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Why – How – What: From Product Vision to Task

March 6, 2018

Simon Sinek in his book „Start With Why“ talks about the importance of knowing why we are doing things before we think about what and how to do it. I think it is a good idea for Scrum Teams also to start with why for their product development.

An important point for Simon is „people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it“. Another key idea in the book is the „Golden Circle“ (s. figure below), which in fact is three circles contained in each other that define:

  • What you are doing
  • How you are doing it
  • Why you are doing it

Golden Circle, after the original from Simon's website

Many people know exactly what they are doing and how, but often the why is not clear enough.

I see a parallel to the development of complex products with Scrum. Many teams I have worked with knew fairly well what they wanted to build – the features and functions of their systems. Some of them also knew how they would implement these features and how this might help their customers or users. But too few of them knew why they built that product in the first place.

That’s why I try to stress the importance of the Product Vision in my trainings and coachings. It is the answer to the question of why this product is being developed. I would like to borrow Simon’s metaphor from above and call it the „Golden Product Circle“.

Golden Product Circle

Without a really good reason to build the product, and a purpose to the product, it doesn’t really make sense to build it. So development starts with why, the Product Vision. Then Product Owner can think about how this purpose might be fulfilled, the functions and features of the product in the Product Backlog. The Development Team then has to build the product and decide on the what to do to deliver the how. They might decompose the Product Backlog into Tasks if it helps them.

But everything can be referred back to the next higher level. When stuck with the what, the Development Team can look back at the how. If Product Owner has doubts around a how she can look back at the why and try to figure out if this specific how adds to reaching the why

Since „people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it“, please Start With Why for your product development with Scrum.

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