Product Thinking VS Project Thinking - What Is The Difference?
We often struggle with what approach to take when tackling a large task. We forget to “think” and “plan” accordingly. However, if we know “what kind of thinking” we require, our task seemingly becomes easy.
Therefore, I have written down this article to help you differentiate between two types of thinking required when you are managing tasks: Project thinking and product thinking. You might think that these two are the same, but I argue, they are not! There is a subtle difference between the two.
So, let’s get started!
How to do Project Thinking?
When you are assigned the role of a project manager, your basic task is to manage the entire project and the team. You aim to achieve the final result. You do so by well thought out planning of your tasks, finances involved, deliverable's, deadlines, etc. In short, at that moment you are the leader and it is upon you to decide in which direction you want to direct your project.
If I say that you are using a project thinking approach, it will not be wrong. Now, the question is: what is different about it as compared to other thought processes? Well, as I mentioned earlier, project thinking is all about delivering the entire project on time regardless of the consequences. How do you make sure of that? You plan out your tasks in such a way that you try to achieve small milestones that lead to the entire project completion on time.
So, in other words, a project thinking approach is all about the output that is estimating the timeline of tasks that can be fulfilled on time. This can be best understood in terms of software development. And what better example can be than the GoodCore Software itself. From planning to evaluation, we manage our projects by setting small, achievable milestones, since our entire focus is output, that is delivering the final efficient project to the client on time.
Let us go through an example. At the planning stage, our project thinking involves all kinds of requirements. We also brainstorm about the risks and solutions to tackle them. Then, we budget the entire project based on the deliverable's. Then at the designing stage, our developers and the team lead (you can also say project manager) sit together and come up with multiple design approaches according to the requirements. Here using our project thinking, we pick up the closest design approach that matches all the requirements and fit the timeline. After that, we move towards the implementation stage where keeping the project thinking, we start developing the product keeping in mind our strict deadlines.
How to do Product Thinking?
When you have the sole responsibility of the product development, you tend to focus your entire attention towards that product only. You start thinking about its execution, identify problems, solve them, make sure the end product is efficient and effective and so on. Basically, you are in the product thinking mode.
In the world of many amazing products, you think about how to make yours stand out in the crowd. Therefore, being a product thinker, your entire attention is diverted towards achieving an outcome that is you do not care about the strict deadlines and timeline. But you only care about the product being perfect from each and every angle.
Now, coming back to GoodCore’s practices, when it comes to development/implementation stage, we switch our thinking to product thinking. We try to develop the product that is promised to be the best and unique in the market. Once we are done developing it, we test it through different methods so to avoid any kind of loophole. Here again our product thinking caps are on as we make sure that regardless of the strict deadlines, we have to make sure that the product is up to its maximum efficiency. After we test it ourselves, we handover the final product to the client, who runs it on their own. If there is any glitch or flaw, we provide maintenance services for that product.
However, it is necessary to keep in mind that project thinking is also happening at a larger scale, but our focus shifts to the product thinking that is making sure our outcome is efficient no matter what the output is.
Which Approach Should You Go With?
By now, you must have understood the difference between product thinking and project thinking. But to make things further easier for you, what is better than to look at the pros and cons of product project thinking, respectively? After going through these you will be able to decide for yourself.
First, starting with the pros and cons of project thinking:
- Strictly following the outline ensures an effective outcome
- Deliver the outcome at any cost
- Setting strict budget and planning beforehand
- Enhances collaboration and other soft skills
- Everything is well documented
- Skipping a task means a delayed project
- Low-quality output if mess up with the schedule
- Unrealistic planning and budgeting
- Sticking to the plan means not able to come up with instant solutions
- There is no added value in the project
And here are the pros and cons of product thinking:
- An effective outcome is achieved
- Learn and adapt according to the situation
- High-quality work
- The product is valuable for the customer
- Instant feedback at every phase of product development
- The deadlines might not be followed
- Lack of documentation since most of the time you adapt
- Costs are usually high
- Sometimes exceeds the requirements to make it valuable
- No initial planning or scheduling
Whether you opt for Product thinking or project thinking, it is evident that you need to “think” and “plan” accordingly. Both approaches require their respective “time, money and achievable goals.”
At GoodCore Software, we focus on project thinking when working at a macro-level and take on product thinking approach at the micro-level. We believe, it is an art of balancing the two together because neither of them is independent of each other. At one point you would require to switch to project thinking and then the next minute you would be working with a product thinking approach.