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What it really means to Bring the Donuts

It was my second day on the job and I didn’t even have my badge yet, but long before lunch I was noodling through a complex experiment result with a two other product managers at Yammer.

They were wrapping up a project and trying to make sense of some confusing metrics with the help of a fantastic, through frazzled analyst.

She was working on a lot of projects right then.

They all needed her attention.

Queries take time.

By the end of the meeting, the PMs had narrowed in on two final queries they needed and asked Jen if she could get those in time for the follow up tomorrow.

“Maybe,” said Jen, “Maybe because I’m a really nice person, I’ll do this.”

“I’ll bring you chocolates!” replied Greg.

“Nope. No chocolate. You’ll bring me Sour Patch Kids.”

The whole exchange was said as a joke and we all laughed and chatted about the various delicious factors of sour patch kids. Meanwhile Greg surreptitiously typed away at his laptop.

Some 24 hours later we met again to look at the numbers. Jen was armed with her new queries, Kate was ready to make a call, and Greg…

…. Greg was carrying a suspiciously large box from Amazon. A bulk order of Sour Patch Kids!

Metics reviews: first they’re sour… then they’re sweet!

Jen certainly wasn’t expecting that Greg would actually buy her candy for all her help, but he saw an opportunity to bring a little joy and fun into what had become a drudge-fest. It was a small gesture that cost a few dollars, but the point is that he did it. No muss, no fuss. Just kindness.

I’ve been a big fan of Ken Norton’s writings on product management for a while now, but something about the sour patch moment really drove home his concept of Bringing the Donuts:

It’s about having a servant’s heart and watching for ways to bring joy to your coworkers.

Product lead, Automation @ Asana. Ex-Coinbase, ex-Yammer. Here’s a table of contents:

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