Notes from the four Silicon Valley Product Group Books

Over the last three months I read all four of the currently published SVPG books They cover a large range of topics in what they call ‘the product operating model’. This model spans high level product strategy, day to day product discovery and fields like product marketing. I recently collated notes across all four books and felt it might be handy for others to get a high level overview of what I found useful.

Broadly speaking these notes align with the books they came from. Given I read them all in fairly quick succession they may be somewhat blurred. If you’re a product manager, product marketer, founder or executive there’s likely something useful in these books. I wouldn’t necessarily say you need to read all four in such a short timespan. If you’re looking for just one to read, I would say Inspired is your best bet.


Inspired covers a broad range of topics and is likely the best overall picture of the SVPG philosophy. The book doesn’t go into low level detail on any of the topics covered but most of the ideas are easy to research independently and well covered elsewhere.

  • The biggest structural takeaway was the idea of a product vision, product strategy and product principles. Vision is the ten year customer facing goal, strategy is how you pick the parts that get there, principles are a list of pre-set trade offs you’re willing to make.
  • The book stresses the importance of focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. Using OKRs as a framework it suggests that a product team should not focus on feature count, tickets or similar metrics but instead tie their output to a top level business goal.
  • Key results in the OKR framework should be a measure of problems solved. This avoids the risk of shipping something nobody wants. Pair each outcome key result with one or two quality control key results, this stops gamification of metrics.
  • There is a strong emphasis on spending lots of time with customers. This should be direct time and not via a proxy in sales or customer success.
  • The team should aim to develop a set of reference customers which show ideal use of the product and are willing to share those outcomes with others in similar industries.
  • If you are a so-called feature team there is a real risk of shipping lots of things that don’t matter to anyone. 
  • If your team ships a lot but product market fit is still out of reach it may be a sign that a more product forward approach could work.


Empowered focuses on how to build product teams and product organisations that can act with real autonomy. The book argues that without that autonomy, or empowerment, the product team has a limited chance of success.

  • The book outlines the importance of crafting narratives. Any product undertaking needs buy in from many parties and there it’s important to develop the skills needed to convince others.
  • Within those narratives, try and preempt the most common questions. Having an FAQ within written documents shows the reader you’ve thought deeply about the problem and spent time looking at alternatives.
  • The role of managers within a product organisation is to coach and provide context. This helps scale everyone in the team more than doing ten times the work yourself.
  • On the topic of hiring, the book notes the best indicator of good people is acting like an owner.
    • As a side note I think this needs to come with its own FAQs around compensation and expectations but in general I’d agree.
  • The six key types of context for product teams are: company mission, company metrics, company objectives, product vision, product strategy and product principles
  • Company level context is from the perspective of the company and focuses on the staff and outcomes of the company. Product level context is from the perspective of the customer and focuses on customers and their outcomes.
  • Don’t make the life of your team harder because you see their success as a threat to your own.


Loved covers product marketing. This is all marketing related to the product and its features and is differentiated from brand or company marketing. Of the four books I found this one the most abstract which meant I had limited notes. There were some good ideas in the book but these are likely covered if you have general experience in modern digital marketing or customer success.

  • The book aims to turn customers into true fans of your product. Enough that they become advocates.
  • You can find users that may be potential advocates by studying usage metrics. Those metrics should provide signals that can then lead to conversation. You won’t find answers just in the metrics.
  • Similarly, you can find potential areas for new product development by identifying areas of your product with a small number of extremely engaged users.
  • The book differentiates the responsibilities of product management and product marketing as: product managers determine what to build for customers, product marketing determines how to take those features to market.
  • Similarly the book splits the idea of monetisation and pricing. Monetisation is how and when a feature is paid for, pricing is how much that users pays. Nominally pricing can sit in another department (like sales or under a chief revenue officer) while monetisation can live within product or product marketing.


Transformation is all about moving from a more traditional product model to the one recommended by SVPG. These more traditional companies tend to work on a backlog of sales derived features without much in the way of customer and product team communication. I would say that most startups I have founded or worked in are much closer to the ideal state than the described starting point but I have experienced what they describe at larger organisations.

  • The highlight of the book was the various chapters on likely hesitations from different departments. The book is almost worth reading for that alone.
  • The idea of context being the driving source of management was reinforced. People should be doing their own product discovery and their own customer communication, to guide this they need to know what the end goal is.
  • The book outlines how to get buy-in from different stakeholders when attempting to shift to a more product forward way of working, these in combination with the objections were handy.
  • Despite the described state being less common in startups, there were pieces that felt familiar. It is nice to know that many of these things are common.

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