – Lafley and Martin (my notes)

Start With Why – Simon Sinek (might be a stretch to say it’s strategy)

My Writing on Strategy

Playing to Win – All Posts

Executing Your Strategy – All Posts

Start with Why – All Posts

Key Terms

5 Forces – A framework for analyzing competition in an industry based on 5 major factors: industry rivalry, power of suppliers, power of customers, barriers to entry or the threat of new entrants, and the threat of substitutes. (Michael Porter’s book on strategy is a grand-daddy O.G. book.) The supplier and customer elements are vertically related, while the new entrants, existing rivalries, and threat of substitutes are horizontally related.

Trade-Offs – Trade-offs are essential to strategy because you cannot be everything to everyone; defining a strategy means clearly defining the things that are not important (consumers, markets, activities); if there are no trade-offs, there is no strategy.

Marketing Strategy – The unique set of Marketing activities undertaken by a firm; the mix of 4 P’s (product placement promotion and pricing) which are determined to support the overarching company strategy.

Operational Strategy – Operational Effectiveness is compared to Strategy in Michael Porter’s article “What is Strategy?” Strategy is about doing a DIFFERENT set of activities than other companies, or doing the same activities DIFFERENTLY. Operational effectiveness is about how well you do a particular activity; it is more related to efficiency than to strategy. This helps to illuminate what strategy is.

Operational Strategy also exists, and this describes the decisions and trade-offs and activities selected by a company vis a vis operations (the methods and resources used to develop products, for example).

S.W.O.T – Yet another analysis framework for a company relative to its competitors, market, and industry: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

Strategic Pipeline Management – The planning and activities which align company resources – and thus ability to execute projects and deliver products – with company strategy.

P.E.S.T.L.E. – Another framework for analyzing markets and industries: Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental.

Big Hairy Audacious Goal – The BHAG is a strategic business statement meant to focus the team on a medium-term goal which is deliberately audacious and bold; sort of like a vision statement; from Collins and Porras Built To Last book.

Product Planning

Product Plan – the multi-year plan for what products will be introduced when; companies often make a 3 or 5 year plan.

Product Platform Planning – Planning a series of products based on the same platform; a platform in this case could be shared technology or production methods, which allows individual products based on that platform to be developed more easily because they leverage existing capabilities.

Business Case – The case for making a product; necessary at some companies for justifying time and energy being spent on a project or in order to develop a product; typically has financial analysis, market research, costs, timelines, risks, and financial projections.

Dual-track Development – Something used in Agile software development mostly, this includes Discovery Track and Delivery Track; Discovery is determining what to build, for lack of a better description, and Delivery is actually building it right. Article. Contrast this with just listing a bunch of features to build, Dual-track has a learning/validation process in front of a building process, which helps prevent building something that creates little value. The two tracks are said to go in parallel because the same team works on both, just slightly out of phase. Good overview article. Another good Medium article.

Continuous Discovery – Having a continual “always on” process of identifying new products and new product features that should be built and launched.

Technology and Product Cadence/Coordination – Cadence refers to the rhythm with which something is developed, so technology and product cadence refers to the rate at which each is developed; some companies have a regular cadence of new product launches which drives the need to develop new technologies, while other companies focus on technology development and launch products when new technology permits.

Markets and Consumers

Market —- The total of all buyers and sellers; describes both the abstract group as well as physical or virtual locations.

Consumer —- The end-user of the product.

Market Condition —- Anything describing the state of the market into which the product is launching, including the number of similar products, the economic environment, etc.

Segment —- A sub-group of consumers in a market which share a set of particular characteristics; e.g. users age 40-45 with an income over $100k/yr.

Demographics —- Quantifiable data about a particular a particular population of people, e.g. ages, income, etc; data about people in the market.

Psychographics —- The study of people’s attitudes, interests, and opinions; see also behavioral variables.

Attitudes – Customer’s attitudes, which might be related to purchasing behavior, preference, what influences them, etc.

Ethnography – The study of people and cultures.  

Price-Sensitivity – How sensitive consumers are to pricing

Usage – Consumers can be segmented based on how much they use your product (i.e. “heavy users”).

Targeting – Companies can target the mass market (everyone), multiple segments, single or niche segments, and individuals.

Opportunities and Consumers Needs

Opportunity —- Literally an opportunity to deliver value with a product, such as gaps in the market, unmet consumer needs, and pain points. Opportunities are often characterized by how well-known and defined the solution/technology is and by how well-known and defined the market is (Ulrich);

Consumer Needs —- Usually fairly narrow term for what the consumer wants or needs, but actually a hugely broad concept ranging across the hierarchy of human needs.

Needfinding – The art of talking to consumers and discovering their needs.

Core Human Values / Maslow’s Hierarchy —- A theory that humans share core needs, each need being only possible to address when the more fundamental need beneath it has been met: Physiological, Safety, Love/Belonging, Esteem, Self-Actualization.

Innovation (Adding Value) —- Innovation is the creation and delivery of new customer value.

Problem Space —- Relating to the fundamental issue or challenge to be solved, or the value meant to be delivered; where the customer’s needs “live”; (Good book: The Lean Product Playbook; Product Talk

Solution Space —- The realm of possible solutions or products which can address the problem space; (Good book: The Lean Product Playbook; Product Talk

Product-Market Fit —- “The degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand” – Marc Andreessen; “Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market” – Andreessen. (See also Sean Ellis; Steve Blank – The Four Steps to the Epiphany)

Product Discovery —- The process of determining what to build; finding opportunities to deliver value. “The Cycles of the Discovery phase are all about talking to your users to reveal real use cases and goals and then translating those into product requirements. Elements that we use in these Cycles include user research, building user scenarios through story mapping and developing personas based user interviews.” Source

Opportunity-Solution Tree – A diagram containing the objective you are trying to accomplish along with all the possible solutions you’ve thought of for solving it; the opportunity and all possible solutions; see this article for a nice drawing.

Articulated Need – A need that a consumer can articulate, or explain.

Unarticulated Need – A need that a consumer cannot articulate or explain, but exists nonetheless.

Market Research

Market Research – Conducting research to better understand the market or a particular sub-group (segment) of the market.

Quality Function Deployment – “a method developed in Japan beginning in 1966 to help transform the voice of the customer [VOC] into engineering characteristics for a product.” – Wikipedia

Conjoint Analysis – A method of analyzing how much potential consumers value various attributes (usually features and benefits) in a product; a statistical technique used in market research; a way of determining what consumer’s really value in a product.

Survey – Formal inquiry made to a consumer or to a person with information, opinions, etc. with the objective of acquiring insight and knowledge.

House of Quality – A method for visibly comparing what consumer’s want against what a product delivers; when drawn, this diagram looks like a house; a method for determining if a product delivers on known consumer’s needs; compares customer wants versus product features.

Focus Group – Group of potential consumers used to gather feedback on something, presumably your product or a feature of your product; Not everyone is in favor of focus groups: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse,” – Henry Ford; “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them” – Steve Jobs

Contextual Enquiry – An interview method where someone is asked a few questions and then observed as they use the product in context.

Design Thinking for Product Planning

Design Thinking – “Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” – Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. (My post on design thinking) (Great book: Change by Design)

Best Books and Articles

Change By Design – Tim Brown

My Writing

Change By Design – All Posts

Change By Design – A Primer

Change By Design – Divergent and Convergent Thinking

Change By Design – Converting Needs Into Demand, Or Putting People First

Change By Design – A Design Thinker’s Process

Anthropology – The study of people; a mindset taken in Design Thinking where you observe people’s behavior with an inquisitive or beginner’s mind.

Empathy – Describes putting yourself in another’s shoes, particularly to gain a deep understanding of the consumer or user’s needs and experience.

Observation – Really watching what someone does; people will often unintentionally explain their behavior in a way that contradicts what they actually do, so surveying them can product inaccurate results.

Get Out of the Building – Exactly what it means; get out and see what’s happening with your consumers, your market, and the way consumers are interacting with products; “there are no facts inside the building, only opinions.”

Brainstorm – A focused effort to generate a large number of ideas; the word brainstorming is often used synonymously with “come up with a solution” but it’s not the same thing — brainstorming is about idea generation; quantity over quality. 

Divergent Thinking – Making choices; identifying options or possible solutions; going wide and broad with ideas; can be done through brainstorming. (See Design Thinking; Good book: Change by Design.)

Convergent Thinking – Making choices; converging on a decision from many options; narrowing in on something; the opposite of creating options or brainstorming. (see Design Thinking; Good book: Change by Design).

Storyboard – Drawing out an experience much like a cartoon — panel by panel, detailing the people, situations, and actions; used to communicate how something will happen (product purchase, product experience, a service, etc.)

Compounding Ideas – This is a process where you build ideas on top of ideas, or evolve an idea beyond a simple, basic idea; discussed in Innovation: The Five Disciplines; brainstorming is good for “first order ideas” whereas compounding ideas can develop more sophisticated, insightful ideas.

Converting Needs into Demands –

Broader Product Vision –

Product Spec

Best Books and Articles

Inspired – Marty Cagen

Developing Products in Half the Time (Chapter 5) – Reinertsen and Smith.

Defining Next-Generation Products – HBR article by Tabrizi and Walleigh

Product Spec – The product spec, or product brief, or product mission statement, or whatever you want to call it, is the preliminary document written to guide the product team on developing the product; it establishes a “box” within which the product should be designed.

Function – A description of what the product must do, or how the product must perform, within a specific dimension (e.g., towing capacity of a truck); also describes a group of people within a company that all fall within a similar discipline (e.g., the marketing function, the engineering function).

Who Writes the Product Spec – The product spec should be written by a cross-functional group, with representatives from every relevant team present. (Designing Products in Half the Time)

Must have; would like to have – Simple yet effective way of communicating whether a spec/feature/benefit is required or preferred.

Product Innovation Charter – A document that captures the “who what why when and how” of the product; clarifies the goals, objectives, guidelines, assumptions and scope of the project or product; can be a “living” document, and may or may not be the same document as the product spec.

Synthesize – The process of combining a number of different ideas into a larger more complex insight; critical for defining products because of the large number of relevant considerations; “considering everything I know about price, competitors, strategy, etc…this is the product spec.”

What not How – Good product specs should detail WHAT the product should do (which requires a focus on benefits), not HOW to do it; it is the job of the product design/engineering group, not the marketing team, to answer the HOW.

Differentiation – What makes your product different than competitors or alternatives.

Elevator Pitch – A very short summary detailing your product offering and its value proposition.

Core Benefit Proposition (CBP) – Basically the value proposition, the CBP states the benefits to the consumer; should be a clear and brief statement, highlighting unique and differentiating qualities.

Unlike Our Competitors – A useful way to begin a sentence describing the product, since it forces you to clarify the brand’s or product’s differentiating properties.

What It Will Not Do – Itemizing what a product will not do provides more clarity than just listing what it should do; a way to add clarity to product specs.

Implicit Requirement – Not so much something spec’d, but rather something the consumer expects in a product without having to articulate or explicitly ask for it; a product characteristic that goes without saying.

Benefits, Not Features – A focus on specing for outcomes and benefits, not features.

Metrics – metrics are things which are measured; if there are quantifiable specs for the product that must be measured and met, list them.

Product Goals – Objectives, be it objective performance (fuel economy) or subjective (taste better); good product specs provide clear product goals.

Product Mission – A lot like the Product Innovation Charter; basically a document capturing the desired outcomes and goals of the product; illustrates what success looks like.

Cost Model – estimates of what the product can cost; a full-blown “model” means there is some algorithm set up and you can plug in values for various parameters and the model computes final cost; essentially you just need the “right” amount of cost guidance in a product spec – don’t over-do-it or under-do-it.

Business Case – The justification for undertaking a project or product, typically made using financial analysis (expected cost, benefit, profit, etc.).

Fuzzy Front End – The phase of a project when it’s just beginning but has yet to be clearly defined; a time in which progress is often difficult and time is often wasted.

Perceptual Maps – A graphic that displays information about the product; for example, a 2-D plot with “Easy to use” on one axis and “Powerful” on the other, and products plotted in comparison to each other; products can be compared visually against various dimensions…typically consumer needs.

User Persona – Product Developers often create a user persona, which describes the behaviors and goals of the target user; sometimes this becomes an actual fictional person (e.g. Jill the soccer mom, Joe the plumber, Hudson the 6 yr old boy who lives in Brooklyn)

Customer Journey Map / Experience Map – A visual depiction of the steps that your consumer goes through engaging with your company, or more specifically, engaging with your product or service; a diagram of the sum of experiences the customer has with your product.


Industrial Design – Industrial Design is a discipline focusing on product aesthetics, ergonomics, and user experience.

Aesthetics – Everything having to do with the look of a product.

Ergonomics – Also called Human Factors, describes the interaction between products and their users; often involves one or more of: biomechanics, psychology, design, engineering, physiology; the study of products being designed for humans (physical, emotional, cognitive users).

User Experience – I use this term as a super broad catch-all for everything else. Ultimately, it describes how well the product delivers value to the user or consumer. Some people might use the term “utility design” or “functional design” to describe this.

Design for X – X is a variable that can stand for “manufacturing” or “cost” or “quality” or “reliability”

Differentiation – What makes your product different than competitors or alternatives.

Intuitive – Describes the positive quality of a design that makes sense, is easy to use, and fulfills expectations.

Shelf Appeal – The aesthetic appeal of a product as it sits on the shelf; in the digital world this simply captures everything about the aesthetic first impression of a product.

Zero Point of Contact – When your first impression or contact with a product or brand is through third-party entities such as yelp; the “first impression” of the product you get without actually seeing the product yet.

Responsive Design – Design which responds well the user’s environment (e.g. an app that functions well on various software and hardware systems).

Usability – How easy it is to use your product

User-centric Design – Design focused on the user, contrast this with design focused on lowering cost, improving manufacturability, design to attract attention or stand-out on the shelf.


Concept – A potential product or solution; a more fully-formed idea for a product.

Prototype – An initial or early construction of the product concept, typically less formed than a “final” product; a mock-up, rough draft, meant to be iterated upon.

A prototype is “a product that is designed and built to test a new design. The prototype is used to correct mistakes and make [the design] more user friendly” ( It is a “fully functional working model of a final product” (

Functional Prototype – A prototype that captures both the function and visual appearance of the intended design, though often at a different scale or lacking in some sophistication.

Working Prototype or High-Fidelity Prototype – A nearly complete product; a prototype that’s mostly functional and visually correct; very close to a final product and often used in alpha or beta testing.

Visual Prototype – A prototype that is used to test aesthetics or visuals more than function.

Proof-of-Principle, or Proof-of-Concept – A prototype that’s designed to validate a few key features, or a specific principle or concept, but not the entire product.

Build-Measure-Learn, or Design-Build-Test Loop or Iterating– The iterative process whereby prototypes or products are built, tested, and the product development team learns about the product and consumer; some might say this is the fundamental building block of product refinement. (See Revolutionizing Product Development as the O.G. source of this concept; also The Lean Startup discusses this at length.)

Iteration Cycle – Completing all steps of build, measure and learn.

Minimum Viable Product – The MVP is as basic a prototype as is possible to facilitate a build-test-learn cycle; the bare-bones prototype required to test something; Often cited as a milestone stage in product development when learning begins. See The Lean Startup and The Lean Product Playbook for all things MVP.

Iteration Velocity – The speed with which you go from one iteration cycle to the next – iteration cycles being versions of your product which are built-tested-learned about. (See The Personal MBA and The Lean Startup.)

Rapid Prototyping – Any prototype built with speed, via either a faster manufacturing method, a limited design (building only a partial version of the prototype), or some other method to go faster.

Failure; Fail Early, Fail Often; Fail your way to success – Silicon Valley slogan for rapid learning; failure is a symptom of learning and progress, and the sooner you fail, the better, for later failures can be much more costly from a resource-invested standpoint. “My goal is not to fail fast. My goal is to succeed over the long run. They are not the same thing.” – Marc Andreessen

Wireframe – A bare-bones mock up of a digital product that’s used mainly to visually depict where things go; a wireframe doesn’t typically have functionality; a clickable wireframe might be called a “functional wireframe.”

Refining the Product

Refine – To improve a product as measured by its product-market fit or consumer value delivered; descriptive of improvement on the same fundamental concept as opposed to pivoting or concept exploration.

Alpha Testing – Pre-launch testing of a product that is focused on debugging and preparing the product to be functional enough for a beta test; an alpha test is often “friends and family” and is focused on improving product quality more than anything else (contrast with beta testing, which is more about validating user experience, value delivery, and launch readiness).

Beta Testing – Pre-launch testing of a product with a group of people meant to represent typical users, done in order to confirm and validate a product being ready for launch; much more of a “real world” type test as compared to alpha testing; might also be called “field test” or “customer validation test” or “customer acceptance test.”

Batch Size – The number of anything (parts in a factory or tasks in a project) which get completed in a single “batch” or operation; a critical concept in lean manufacturing and product development; boarding a plane by groups is a “batching” process and the number of people in the group would be the batch size. (See Product Development Flow)

Feature Creep – The tendency to add more and more features to a product as time goes by; more features seem to add more value, but feature creep refers to the generally negative effect on the consumer that comes with overloading a product with too many features.

Attribute Testing – Running tests so as to determine which features are valued by consumers; usually involves using a prototype and surveying.

Simulated Test Market – A market research method that stages the purchase situation – exposing potential consumers to the product and advertising; used to refine the product, but also to gain insight that might improve sales forecasting.

Critical Path – The path of actions that absolutely must be done to finish a project; a scheduling term; if something is on the critical path, it means that any delay in that task will delay the launch (or whatever the final step is).

Simulated Test Market – This is when a potential customer is exposed to a “simulated market” which is a scenario that is meant to represent the actual market conditions, so as to learn about the customer’s behavior, opinions, etc.


Launch Management System – Exactly what it sounds like, a system for detecting and anticipating deviations from a launch plan (distribution under or over target, competitor reactions, market changes, etc.) and the subsequent action plan that’s implemented; key element is tracking metrics (sales channels, distribution, sell-through, etc.). See New Product Management.

Channel – The “places or things” through which the product passes in order to eventually reach the consumer; a product might be sold through a large retailer, a small retailer, maybe through a distributor, maybe director through a website; all those different methods of getting the product to the consumer are difference channels.

Distribution – The method and/or locations used to get you product to consumers; how and where you product shows up for sale in the market; for example, the network of retailers where you product is sold.

A.T.A.R. – Awareness, Trial, Availability, Repeat. This is a framework for estimated market adoption of a product; uses marketing assumptions to approximate the percent of the target market which will become aware of the product, trial it, find it available, and become an ongoing customer; helpful for predicting sales volume in multiple years after launch. See New Products Management.

Awareness – A consumer being aware that you product even exists; can be used to measure percent of a market or segment aware of your brand or product; can be measured with no prompt (unaided), or aided.

Test Market – A product is sometimes launched in a limited distribution, or test market, in order to learn valuable lessons before the full-scale market launch occurs.

A & P – Advertising and promotion. Pretty self-explanatory.

Metrics – Anything that gets measured, such as revenue, customers, distribution, etc.

AARRR – A “startup” metrics model made by Dave McClure: Acquisition, Activation, Retention, Revenue, and Referral. These are theoretically all the behaviors you are looking for in your customers. Link.

Innovation Accounting – Discussed in the Lean Startup, this is a method of measuring and communicating progress in delivering value to your customer; it’s something like measuring customer acquisition and retention, iterating on some features of your product, and evaluating the effect of that improvement on those customer metrics; a metrics-based method of measuring and reporting innovation in your product; Makes a lot of reference to Pirate Metrics.

Product Line Replacement

Time to Market – Generally measured as time from when the project gets resources (funding or greenlight) to launch date.

Distribution – All of the locations (physical or digital) where your product can be purchased.

Analytics – Obviously a very broad term, but vis a vis launching product, analytics are used to analyze data about launch metrics (distribution, adoption) and create intelligence or insight from the data.

Early Market

Technology Adoption Curve – The adoption curve describes the population of consumers and their willingness to adopt new technologies; the curve itself is a bell curve with a small group of innovators and early adopters at the “front” (these people are willing to buy almost anything new) – then moving into the middle of the market, most people fall into the Early Majority or Late Majority, and then finally there is a smaller group of Laggards at the final back end of the bell curve. See Geoffrey Moore.

Customer Acquisition – This is the sprawling world of identifying potential customers and doing all activities to “capture” or acquire them as actual customers; includes identifying “leads” and the various stages of acquisition, from identification to nurturing to capture.

Adoption Personas – Consumers are categorized as being more or less inclined to adopt/buy new products along a spectrum ranging from innovator/techies to Laggards/skeptics. It goes 1. Innovators 2. Early Adopters 3. Early Majority 4. Late Majority and 5. Laggards. (Moore, Crossing the Chasm)

Cannibalization – When one product replaces demand for another among the same customers, that product is said to cannibalize sales from the original product.

Mid-to-Late Market

Crossing the Chasm – The early two regions of the adoption model are innovators and early-adopters; after that it’s the early majority; the “chasm” describes the wide gap (the great challenge) in getting your product adopted by the early majority after it’s adopted by innovators; coined by Geoffrey Moore.


End of Life – The end of a product’s lifecycle is “end of life,” and this term is used to describe all the plans and activities necessary to execute end of life properly.

Planned Obsolescence – Intentionally designing a product to have an artificially limited life, or to become obsolete sooner than it otherwise would, typically with the aim of inducing more sales as people replace it; one example would be when a software company stops supporting a previous generation of software, forcing consumers to upgrade.

Exit Strategy

Product Discontinuation

Product Rejuvination

Triple Bottom Line – A term that measures three key impacts of a business or product: economics, social, and environmental. To think about the triple bottom line means to consider impact on all three dimensions.

Cradle to Grave – From conception to product end of life.

Additional Concepts


Innovation – delivering new customer value to the market; not just “new” or “different.”

“Technically speaking, innovation is the process of creating a product or service solution that delivers significant new customer value. The process begins with the selection of the customer and market, includes the identification and prioritization of opportunities, and ends with the creation of an innovative product concept that delivers the new and significant value. In more practical terms, innovation is simply the process of figuring out “what customers want.” Anthony Ulwick, What Customers Want

Disruptive Innovation – a disruption (new technology or production) that creates a new market, or significantly changes the behavior of current consumers in a market.

Marketing Innovation – when a product or company creates a new market that previously did not exist; when a group of people have a problem and no existing solution or product is solving it; creating a group of consumers of a product that previously did not consume a product.

Operational Innovation – an improvement to an operational activity; a new operational activity or improvement to an existing activity.

Continuous Innovation

Imitation Innovation – an approach to product development where competitors are imitated in a systematic, deliberate manner; a component of project portfolio management where copying competitors is done strategically.

Innovator’s Dilemma – describes the recurring phenomenon where an older/existing business struggles to innovate as effectively as newer companies who are not as burdened by the need for high margins.

Incremental or Sustaining Innovation – Modest changes or enhancements to existing products like a new product feature; Additional customer value added to a product or service that doesn’t create a new market or value network in a disruptive sense, but rather just further extends or adds value in existing markets to existing customer types.

Value Network –

Architectural Innovation

Lean Development

Flow – Describes a part moving through a process without causing delays for subsequent parts; when a part moves through a factory efficiently, neither waiting for future processes nor causing delays for parts behind it; can also be applied to projects and knowledge where there are few delays or backups as a project is completed.

Economics – Relevant in lean development because queues and inventory are costly from an economic standpoint; the purpose of lean is to drive out waste and improve efficiencies for the purpose of improving economics; you do not just improve efficiency because it’s inherently good – you do it for profit.




Batch size

The Goal











WIP constraints

Queueing theory


Teams and Organization

Product Team

Weak Matrix


Strong Matrix

Influence Without Authority



Five Dysfunctions of a Team


Command and Control

Tiger Team


Adjacent Possible – The adjacent possible is a term describing what is possible to invent considering the current state-of-the-art; imagine being in a room with 4 doors – those doors lead to the adjacent possible rooms…rooms farther away are not adjacent.

Cross-pollination – This is when you mix ideas, insights, learning, or information from one thing to another; typically from one team to another (engineers to marketers), or from one industry to another.

Cultivating Hunches – Steven Johnson says ideas don’t strike like lightning, they usually fade into view; cultivate your hunches by writing about them, sharing them, and otherwise keeping them “fed” until they grow into more fully formed ideas.

Exaptation – When a feature is developed or created for one purpose but then readapted to another; one theory is that birds developed feathers for warmth but then exapted them to flight.

Improvising – Some Design Thinking books recommend literally acting out scenarios (point of purchase, services, experiences interacting with products) to better visualize and ideate how to better serve customers; improvising can uncover new innovations by literally putting people in the experience of your product or service.

Serendipity – Serendipity is when something good happens by chance; organizing for serendipity has a lot to do with encouraging conversations in hallways and around water-coolers, giving your mind a break so that something can spark (this is why good ideas come to us in the shower), and having your ideas organized somewhere where you can search through them from time to time and find connections between them.


My Writing on Management

The Knowing-Doing Gap – All Posts
The Knowing-Doing Gap – Summary and Top Take-aways
The Knowing-Doing Gap – Introduction to the book
The Knowing-Doing Gap – Behavior Drives Attitude, not Vice Versa
The Knowing-Doing Gap – Substituting Talk for Action
The Knowing-Doing Gap – Temporary and Wrong
The Knowing-Doing Gap – Plans Are Not Actions
The Knowing-Doing Gap – It Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
The Progress Principle – All Posts and Notes
The Progress Principle – Summary and Top Take-aways
High Output Management – All Posts and Notes
High Output Management – Summary and Key Take-Aways

Coaching, Evaluation, Appreciation – Three distinctly different forms of feedback; they are not the same, and it can be overwhelming to give all of them at once; see more on this in “Thanks for the Feedback!”

Motivate or Train – The concept that improving an employee’s performance typically requires training, motivation, or both; assuming that most management efforts fall into one of these categories is an over-simplification, but this can still be a helpful generalization.
Management versus Leadership

Feedback –

OKRs – Objectives and Key Results

SMART Goals –

The Monkey on the Back – This is from an HBR article and it’s a clever/stupid/memorable way of thinking about who has the burden of action in a manager-employee relationship – often when employees ask for help, managers take the monkey off the employee’s back and assume it for themselves, which is not necessarily intentional or useful; the article advocates coaching and ensuring the monkey isn’t moved without being done so intentionally.

Good Managers Write –


Dale Carnegie

Daniel Pink

Steve Jobs

Ben Horowitz

Donald Reinertsen

Clayton Christensen

David Kelley

Tim Brown

Marty Cagan

Seth Godin

Steven Johnson

Robert Cooper

Steve Haines

Simon Sinek

Steve Blank

Geoffrey Moore

Bob Sutton

Ken Norton


Preston Smith

Paul Graham

Tony Ulwick


Marketing Myopia


Milkshake Marketing


More to come…work in progress…