Everything You Create Is A Product
I’m obsessed with office reception.
I've come to realize that I’m a product manager. The org is my product. The employee is my customer. If I facilitate the creation of the right DNA and structure. the team is freed to be their creative best in service of their customer, knowing that the resources, infrastructure, and long-term personal and professional development they need to be their best selves are the very foundation upon which they sit. I find this work utterly delightful.
I believe every employee should consider themselves a product manager. I don't quite agree when Marc Pincus says every employee should be CEO of something or when Ben Horowitz says every product manager is a CEO. CEOs have absolute authority. Product managers, on the other hand, are part of a larger collective, and when plugged together allow one plus one to equal three. Product managers, like CEOs, must champion a big vision, but they must also focus on executing short-term strategy and getting the details right while obsessing over what their customer will do.
Reception, for example, is one of the most important products your company produces. Every morning it sets the tone for your employees' day. Every day it sets first impressions for every prospective employee that visits. Since talent is the key asset that feeds your company’s growth (not to mention your biggest expense), how can you not obsess over reception?
My former colleague Blanche is a brilliant product manager. She understands that reception reflects the brand in countless ways. She groks the big picture and sweats the details. Everyone is greeted warmly and their needs attended to. The desk is picture perfect uncluttered, chairs aligned, curtains drawn, light bulbs working, books straight, drinks stocked, packages out of sight. Reception’s personality and aesthetic matches the brand and the company's customer service orientation, and thus sets the right tone for everyone who comes through those doors.
Take a moment and ask yourself these questions: What is my product? Who is my customer? What am I obsessing over that will embody the company's values and continuously lead to new customer delight? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you won't achieve peak performance, for without the answers to these questions, how can you think big, think small, communicate effectively, prioritize, forecast, execute, and measure?
Everything you create is a product and every product has a customer for whom you must deliver value – regardless if you work in devops or marketing, sales or SRE, customer service or design, human resources or engineering. Therefore, everyone is a product manager. They just haven’t all realized it yet.
(I really am obsessed with office reception. I had all our entryways repainted at least once a year. Perhaps no one noticed besides me, but I doubt that. Details matter, which is why customers delight in them.)