Jake Worth

Jake Worth

Product Hack: Asking 'What's the Why?'

Published: October 30, 2023 • Updated: October 31, 2023 2 min read

  • product

One of my favorite product hacks is asking: “What’s the why?”

Before delivering a feature, stop and ask: why is this feature worth adding? Why is it worth the time for your teammates to review, for your stakeholders to approve, and for your users to accept? What are we getting that’s better than anything else we could be building?

It’s a shift to ownership. Here’s non-ownership: “Every app has a logout feature.” And ownership: “Our customers must be able to log out because we display sensitive information.” Non-ownership: “Our competitors’ apps send push notifications.” Ownership: “We can connect better with our customers throughout the purchasing process with push notifications.”

This applies to internal work, too. Before pitching a process to your team, stop and ask why you want to do it. When adding an auto-formatting tool: “Formatting churn in pull requests is distracting us from the changes.” When proposing monthly retrospectives: “We’re repeating the same mistakes again and again.” Adding continuous integration: “People don’t know they’re breaking the tests until their code is merged.”

Defining your ‘why’ has many benefits. It will:

  • Help you focus on high-value ideas
  • Make you a fighter for your idea because you can justify it from first principles
  • Get others on your side
  • Preemptively address criticism

I have codified this into my pull request template to make it impossible to forget. When people see my work, I want them to be able to say to themselves something like: “Letting CX agents log in as customers with a bug… that’s going to save a lot of time during debugging.”

For work that was assigned to you, I promise that there’s a ‘why’ there. Managers may not always think to share that information, but they are aware of it. It’s empowering to be able to find it yourself.

What are your thoughts on asking why? Let me know!

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