Why Product Mindset is needed for Project-based environment?

I’ve had a recent conversation with a Director of a logistics company whose product base is quite large and involves many trending technologies (IoT/Robots, Big Data, etc) but they opted to use projects to drive their day-to-day operations. There is actually nothing wrong with a project. It’s a great approach to realize a set of activities over an agreed period of time to achieve a particular purpose. However, I rather focus on building a real product that is to solve an existing problem. During quite a while working in product management, I figured out that it doesn’t matter which environment or business model that you are working on but your mindset does.

So what is Product Mindset anyway?

I won’t go deeply in the concept of it but rather than that, I’d tell you the difference or benefits that you can feel when thinking about this mindset (in comparison with project or service based ones):

  1. Purpose and passion: if you ONLY go to work for paycheck at end of the month, stop reading here. Let’s start with some fact. Recently the advisory firm Korn Ferryreleased the results of an executive survey that asked questions specific to both personal and organizational purpose. One of key findings is there is 73% believe their work has purpose and meaning for the question “What is your personal principal driver at work?”. And when it comes to difference of people having non-product vs. product mindset, it profoundly means mercenaries vs. missionaries. There are people who are there to build whatever and there are also people who joined the organization because they care about the mission and helping customers solve real problems.
  2. Requirement and process: In non-product environment, particularly outsourcing one, the requirement is the top important material since owner creates billing based on it. And most of time, requirement and process is tied together. You usually find very slow, heavy, Waterfall processes, even when the engineers consider themselves Agile. But with a mindset product, engineer doesn’t care much about the requirement, esp. there is a big change when drilling down to details which had not been analyzed that far at beginning. With a solution-oriented ethic, he would always find a way out and the process if any existing, would only facilitate him most towards a resolution.
  3. Innovation: In fast-changing and technology evolution as nowadays, if any company ignores this significant element and doesn’t care how to nurture a continuous innovation culture, it will be put behind sooner or later. A product mindset lets engineer think deeper rather than the surface (requirement) and along the way, he always finds invisible obstacles and clear the iceberg before it is discovered by end-users. Equipped with that mindset, it serves as a tool to improve whatever can be better for product launch which includes code quality and process flaws.
  4. Ownership and Teamwork: an outsourcing team normally pushes themselves to the edge when the deadline is coming. In the opposite side, a product team takes the ownership of what they are doing. That can explain why they work hard and focused daily and especially an unexpected issue rises or a better idea how to improve dramatically performance of the application. Simon Sinek, an inspiring speaker, in his book ‘Leaders Eat Last’, concluded that subtly “Bad teams work in the same place. Good teams work together”.

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter which environment that you are working on but that is the mindset inside you that makes you standing out from the rest and having a passionate career forward. For me, product mindset is worth to learn and apply at even any non-product work.