Have you ever wondered why a user requested a particularly weird feature?
Or why your VP has some “pet project”?
Or why your team wants to re-write a particular module?
Why, of course, you have.
We regularly receive these requests, but they rarely come with the ‘Why?” attached to them.
I have seen people respond in one of two ways:
1. They become anxious, demanding to know WHY.
2. They become apathetic, having decided not to care about WHY.
For now, let’s set aside the team’s response, and focus on the reason for the request.
No matter where the request comes from, there is a simple, universal motivation behind it.
The person requesting the change is trying to make their life better.
They are trying to improve their life, relieve some discomfort, or experience some gain.
This means they are not intentionally trying to:
- Screw up your schedule
- Irritate the team or cause problems
- Increase software costs
- Make things harder, or take longer
- Make you look bad
- All the other negative reasons which quickly come to mind
Well, the requestor is not trying to do these things unless doing them will somehow make their life better. There are people in the world like that, but let’s set them aside as well.
Of course, many of the things requested seem strange to you and your team. This shouldn’t be a surprise, because every person prefers different things. Each one of us favors and values different things.
You may enjoy pickles and web interfaces which use Material Design. Personally, I hate pickles and enjoy command-line interfaces. That doesn’t make one of us weird, it simply reflects how we prefer our environment.
Change the conversation
Now, when your team rolls their eyes and asks “Why in the heck would they want THAT?” you can honestly reply: “I know why. They are trying to make their life better.”
If you start with that perspective, the conversation becomes more interesting. Instead of asking WHY?, you can ask HOW?
Instead of asking “Why do you want that report?” (because you already know the answer!), you could ask “How will that report make your life better?”
It replaces the defensiveness of WHY, with with the curiosity of HOW.
Isn’t that more useful, and maybe even more fun?
I think so. 🙂