Product Management terms – misused and abused

Adrienne Tan

What are your pet peeves when it comes to Product Management terms?

We asked a panel of Product leaders to play buzzword bingo with the Brainmates team. These are the words they nominated as misused and abused.

Read on and have a laugh, or a cry. And don’t forget to read the “Last Word” on Product Management terms at the bottom of this blog.

Minimum Viable Product

“I think it is a not so much misunderstood, but abused term that gets used for any shonky thing we can afford to get out of the door because they’ve run out of time, money and budget, or just patience. Ship anything, call it MVP and away we go,” said Nick Coster, Founder and Head of Training, Brainmates.

Phase Two

“I feel like it’s just the carrot you give to a stakeholder when you go, we’re not going to do it, but we’ll do it in phase two and you never get it,” according to Mark Robinson, Director of Product at Yahoo7.


“I hate the word timings. ‘What are the timings on this?’ because you always get that all the time. And if you’re not an engineer it’s very hard because you are kind of estimating when it’s going to ship and when’s it going to launch. ‘Can you get us timings?’ and making sure that you protect the team, but also achieve the business goals, while mostly giving the customer what they want. It’s very complicated…,” according to Nada Tielu, Senior Product Manager, The Iconic.


“My hated word is canvas. Canvas. I know I’ve been party to that, but seriously? How much thinking can you do on a canvas? I really miss the fact that people write. Because what I find is that writing is a piece of reflection that helps you consider all the discussion and the thinking and the analysis that you do,” said Adrienne Tan, Founder and Principal Consultant, Brainmates.


“The top one it would probably be disrupt. You know how disrupt went from being a word that was bad to a word that was kind of axiomatically good,” suggested Jason Prowd, Product, at Morningstar.


“I’m tired of being delighted. I just want things to work. Don’t delight me, just make them work,” suggested Paz Saavedra, Group Product Manager, Scentre Group.

Talking Product Management Terms

Scrum & Agile

“What I dislike very much is when people cling to the method [Scrum] rather than the human collaboration,” said Agnes Schliebitz-Ponthus, Director Product Management, Fluent Retail.

“And kind of sterilise the process, in a way, and everybody gets disengaged. So Scrum is not the bad word, I guess it is a lot of the other words, a part of scrum, like backlog grooming. Everybody hates backlog grooming,” she added.

“I’m a very proud agilist, but I would put agile in there,” agreed Richard Linstead, Lead Entrepreneur in Residence, Westpac Group.

“The philosophies are the bit no one is getting to, because everyone just grasps onto the artefacts, because it is so easy to find processes to use language. What do I need to do to do it? I will stand at a wall, I am Agile. I will put post it notes, I am Agile. You are the product owner, you are Agile. Right? Now what are you product owning? What are we doing? What is the philosophy? How are you breaking your work down? No idea,” he said.

“The problem is, you have an Agile organisation that isn’t Agile. Now you are almost worse off because you were playing with methodology that is the wrong methodology for what you are trying to do,” according to Richard.


“I hate that word,” said Nada Tielu.

“Me too,” admitted Adrienne Tan.

“I think it is because it’s taken on as the same form as big data, where you can just throw it around and there are lots of different interpretations of innovation,” Nada added.

“I think the reason we loathe that word is because innovation is so inherent in everything we believe,” said Richard Linstead.

Last Word

Of course buzzword bingo is fun, but there is a deeper purpose.

“It’s not the words, it is their misuse, right?” challenged Richard Linstead.

“I would agree with exactly what you were saying, it is not the words, it is the baggage that comes with the words,” said Jason Prowd.

“It is how people hold onto them really dogmatically and that doesn’t allow actual real things. Like real things can’t… fit really simple definitions,” Jason added.

It’s up to Product Managers to use terminology well. To help our organisations build a more nuanced view of what we’re doing any why.

The buzzwords are here to stay, and it’s our job to make them more meaningful and useful.

Talking Product Management Terms

Thanks to the panelists:
Richard Linstead, Lead Entrepreneur in Residence, Westpac Group
Paz Saavedra, Group Product Manager, Scentre Group
Mark Robinson, Director of Product at Yahoo7
Agnes Schliebitz-Ponthus, Director Product Management, Fluent Retail
Jason Prowd, Product, Morningstar
Nada Tielu, Senior Product Manager, The Iconic
Adrienne Tan, Founder and Principal Consultant, Brainmates
Nick Coster, Founder and Head of Training, Brainmates
Sarah Mitchell, Product Manager Leading the Product, Brainmates
The moderator was: Jen Marshall, CEO, Brainmates

Read more content from this session:
The Future of Product Management in Australia
Stop failing fast, start experimenting fast

Adrienne Tan

Adrienne Tan | Author

Adrienne is Co-Founder and CEO of Brainmates and Co-Founder of Leading the Product. She has been championing Product Management since 2000, earning international recognition for raising the profile of the Product Management profession. In this capacity she regularly consults to the Asia-Pacific's top businesses and speaks at business and Product events around the world.

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