We're in the product creation business and didn't even know it

How To Work Now

We've been solving problems since the days we were born and implementing projects since our first days on the job. Pretty straightforward.

But building products?

The idea of a product is newer for most of us—though not something that is unfamiliar: imagine any store, imagine any shelf in that store, and then imagine a thing you take from that shelf to purchase. Voilà! A product.

Somewhat recently, the common understanding of "product" has expanded thanks to the digital tools we use everyday. The iPhone email app? Product. Your Outlook calendar? Product. EHR? Product. They're all products, if not to you, then certainly to the teams at Apple, Microsoft, and Epic supporting and improving (and securing) them.

So my assertion is this: we're in the product creation business (and didn't even know it).

Do you have responsibility for a standing meeting on the calendar? You "own" a product.

Have you organized an afternoon team development session? Or a strategy retreat? Products.

Do you have a prescribed way of completing a task (or series of tasks) that you'd like everyone to follow? I believe creating and supporting "How We Do Things Around Here" is a product job, too.

Is your role in HR, IT, project management office, finance, risk, legal, etc. providing internal support to operations teams? Then you're likely creating—and definitely supporting (hopefully not coercing)—products.

"Product responsibilities" come with any and every knowledge job. And so I think there are (at least) two very important considerations to think about when it comes to creating new products:

  • What is the "burden factor" of this product on individuals? Unlike products in the world-outside-of-work, many employees are required to use products (whether they're useful or not) and that creates burden. For example, your organization's annual review process has certain responsibilities (née requirements) of every manager. Are you getting the value out of the process to justify its responsibilities? It's worth a think!
  • What's the ongoing support model going to be for this product? If you're lucky, a product is finished after it's used (ha! single-use management products!). But often the support model extends long into the future ... and while some of that work can be offloaded to intranets or whatever, a lot of it comes back to teams or individuals who would like to have moved on to the next thing. Most products require support: new employees are introduced to the product regularly, "bugs" are found, and exceptions to the standard are not as exceptional as one might hope. It's taxing to the creator, and left unsupported—frustrating to the user.

All that to say, a framework I've been using lately is the 3Ps: problem, project, or product. It's helping to determine and think through workload. A problem = solvable in the short term. Project = coordinated effort with an end/go-live date. Product = powerful and impactful possibilities (both negative and positive) with (if all goes well) no end date.

These are not clear boundaries, especially when time gets added to the equation, but they are good starting points when formulating how to do the work.

Future topics to explore in relation to 3Ps:

  • Is problem, project, and product a comprehensive understanding of the work? Probably not. So what else is there?
  • Entropy and product

Through The Work is a talent development studio for healthcare leadership embracing The Transforming—the always-happening, always-unfolding state of change in your job ... and using it to make more of the change you know should be happening, happen.

The Transforming is the most important professional opportunity of our careers—one that will lead to new job opportunities, real change, and a transformed industry for all of us and everyone else.

My name is Drew Weilage and I work in healthcare, too. At Through The Work, I assist people like you with the skills, attitudes, and points-of-view to propel your professional success. It's personal training for a transforming world of work.

Oh, and pep talks! Get a pep talk when you need one: big day, bad day, or any day at all. Text me at 646-450-2465 or send me a note.

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