by adam mathes
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On Task, Project, and Product Management

Wow, the project management app Asana feels like someone finally re-made the Pyra (1999) app #tweets4peopleunderstand

Matt Haughey

@mathowie Pyra was better. Asana is too task-focused. Tasks are the weeds micromanagers mistake as beautiful flowers in groupware.


That was snarky but the differences between task management, project management, and product management are something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about from my previous life as a product manager at a large software company.

Three Things

Task management makes the primary element of interest small, discrete, individually assigned, discrete pieces of work. (Tasks.)

Project management makes the primary element the interactions, depedencies, timing, and status of tasks, personnel, resources and their outputs. (Projects.)

Product management makes the primary element the long term creation and improvement of designed objects people use. (Products.)

A Philosophy

My conclusion after a few years is that the best product management is about providing the vision of what to build and why and then creating the context where great things can be made. That context usually involves the right people, space, time, and patience.

Project management in some cases may be essential to creating the right context. But it’s important to match the processes to the product and team at hand – not the other way around.

But for truly innovative and creative products, project management may not matter as much. If you are making something new and creative and different, it’s hard to know exactly how to make it. You may be building the tools and technology you need because they don’t exist yet. And it may be impossible to properly estimate how long it will all take.

Great software doesn’t come from compiling lists of features or tasks and carefully assigning, tracking, and checking them off. It comes from creating great experiences. And finding success in that is a lot like finding success in anything else in life – it is rarely from following a straight line.

So don’t be surprised to see an inverse correlation between time spent on task management and the eventual success and quality of products.

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