Blog Editor’s Note: Luke Hohmann published many great posts for We plan to re-publish his original posts (with only minor edits) over the next several months. We may add new commentary to update the content and generate new discussion.

Originally published June 3rd 2009

Product Managers, Agile or otherwise, are asked to create a fair number of documents. Even when we’ve replaced our “Big” MRDs with Vision Statements, Roadmaps, and Backlogs, most of us are still expected to clearly document:

  • Who we’re serving (e.g., target markets, market segments)

  • Why they care (e.g., benefits of products often expressed in ROI)

  • Why we care (e.g., market size, total available market, total addressable market, growth and share)

  • How we’ll reach them (e.g., sales channels, partner structures)

  • Our sustainable competitive advantage

  • The competitive landscape

  • Personas

  • and… ???

My point is that even the most minimalistic approach to Product Management has a Product Manager creating a fairly large number of documents. Which doesn’t concern me, because these are quite sensible documents to create.

What does concern me is that I’m seeing an increasing number of product managers who are avoiding creating these basic artifacts. The conversation goes something like this:

Luke: “Francesca, can you show me your personas?”
Francesca: “Oh yeah — personas. They’re really great. I like the Cooper format, but I also think the format I learned from Pragmatic Marketing is really neat”.
Luke: “Yes, both formats are quite useful. I’ll be OK with either. Can you show me your personas?”
Francesca: “Well, you see, that’s the thing. We don’t have personas. You see, we really didn’t have all the time we wanted to create the persona format that we thought would be great. And since we couldn’t create a really great persona we decided just to skip it.”

Push the big red button labeled “STOP.”

Just because you can’t create a “really great” anything does not mean you should skip it.

Yes, I know. Writing a really great persona is hard. But a really great persona is merely better than a good persona. And a good persona (which looks “bad” in comparison to a _really great_ persona) is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than a bad persona. Logically:

“bad” Product Management deliverable >> NO deliverable

“really great” Product Management deliverable > “good” Product Management deliverable

To help get you started, I hereby proclaim that creating “bad” deliverables is OK.


  • It is OK to have a persona without just the right picture.

  • It is OK to define your Total Addressable Market as a “reasonable guess” Low-to High estimate of your Total Available Market.

  • It is OK to have a roadmap that only projects 12 months into the future.

  • It is OK to define your initial market segment as the “customers who bought from us.”

  • It is MORE than OK to define your ROI in less than 12 lines of Excel.

  • It is OK to focus more on your customers than your competitors.

What else do you need permission to create badly? Send us a note.

Previous Reader Comments

Looks like a sure cure for paralyzing perfectionism and analysis paralysis.

Reminds me of a great Development Director I worked with early in my career who said “It’s better to start doing the right thing than wait until you can do it right.”

June 4, 2009 | Brian (