The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Are you in a "Product" or a "Process" job?

Posted by kenhoward on July 31, 2007

If you are in a Product-centric job, you spend most of your day with stuff: creating, updating, innovating, maintaining, fixing, changing, moving, archiving, restoring, refactoring, etc. Typical product-centric jobs include software developers, artists, designers, engineers, factory workers, accountants, loan underwriters, and tax attorneys.

If you are in a Process-centric job, you spend most of your day interacting with others: talking, emailing, selling, negotiating, motivating, intimidating, inspiring, communicating, etc. Typical process-centric jobs include sales, project managers teachers, trial lawyers, CEO’s, loan officers, and managers.

Most people tend to prefer one or the other, and often find themselves in a job that is not in their preferred category. The result is often fatigue and general job dissatisfaction. If you stick process-centric people in an office all day with a stack of work to do, they’ll be bored out of their mind and find as many chances as possible to wander to the water cooler to find out what’s going on in the world. Likewise, if you send product-centric people out in the world to attend meetings, engage in lively conversations, and talk all day, they will get exhausted and feel like the day was a total waste of time because they didn’t get anything done.

If the world had only process-centric people, there would be a constant buzz of activity, but little would ever get accomplished. If the world had only product-centric people, a lot of quality work may get done, but there’s great risk that its value and usefulness may be questionable.

It’s healthy to understand that it’s normal for there to be misunderstanding and conflict between process and product people. Accept the need for both types and move on. Also, if you are a product person in a process job (or vice versa,) a job change could reduce your stress.

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