When we, as Product Managers, use the word “just” to describe a feature we want, we’re subtly (or not so subtly) telling the implementers how we judge its size and/ or complexity.
- “Can’t it just sort the results and display them with the most relevant first?“
- “Can’t you just make it slimmer and lighter so it’s easier to hold?“
- “Can’t you just move Phase 2 earlier so it’s almost like a Phase 1b?“
By using the J-word, we lose credibility.
- We demonstrate that we’re not familiar with the problem.
- We show that we don’t trust the implementers to give us the right answer or to do the right thing.
And the one thing we don’t want to lose is our credibility because it stops those around us from believing in us, believing in what they’re doing, and going the extra mile to deliver for us.
We’ve all done it, whether at work or at home. We’ve probably been on the receiving end of it too. “Can’t you just repaint the hall over the weekend?“; “Can’t you just fix the printer now, and then get the computer working later?” – it’s irritating, right? It demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the situation, takes no account of the practicalities, underestimates the scale of the task, and certainly doesn’t make you want to do the work. It also hints that because the task is so insignificant, there will be no real recognition of the achievement.
My suggested approach when working with technical teams is to recognise the complexity and scale of a task. Acknowledge it and use it as an indication that you know that what you’re asking for isn’t trivial. Doing this will automatically induce a sense of challenge in those tasked with delivering it. They will have more respect for you and will be more likely to deliver.
It’s good to challenge, and to the push boundaries of what is possible. By recognising the challenge you are presenting, you give the implementers something worth pursuing.
If you persist in using the J-word, don’t be surprised if one day the response is along the lines of “Perhaps you could just get back to defining your requirements, and leave us to the business of just delivering it”.
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