Production vs. Marketing – the Fundamental Conflict

Production vs. Marketing – the Fundamental Conflict

by Mary Ellen Stepanich, Ph.D.

Once upon a time I was a professor at Purdue University, teaching organizational behavior (OB) to management students who had aspirations of becoming corporate bigwigs. OB is often called “the applied psychology of management” because it involves learning about the characteristics of human beings that can help or hinder the efficiency of the corporation as it strives to find a place at the pinnacle of performance. (I love alliteration!)

Conflicts and their sources in the workplace were of particular interest to my students. Conflict resolution was a popular topic, and I would often lead them in experiential activities designed to demonstrate that practice. The typical conflict found in most work organizations is between Production (manufacturing goods to be offered for sale) and Marketing (selling and distributing goods that have been manufactured). Production sees Marketing as a bunch of charlatans and snake-oil salesmen trying to market the product before it’s finished, and Marketing thinks Production is a doddering group of fussbudgets and perfectionists.

production vs marketingUpon closer examination, I think we can find parallels to this fundamental conflict in many life situations. For example, I sing in a performing barbershop quartet. We entertain audiences with our comedy routines, parodies, “doo-wop,” and songs that are nostalgic or funny. I’m the one with a music degree, and I’m a stickler for honing the performance to its highest level. Another member has a background in sales, and she markets the group to audiences throughout the Valley of the Sun. She and I often clash, because she wants to book a show for us even before the songs are “off paper,” and I want to wait and polish the routines until they’re perfect.

This type of conflict happens not only between departments in an organization (i.e., Production vs. Marketing) or individuals in a group (such as a barbershop quartet); it also happens within a single person, especially if that person is a writer. And if that writer is a self-published author, the conflict becomes a war – an internal war of nerves.

Production is the creative side of the author who wants to write the best book possible and who has difficulty arriving at the place where she can say, “It is finished.” This sometimes results in a conflict with Marketing, which is her business side, the one who wants to sell a million copies and retire to Hawaii. Unfortunately, it is rare that equal portions of Production and Marketing exist in the same writer. In my experience, most authors – especially self-published ones – are more Production oriented than Marketing focused.

The conflict is further exacerbated for individuals for whom one side of the brain more dominant than the other. According to some behaviorists, the right side of the human brain is the source of creativity, and the left side is more pragmatic and businesslike. I must have a left-brain deficiency, because when I was a Girl Scout trying to sell those delicious cookies, I would approach my neighbors with the sales pitch, “You wouldn’t wanna buy some Girl Scout cookies, would ya?” (No, I didn’t sell many cookies.)

Therefore, we writers must find resolution to this fundamental conflict. Many sources provide suggestions for solutions, but even the best advice will fall on deaf ears if those ears are attached to a writer who has a preference for one side or the other. So before you become discouraged and threaten to give up writing to take up professional bowling, take a good look at yourself – especially your brain dominance – and determine which side needs the most work, Production or Marketing.

Then resolve your internal conflict – and get to work!

Dr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always
Mary Ellen Stepanichtold her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website,

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