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Question: How do you get a Product Owner to focus on the Why?

December 24, 2020

I was recently asked

"How do you get an inexperienced Product Owner to concentrate on the why's and the value delivered by a feature/requirement, rather than a list of what's e.g we must gather a,b,c... x,y,z info from our users"

Here are my thoughts on how to address this matter. 

You could remind them that they bring the Why and What, the developers work out the How in Sprint Planning.

Help them to focus on the why by having a strong vision for the product - what is the end goal they are trying to achieve? If they don't have a vision then help them to have one by asking what outcome would they consider to be success.  

I'd also work with them to think about Sprint Goals, but not just finish items 1,2,3 but by looking at outcomes rather than outputs.  Consider using this template in Sprint Planning to help focus around outcomes. 


In Sprint Reviews I'd ask the Product Owner to restate the Vision so that is clear for the stakeholders and all attendees. From the vision all other conversations start- stakeholders want to know the benefits of their investment not the fine details - moving the focus onto the benefits and away from the details. I'd ask the Developers to state the Sprint Goal for all to hear and how it moved the team towards the Product Goal and Vision.

When discussing if items are ready to be brought into the sprint, have the Product Owner describe the value contained within the work - what benefit do we believe it may bring. However the descriptions shouldn't be " 'cos I say so", or "it will make the site faster" It has to be a benefit with a hypothesis behind it.

The aim is to help them to visualise the successful end state for the Product, what they hear people saying and what they see people using within the Product. If they start thinking goals now it will be easier in the long run.

The key is help them to focus on what they should be passionate about as a Product Owner, for instance stakeholder engagement, the vision, the total cost of ownership of the product, risks & rewards, what can be done....

Think "Outcomes over Output

What do you think? How would you've helped to answer this question?

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