The drawback of making everything a must-have

Product Management Dec 5, 2019

The drawback of making everything a must-have

The company decided now was the time to rebuild our complete product. Everybody was excited and could not wait to start working on it.

Rebuilding a product is an ambitious endeavor. Especially because we were already serving big names all over the globe.

Ten Product Managers were sitting in a meeting room, ready to convene about what features should be in the future product.

You could just feel the energy in the room. Everybody was eager to grab the opportunity to make a good product even better.

We discussed a long list of more than 200 features present in our existing product. Each feature was prioritized using MoSCoW prioritization.

Every item we went through, we heard the following verdict:

Must-have. Must-have. Must-have. Must-have!

At the end of the meeting, only a handful of items were not a must-have.

Then I asked the following question:

“When everything is a must-have, it means everything is equally important right? With only must-haves we will not be able to control what features slip if we won’t be able to meet the deadline.”

Unfortunately failure was not an option:

“Everything needs to be in the final product by the deadline, so all features are a must-have. If something drops, then we cannot release our product.”

There isn’t a single product in the world where all features are equally important.

If you make all features equally important, you don’t understand what really matters.

If you understand your customer, how you deliver value to them and your business, then you should be able to make a better call than making everything a must-have.

The sad thing is that I’m quite confident most Product Managers have been in the situation where one of their stakeholders claims everything is a must-have.

In the words of Patrick Lencioni:

“If everything is important, then nothing is.” ― Patrick Lencioni

The new product wasn’t delivered at the release date. When it eventually was delivered, it did not contain all must-have features. It did contain features that were not that important at all, but were initially flagged as must-haves.

The drawback of making everything a must-have, is that you’re doomed to waste time on less valuable things at the expense of more valuable things.