Product Strategy

What Not How Approach

What is the What Not How Approach?
Definition of What Not How Approach
The 'What, not How' mindset focuses leadership on measurable outcomes, empowering teams to flexibly manage constraints and reach milestones over inflexible implementation mandates. This approach fosters ingenuity and ownership to match technology accelerations and competitive pressures, benefiting shareholders' trust by allowing nimble adjustments and avoiding top-down bureaucratic policies that prescribe narrow, inflexible 'how and when' implementation details.

The 'What Not How' approach is a fundamental principle in the field of product management and operations. It is a strategy that emphasizes on defining 'what' needs to be achieved rather than dictating 'how' it should be done. This approach encourages innovation, creativity, and problem-solving, as it allows teams to explore various methods to achieve the set goals.

This article will delve into the intricacies of the 'What Not How' approach, its applications in product management and operations, and how it can be effectively implemented. We will also explore its benefits and potential challenges, along with specific examples to illustrate its practical application.

Overview of 'What Not How' Approach

The 'What Not How' approach is a management philosophy that focuses on defining the goals or outcomes ('what') without prescribing the methods or processes ('how') to achieve them. This approach is based on the belief that by allowing teams the freedom to determine their own methods, they can come up with innovative solutions and take ownership of their work.

It is a shift from traditional management styles that often dictate methods and processes, which can stifle creativity and innovation. The 'What Not How' approach fosters a culture of problem-solving and encourages teams to think outside the box.

Origins of the 'What Not How' Approach

The 'What Not How' approach has its roots in the software development industry, where it was initially used to encourage developers to come up with innovative solutions. The idea was to give developers a clear understanding of the desired outcome without dictating the specific coding or programming methods to be used.

Over time, this approach has been adopted by other industries, including product management and operations, where it has been found to foster innovation, improve team morale, and lead to better outcomes.

Key Principles of the 'What Not How' Approach

The 'What Not How' approach is based on several key principles. First, it emphasizes the importance of clear and concise communication of the desired outcomes or goals. This requires a deep understanding of the problem at hand and the ability to articulate it in a way that is easily understood by the team.

Second, it encourages teams to take ownership of their work by allowing them the freedom to determine their own methods. This fosters a sense of responsibility and can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction. Finally, it promotes a culture of innovation and problem-solving, as teams are encouraged to think creatively and come up with new solutions.

Application of 'What Not How' Approach in Product Management & Operations

The 'What Not How' approach can be applied in various aspects of product management and operations. In product management, it can be used to define product goals and objectives, while in operations, it can be used to set operational targets and performance metrics.

By focusing on 'what' needs to be achieved rather than 'how' it should be done, teams are encouraged to come up with innovative solutions and processes. This can lead to improved product quality, increased operational efficiency, and better customer satisfaction.

Product Management

In product management, the 'What Not How' approach can be used to define product goals and objectives. For example, a product manager might set a goal to increase the user base of a particular product by a certain percentage within a specific timeframe. However, they would not dictate the specific strategies or tactics to be used to achieve this goal.

Instead, the product team would be given the freedom to come up with their own strategies and tactics. This could include developing new features, improving user experience, or launching marketing campaigns. The key is that the team is given the freedom to determine their own methods, which can lead to innovative solutions and better outcomes.

Operations

In operations, the 'What Not How' approach can be used to set operational targets and performance metrics. For example, an operations manager might set a target to reduce production costs by a certain percentage within a specific timeframe. However, they would not dictate the specific methods or processes to be used to achieve this target.

Instead, the operations team would be given the freedom to come up with their own methods and processes. This could include improving production processes, sourcing cheaper materials, or implementing new technologies. The key is that the team is given the freedom to determine their own methods, which can lead to improved efficiency and cost savings.

Benefits of the 'What Not How' Approach

The 'What Not How' approach offers several benefits. First, it fosters a culture of innovation and problem-solving, as teams are encouraged to think creatively and come up with new solutions. This can lead to improved product quality, increased operational efficiency, and better customer satisfaction.

Second, it encourages teams to take ownership of their work, which can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction. By allowing teams the freedom to determine their own methods, they feel a sense of responsibility and ownership over their work. This can lead to increased motivation and productivity.

Fosters Innovation

One of the key benefits of the 'What Not How' approach is that it fosters a culture of innovation. By focusing on 'what' needs to be achieved rather than 'how' it should be done, teams are encouraged to think creatively and come up with new solutions. This can lead to improved product quality, increased operational efficiency, and better customer satisfaction.

For example, a product team might come up with a novel feature that significantly improves user experience, or an operations team might develop a new production process that significantly reduces costs. These innovative solutions might not have been possible if the teams were constrained by prescribed methods or processes.

Encourages Ownership

Another key benefit of the 'What Not How' approach is that it encourages teams to take ownership of their work. By allowing teams the freedom to determine their own methods, they feel a sense of responsibility and ownership over their work. This can lead to increased motivation and productivity.

For example, a developer who is given the freedom to determine their own coding methods is likely to feel more invested in their work, leading to higher quality code. Similarly, an operations team that is given the freedom to determine their own production processes is likely to feel more invested in their work, leading to improved operational efficiency.

Potential Challenges of the 'What Not How' Approach

While the 'What Not How' approach offers several benefits, it also comes with potential challenges. These include the risk of miscommunication, the potential for inconsistency, and the need for a high level of trust and confidence in the team.

However, these challenges can be mitigated through clear communication, regular feedback, and ongoing support and guidance. It is also important to ensure that the team has the necessary skills and resources to effectively implement the 'What Not How' approach.

Risk of Miscommunication

One potential challenge of the 'What Not How' approach is the risk of miscommunication. By focusing on 'what' needs to be achieved rather than 'how' it should be done, there is a risk that the team might misunderstand the desired outcomes or goals.

This can be mitigated through clear and concise communication of the desired outcomes or goals. It is also important to provide regular feedback and clarification to ensure that the team is on the right track. In addition, it can be helpful to provide examples or case studies to illustrate the desired outcomes or goals.

Potential for Inconsistency

Another potential challenge of the 'What Not How' approach is the potential for inconsistency. By allowing teams the freedom to determine their own methods, there is a risk that different teams or individuals might come up with different methods, leading to inconsistency.

This can be mitigated through regular communication and coordination among teams or individuals. It is also important to establish clear guidelines and standards to ensure consistency. In addition, it can be helpful to provide training and support to ensure that the team has the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively implement the 'What Not How' approach.

How to Implement the 'What Not How' Approach

Implementing the 'What Not How' approach requires a shift in mindset and management style. It involves moving away from traditional management styles that dictate methods and processes, and towards a more collaborative and empowering approach that encourages teams to take ownership of their work.

Here are some steps to effectively implement the 'What Not How' approach in product management and operations.

Define Clear Goals

The first step in implementing the 'What Not How' approach is to define clear goals or outcomes. This requires a deep understanding of the problem at hand and the ability to articulate it in a way that is easily understood by the team.

It is important to ensure that the goals or outcomes are measurable and achievable, and that they align with the overall objectives of the organization. It is also important to communicate these goals or outcomes clearly and concisely to the team.

Empower the Team

The next step is to empower the team to determine their own methods or processes. This involves giving the team the freedom to come up with their own solutions, and encouraging them to think creatively and innovatively.

It is important to provide the team with the necessary resources and support to effectively implement their methods or processes. This could include providing training, tools, and technology, as well as providing regular feedback and guidance.

Provide Ongoing Support and Guidance

Finally, it is important to provide ongoing support and guidance to the team. This involves providing regular feedback and clarification to ensure that the team is on the right track, and providing ongoing training and support to ensure that the team has the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively implement the 'What Not How' approach.

It is also important to foster a culture of trust and respect, where team members feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. This can lead to increased motivation and productivity, and ultimately, better outcomes.

Specific Examples of the 'What Not How' Approach

Here are some specific examples of how the 'What Not How' approach can be applied in product management and operations.

Product Management Example

In product management, the 'What Not How' approach can be used to define product goals and objectives. For example, a product manager might set a goal to increase the user base of a particular product by a certain percentage within a specific timeframe. However, they would not dictate the specific strategies or tactics to be used to achieve this goal.

Instead, the product team would be given the freedom to come up with their own strategies and tactics. This could include developing new features, improving user experience, or launching marketing campaigns. The key is that the team is given the freedom to determine their own methods, which can lead to innovative solutions and better outcomes.

Operations Example

In operations, the 'What Not How' approach can be used to set operational targets and performance metrics. For example, an operations manager might set a target to reduce production costs by a certain percentage within a specific timeframe. However, they would not dictate the specific methods or processes to be used to achieve this target.

Instead, the operations team would be given the freedom to come up with their own methods and processes. This could include improving production processes, sourcing cheaper materials, or implementing new technologies. The key is that the team is given the freedom to determine their own methods, which can lead to improved efficiency and cost savings.

Conclusion

The 'What Not How' approach is a powerful management philosophy that can foster innovation, encourage ownership, and lead to better outcomes. By focusing on 'what' needs to be achieved rather than 'how' it should be done, teams are encouraged to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions.

While there are potential challenges, such as the risk of miscommunication and the potential for inconsistency, these can be mitigated through clear communication, regular feedback, and ongoing support and guidance. By effectively implementing the 'What Not How' approach, organizations can improve product quality, increase operational efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction.