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From Projects to Products: Transforming Mindsets

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Ever feel like you’re stuck in a project mindset at work, chasing deadlines and outputs without really thinking about the bigger picture? If you’re in a non-digital role like marketing, HR, or finance, adopting a product mindset can be a game changer. A product mindset means thinking about the services and experiences you deliver as products that need to be continuously improved to best meet customer needs.

Instead of just checking off tasks, you start to obsess over the why behind your work and how it impacts your users. You begin looking for ways to optimize, streamline, and enhance the experiences people have with your department. The results? Happier customers, a more strategic approach to work, and new opportunities for impact and career growth. The shift from project to product may not happen overnight, but with the right mindset, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a product pro in no time.

The Product Management Mindset

To cultivate a product mindset, you need to think like a product manager. That means focusing on the customer experience and journey, not just the tasks and outputs of your role.

A key part of the product management mindset is developing empathy for your customers and users. Put yourself in their shoes to understand their pain points and needs. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Who are my customers and users?
  • What are their goals and motivations?
  • How can I make their lives easier?

Next, take a holistic view of the customer experience. Don’t just consider your immediate tasks and deliverables, but think about the entire journey and ecosystem. Identify ways you can optimize the overall experience, not just your part of the process.

Continuously improve and iterate. A product mindset means regularly reevaluating how you can refine, enhance, and streamline to better serve your customers. Make ongoing optimization a habit.

Data and metrics also inform product thinking. Pay attention to feedback, reviews, complaints, support tickets, surveys, and any other signals that provide insights into how your “product” is performing and perceived. Use that data to make informed product roadmap decisions.

Most of all, be proactive rather than reactive. Product managers anticipate customer needs and spot opportunities to innovate. Develop a vision for how you can positively impact the experience, and take the initiative to make that vision a reality. With the right mindset, any role can benefit from product thinking. So put on your product hat and get to work optimizing!

Why Non-Digital Roles Need to Shift to a Product Mindset

If you’re in a role like product marketing, customer success or project management, it’s time to shift your mindset. While you may not actually build the product, adopting a product-focused mindset can help you become more strategic and impactful.

For starters, understand the product vision and roadmap inside out. Know where the product is headed and why. This context helps ensure your daily work actually moves the needle. Map how you directly influence the product vision through the projects or campaigns you run.

Look for ways to gather customer insights and leverage them. Talk to real users, analyze support tickets, review NPS responses. Identify key pain points and unmet needs. Then, recommend potential solutions to the product team, with data and examples to illustrate the opportunity. Your input could inspire new features that better serve customers.

Treat each campaign, event or project like a product, with a vision, metrics, iterations and optimization. Don’t just execute tasks blindly. Understand how the work fits into the broader product and business goals. Look for ways to improve impact over time based on performance and feedback.

Collaborate closely with other teams, especially product and engineering. Share insights, co-develop solutions and get input on your plans. Help product managers by testing concepts, messaging or designs with customers. A tight-knit, cross-functional partnership will lead to a cohesive customer experience.

By connecting the dots between your role and the actual product, you gain more influence and job satisfaction. And the company benefits from a team thinking and acting as product-minded partners. It’s a win-win for all.

Steps to Make the Mindset Shift From Projects to Products

To make the shift from a project to product mindset in a non-digital role, follow these steps:

Define Your Product

What exactly do you produce or provide to your customers or stakeholders? Pinpoint the core value you deliver and how it benefits them. This could be a service, tool, resource or solution. View this as your “product”.

Know Your Users

Get to know who uses your product and their key needs, pain points, and priorities. Connect with them regularly to understand how to best serve them. See them as your “customers” and build a relationship based on trust and helpfulness.

Continually Improve

A product mindset means constantly improving and optimizing based on customer feedback and priorities. Make ongoing refinements and enhancements to better meet needs. Ask open-ended questions to identify new ways to assist. Small tweaks and iterations over time add up to a superior product.

Measure Success

Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to track how well your product is meeting customer needs. This could be usage rates, satisfaction scores, or other metrics that demonstrate impact and value. Review KPIs routinely and make changes to address any issues. Success means a product that customers rely on and rave about.

Promote Your Product

Let people know about the useful product or service you provide. Highlight the key benefits and ways it can help them save time or money or ease their workload. Explain exactly how to access or utilize what you offer. Promotion leads to greater adoption and more opportunities to enhance your product.

Making this mindset shift will change how you view your role and the value you provide. With your product at the center, each day becomes an opportunity to better serve your customers and increase your impact. This outlook can lead to greater work satisfaction, as you gain a sense of continual progress and purpose.

Benefits of Adopting a Product Mindset Organization-Wide

Adopting a product mindset across your organization, not just in technical roles, has significant benefits.

Increased Collaboration

When everyone considers their work as contributing to the success and experience of your product or service, silos start to break down. Marketing, sales, customer service and product teams will collaborate more to gain a holistic understanding of your customers and how to best serve them. This leads to new ideas, innovative solutions and a better overall experience for your customers.

Shared Vision and Purpose

With a product mindset, your team will develop a shared sense of purpose to build and improve your product. This gives meaning and motivation to everyone’s work, not just those directly building the product. Those in supporting roles will feel more invested in the product’s success and impact.

Improved Decision Making

Decisions will be made with the product and customer experience in mind. Teams will consider how their choices influence the overall product, not just their area. This helps avoid decisions that optimize for one team but hurt the product as a whole. It also encourages creative solutions that benefit multiple teams and the end user.

Increased Ownership and Accountability

When everyone feels responsible for the product, they also feel ownership over its success or failure. This leads to greater care, creativity and accountability in people’s work. Those in non-technical roles become active participants in building, optimizing and improving the product, not just executing tasks.

By shifting mindsets across your organization to think of their work as contributing to your product’s success, you’ll build a shared vision, increase collaboration, improve decision making and gain a sense of ownership. The result is a better experience for both your customers and your team. While a product mindset is essential for technical product teams, adopting it more broadly can transform how your entire organization operates.

Case Studies of Companies Who Successfully Shifted to a Product Culture

Some companies have successfully made the shift to a product culture for non-digital roles. Let’s look at a few case studies:


Facing the challenges of the digital age, LEGO successfully transitioned from a project-oriented to a product-oriented mindset by strategically diversifying its offerings. Beyond traditional brick sets, LEGO expanded into movies, video games (LEGO video games), and theme parks, creating a comprehensive ecosystem around the LEGO brand. This diversification, coupled with the integration of digital play elements and technology, allowed LEGO to adapt to evolving play patterns. By embracing digital experiences and extending its brand into various entertainment mediums, including movies and video games, LEGO not only remained relevant but also thrived in the digital era. The company’s successful shift to a product-oriented mindset exemplifies its ability to navigate changing consumer preferences and foster innovation.


Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya Nadella (executive chairman and CEO of Microsoft), executed a significant shift from a project-oriented approach to a product-oriented mindset. This transformation was driven by a strategic emphasis on comprehensive solutions and cloud services. Departing from traditional standalone software projects, Microsoft embraced a growth mindset, fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. The company’s focus pivoted towards holistic solutions like Azure and subscription-based models such as Office 365 and Microsoft 365. Agile methodologies were adopted to enable faster, more flexible development cycles. Microsoft’s engagement with open-source technologies and collaboration with the broader tech community marked a departure from historical practices, solidifying its position as a key player in cloud computing.


GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, successfully transitioned from a project-oriented to a product-oriented mindset in managing its diverse global investments. The shift aimed at fostering adaptability in navigating the dynamic investment landscape. Traditionally project-focused, GIC embraced a holistic, product-oriented approach, treating its entire portfolio as a cohesive entity. This transition involved the adoption of agile methodologies and data-driven decision-making, enabling real-time responsiveness to market changes. The new mindset optimized portfolio composition, improved risk management, and aligned investment strategies with long-term goals, ensuring GIC’s resilience and effectiveness amid evolving global market dynamics.

The key to success in all these companies was a shift in mindset across the organization. Leadership focused on metrics showing the lifetime value of loyal customers. Frontline staff were given more autonomy and encouraged to make suggestions to improve the overall experience. And employees received ongoing training and education to build their knowledge and skills in enhancing the customer experience. The result was a win all around—for employees, customers, and the bottom line.


At the end of the day, having a product mindset is about focusing on the customer in everything you do. Whether you work in HR, finance, operations or any other non-digital role, adopting a product mindset will transform how you approach your work. You’ll start to see your internal customers and their needs. You’ll focus on understanding their pain points and designing solutions to solve them.

This shift in thinking may feel uncomfortable at first, but stick with it. Talk to your customers, build empathy, and look for ways to improve their experience. Start small by making one process easier or reducing one point of friction. Celebrate your wins, learn from your losses, and keep improving. With time, you’ll cultivate a product mindset that permeates how you work and the value you deliver. Your customers will notice the difference.

So go ahead, unleash your inner product manager. Empathize, solve problems, iterate, and make people’s lives better through the work you do each day. The rewards of developing a product mindset will transform your role and open up new opportunities for you and your team. You’ve got this! Now go build something great.