Three reasons product managers should deliver the why

Bryan McCarty
Aug 27, 2015 · 2 min read

You are a product manager. For the past three months you conducted opportunity assessments, discovered possibilities, and defined solutions. Things went from whiteboard sketches to Invision comps to code-based prototypes. You validated assumptions by testing early and often. You even cut features that brought little value. You wrote detailed technical docs and defined every possible requirement. The visual design is complete, you defined the right product and clearly articulated exactly what needed to be built.

Now it is up to engineering to figure out how to build it, right?


You forgot one of the most important aspects of collaborating with engineers and building meaningful products: delivering the why.

In some respects, the why can be far more valuable than any spec or piece of documentation. Teams enjoy interacting with gorgeous prototypes but the real value surfaces when you deliver a story (the why) that helps everyone understand the problem you are trying to solve. When your team understands the why, you give them confidence that you are solving the right problem. After all, there are a lot of problems out there to solve — how do you know you’re solving the right one?

Delivering the why also puts your users — the people you are designing and building for — at the heart of your effort. When you focus on real users and think about building software that improves people’s lives, you feel purpose. And we all need a sense of purpose, right? It is human nature.

It is one thing to understand the 2.1 release you are kicking off today, but what about version 3.0? Provide insight into the long-term vision of where things are headed and your team will be grateful. It is important for everyone to understand where you are heading so they can make better decisions.

If an engineer is focused on 2.1, she may choose one technology over another. If she has awareness of where things are heading, she may choose a different technology because she knows it will work better for what is needed down the road.

When the team has insight into product vision, they make smarter, sounder decisions because they understand that the current release is just a stepping-stone to get to the next major overhaul.

If you want to make better products, deliver the why and give your team the confidence, purpose and vision they deserve.

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