Product Principles

It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your principles are


Why do we have product principles?

We didn’t invent this ourselves, we were inspired by

Building a business and a product means we have to make decisions constantly. Sometimes, that can really feel overwhelming leading to decision overload. Additionally, there is something called the “Paradox of choice”. It stipulates that while we might believe that being presented with multiple options actually makes it easier to choose one that we are happy with, having an abundance of options actually requires more effort to make a decision and can leave us feeling unsatisfied with our choice (the more options you have, the more trade-offs there are).

While we can all understand that making decisions is hard, making product decisions is arguably even more difficult due to the “Paradox of autonomy”. We want our teams to be empowered to make decisions or as Steve Jobs said it:

“It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

On the other hand, unfeathered autonomy can lead to chaos and people going in multiple directions which is what we want to avoid. While we want to encourage empowered teams that have autonomy, we also want to make sure teams can work in a context where there is alignment and give them a clear direction.

How can we create alignment? Leadership can do that by creating a strategic context (Martin calls this the “Decision Stack”). Such a framework helps the business answer the question “How are we doing this?” while it allows individual contributors to answer the “Why are we doing this?”.

Screenshot 2024-02-13 at 10.11.10.png
The strategic context we all operate in.

The,, and objectives are out of scope for this page so let’s zoom in on our product principles.

Our principles

Put care teams first

This is tightly coupled to our mission, we want to make care flows work harder than care teams. We believe by putting care teams first we cannot only help them deliver better care more efficiently but we can also contribute to reducing burnout and staff shortages. Our approach is not just about streamlining processes; it's about nurturing the human element at the heart of healthcare.

Yet, at the end of the chain, there is a patient receiving care. We take this seriously, not only because it’s morally the right thing to do but also because that’s what the care teams care about. Any lapse in the delivery of care can have irrecoverable consequences, a reality we deeply acknowledge. Thus, our philosophy of prioritizing care teams is instrumental in enabling them to devote their best to patients.

By putting care teams first, we enhance their capacity to place patients at the forefront of all they do.

Get to the next hill rather than summiting Everest

Think of building your product as walking through an open land dotted with small hills and towering mountains. When you climb each small hill, you gain a new perspective, which lets you make new and better decisions because you’re able to survey the land. If you attempt to summit Everest, you risk spending a great deal of time scaling it only to realize it’s not the right perspective and that you’d have been better off climbing many smaller hills.

At Awell, we have a vision to become the leading CareOps platform used by care teams worldwide to drive continuous improvement in care delivery. Presuming we know all the steps to deliver on that vision and how to sequence them would be nothing more than a lie. Any second we spend on trying to plan for it is a second we don’t spend doing.

Yes, our and can create alignment on a direction we want to go in, but we shouldn’t aim for a high level of accuracy on what that would exactly look like. Instead, we constantly look for hills that look interesting to us to climb. Climbing them gives us new perspectives and allows us to learn quickly.

This principle could also be phrased as “Think big, but start small”. Working backward is all about starting with the desired result in mind and then figuring out how to get there. The key to working backward is crystalizing where you want to end up (i.e. think big). This means diving into the details of what the desired result should be, what the product must be capable of to achieve those goals, and what success would look like.

With a strong view of how the product will (and will not evolve) in the future, we can build simply and with speed, while simultaneously avoiding costly rebuilds.

Fill the jar with rocks first

With our principle of “getting to the next hill”, we risk building too incrementally and this principle counters that reflex. Learn more about rocks, sand, and pebbles here.

Keep things simple over infinite flexibility

We should build an opinionated product and not one that kicks decisions to the user. If there are 10 ways to get something done then how does the user know what’s the best way to do it? How do we know what’s the best way to do something?

Standards over proprietary implementations

We recognize we're part of a larger ecosystem and we're committed to designing a platform inherently aligned with these universal protocols (FHIR). By synchronizing with these standards, we're not just joining the healthcare conversation; we're helping to lead it.