Shipping Greatness Book Review

Here’s a book review for the MMS Book Club. A copy of this book is in the Milwaukee Makerspace’s library.

Chris Vander Mey was a Google product manager and an Amazon engineering manager. Shipping Greatness is a handbook on how to that job. It may have different titles, the book lists a bunch, but Mey is describing a specific job in a specific type of organization. The job is project manager. The project is a new website or website feature. The organization is a large enough company to have multiple teams working on different projects of this type. The team will report to management higher up the corporate ladder.

The book assumes the product team, as part of a larger organization, has plenty of available resources. For example teams will have multiple design contributors, user experience, user interface, visual designers, etc. Mey doesn’t assume these will all be distinct individuals, nor that these will be dedicated to the team for the duration of product development. Yet he does assume the team will have access to such contributors. Having a full time project manager on a team presupposes a sizeable team.

The products Mey shipped were mostly websites or website features. Mey gives specific advice on how to project manage the production of this specific product type. Mey fails to generalize his lessons, so that the reader can easily apply his advice to other situations. It’s an exercise for the reader to figure out how to apply this advice to contract programming projects or native mobile apps.

Unfortunately I do not have that job. I work on a much smaller team, where we don’t have a product manager per se. Most members of the team share the responsibilities and contributions Mey describes. Mey’s book is laser focused on the project manager’s contribution to shipping product, so it doesn’t translate to my team. I’m able to apply very little from this book to my situation.

If you have this job, or want this job, read this book. If you work on a team like this and want to understand your project manager, read this book. Those of us working in a different team structure can skip this book.