There are two different types of product work.

Creating value and delivering value.

It’s critical to understand the difference and choose the one appropriate for the current state of your product.

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“Creating value” means solving user problems more effectively or enabling the product to solve more of the user’s problems.

When a hospital buys expensive new equipment and hires medical staff to treat conditions they couldn’t treat before, that’s an example of creating value.

“Delivering value” means getting more people to experience value that already exists.

In the hospital example, a new and underutilized department has just opened. The hospital didn’t communicate about it successfully and patients are not coming for treatment. Maybe patients don’t know about the department’s existence. Maybe they don’t trust the hospital for whatever reason. Solving these issues would require product work at the level of delivering value.

Ideally, both types of product work should coexist, be aligned, and be coordinated.

But all too often, teams focus on just one or the other.

Look at Microsoft Excel, for example. Excel has many features (is there anything it can’t do?). Most users are aware of only a tiny fraction of them and don’t make use of the full potential. That value has not been fully delivered.

The opposite would be a very optimized product, but with the team continuing to invest in optimizations. The return on these efforts would be minimal—there is no additional value to be delivered to users.

Of course, this categorization is not strict. But it is useful to think of where your team invests more time and resources and whether it makes sense.

For your own product, which type of product work do you think should be the focus right now? Why?

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