The "Why" Conversation

April 12, 2022
Next time you're facing an unclear feature or epic, ask: Why this? Why now? Why me?

Jonathan Stark, aka “the Ditching Hourly Guy” teaches independent professionals how to make more money without working more hours. One thing he advocates when working with potential clients on a custom engagement is what he calls The Why Conversation. It’s a tool designed to help uncover the client’s desired business outcome, the urgency of the project, and to help ensure that you’re the right person to help the client achieve success. In a nutshell, this diagnostic conversation consists of three fundamental questions:

  • Why this? Why is this project important? Why not do something else (or nothing) instead?
  • Why now? Why is this project important now? Why didn’t you do it last year? Why not wait until next year?
  • Why me? Why do you think I can help you achieve success with this project? Why not hire someone in-house, or someone off Fiverr, or buy an off-the-shelf solution?

While Jonathan uses this tool for consulting engagements, I think it’s a perfect tool for software development, too. Especially when the value of a feature or epic is unclear.

  • Why this? Why is this feature important? Why not add some other feature instead, or no feature at all?
  • Why now? Why is this feature a priority now? Why wasn’t it important a year ago? What if we wait a year to do it?
  • Why me? Why am I or my team uniquely positioned to help achieve success with this project? Why not an off-shore team? Why not use an off-the-shelf open source library?

If you have solid answers to each of these questions, it should be pretty unambiguous why you/your team are working on this project, why it’s important, and why it’s timeley.

Related Content

Party Slicing

Comparing party size to story size.

What's the officially correct time to mark a user story "complete"?

User stories exist to serve you, not the other way around.

Optimal processes

Are you still held back by belief in the possibility of an optimal process?