The Product Mindset: Let Them Eat Cake
Written by Jason Scherschligt
If you work in business or technology, you’re likely familiar with the rituals of celebrations in a workplace: donuts in the breakroom, a leader’s words of commendation, some small talk and standing around. In fact, the popular TV show The Office had a long-running gag about employees maneuvering for control of the Scranton branch’s influential Party Planning Committee. That joke wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t understand office celebrations.
While our time in offices has been sorely limited in recent months (Thanks, COVID!), think back to those workplace celebrations. What events do you celebrate in the office? Probably personnel moves like new hires, departures, and promotions, yes. Maybe a few personal events, like baby showers or significant birthdays.
But I’m guessing your workplace also celebrates major achievements in projects. The upgrade was finished, you shipped the release, the milestone was reached. So someone brought in a big box of bagels or picked up artisnal donuts at a hipster bakery. Maybe you all took off early and enjoyed a happy hour at a local tavern. Project managers and teams are well-conditioned to celebrate these project milestones. “Let’s all have cake in the break room!” “Why?” “Because the thing we were doing is done!”
Don’t just celebrate project achievements
Celebrating product success
With that in mind, try adding new rituals to your workplace celebrations. Here are some other things a product team might commemorate:
- Something you learned. If you’ve uncovered meaningful new information about a market, or even learned something about your teammates that will help you work together, you’ve made progress towards a valuable product. That’s worth celebrating.
- A change in your requirements or plans. This may sound crazy to project leaders, but a changed requirement usually means you know more about what your customer wants. And that’s worth celebrating.
- New insights from customers. Did you visit a customer site? Did you bring users in and get their insights on your prototype? If so, you’ve likely learned something about your value hypothesis. And that’s worth celebrating.
- A customer outcome. This is a big one. If your product solved a problem for a cohort of customers or improved the value exchanged between your business and your users, then the product is performing its essential role as a vehicle of value. And that’s worth celebrating.
- Business milestones traced to product work. If you’ve crossed a threshold in customer satisfaction (“First month ever with more customers using the self-service online product than called the tech support hotline”) or sales and revenue (“Over $10 million in the product’s subscription sales in Q3”), and you can see how your product drove that achievement, well, that’s worth celebrating.
So yes, happy hours and cake in the breakroom are great little rituals of our professional lives. And donuts are undeniably delicious. But the next time you’re planning a team-building celebration, ask yourself, “Are we celebrating mere output, or meaningful outcomes?”