What is the Difference Between Product Thinking And Project Thinking?

Many product managers will agree, that often they try to elevate culture and thinking from a project level to a product level. What is the actual difference between these concepts?

The answer was found in the article posted on Productcoalition Medium blog. We’ve chosen the most interesting insights from the article. Here they are:

What is Project Thinking about?

Many specialists, especially in software development, have spent a lot of their careers focused on project management.

Many large organizations have PMO departments and it’s not surprising, because project management has been around a very long time.

The key focus of project thinking is delivery. It is about the delivery of specific features or software, for example. Because the focus is delivery, so the core measurement is on the timeline and schedule.

Focusing on the output is very important in project management, and it is measured by how accurately we were able to estimate the timeline beforehand and then deliver the specified output on that schedule.

What is Product Thinking about?

Product thinking means a fundamentally different approach. It is focused on the outcome rather than focusing on the output.

This is a significant shift from the mindset of project thinking. In product management, we focus on the goal we want to achieve or the job to be done rather than focusing on timelines and dates. And it is more difficult to put time constraints around the delivery, at least up front because we’re focused on the outcome rather than the output. Primarily because we don’t necessarily know how we’re going to accomplish the goal up front.

Product thinking can be quite the shift, especially for folks who have spent a lot of time focused on projects and project management.

Many people are uncomfortable with the uncertainty of not having structured timelines and schedules that they can monitor on a regular basis.

Of course, product management involves some level of project management. It’s impossible to assume that we can work in an environment where stakeholders and partners won’t expect some dates or commitments.

The key is to make commitments and project plans only at a point when we can do it with a high degree of confidence.

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