I Just Don’t Understand Why We Wouldn’t…

The one thing me the product manager just loves to hear: “I don’t understand why we wouldn’t [blank].”

(Preface to this rant: Suggestions are always appreciated. Collaboration is essential to success. Don’t stop.)

Starting your suggestion with “I don’t understand why we…” is most definitely not the way to go.

When you say the words, “I don’t understand,” you may think you are admitting that you don’t have the whole story to why something is the way it is. Maybe you mean it to say that you haven’t really thought it through before making your suggestion. Maybe you are conceding that it’s more complicated than your simple solution might imply.

The way it comes across when you say, “I don’t understand,” is that your suggestion is the most obvious thing in the world. The implication of your words is that you’ve considered it carefully and can’t comprehend how I haven’t come to the same conclusion as you have. In other words, what you don’t understand is that I haven’t figured it out yet considering how readily apparent the solution is.

It’s difficult

Product management is really, really difficult and often very complicated. Fixing or building things usually takes way longer than anyone hopes or expects. Solutions to problems are tough to get right and often it takes multiple tries to get it even close to right. Unintended consequences are everywhere.

Sometimes you have to implement part of a solution now, and part of a solution later because 10% of the way to perfect is better than 0% of the way. Other times you have to accept that something that sucks will continue to suck for now because you can’t fix everything and it’s lower on the priority list than some other things that suck.

Suggestions about how to make things better are always welcome. But the suggestion that the solution is obvious isn’t going to get you very far.