The 5Ws and 1H technique is a simple strategy used by investigative journalists, detectives, and researchers to collect a complete and accurate story. The idea behind this method is that if you can identify the answers to these six questions, you should have a full version of events. These six questions are: what, why, when, where, who, and how.
The 5Ws and 1H framework is a super simple but seriously effective method for collecting information. It's an easily memorized list that journalists and other researchers can reflect on whenever they're collecting information in the heat of the moment.
The 5Ws and 1H method is also helpful for delivering information. When writing or providing a story, addressing the answers to each of these questions can give your audience a holistic sense of the story you're sharing.
The 5Ws are important because they effectively touch upon the core components of a story. If you can answer these five questions, then you likely have a solid grasp of the story at hand. It also provides you with a framework for adding details to your story, because you already have the foundation to get the core story across.
You can also adapt the 5Ws and 1H technique to project management. This is particularly useful for focusing on a complex project and ensuring that you and everyone on your team shares a common vision. Who are your stakeholders, why are you developing this product, how are you going to go about it, what is the scope of your project, etc.?
What is the budget for your project?
What does your target audience want?
What will you need for your project to succeed?
What risks is your project assuming?
What are the milestones you need to hit?
Why are you developing this product?
Why does your target audience want this product?
Why is your product running into issues?
Why does this product make sense for your brand?
Why have you chosen each member of your team to work on this?
When should this project be completed?
When does each milestone need to be completed?
When will product testing need to take place?
When should you transition product development to product support and maintenance?
Where will your product be deployed?
Where will you be working on your project?
Where will your users be using this product?
Where is this product going to be manufactured?
Where does your product need to function?
Who is going to be using this product?
Who will be working on the development of this project?
Who are your stakeholders?
Who will benefit from this product?
Who are your current and potential competitors?
How will your product be developed?
How is this product going to work?
How long is this product supposed to last?
How will your target user benefit from using this product?
Once your team deeply understands user pain points and wants, they can build the product in a way that offers real value to the customer. This is why the 5W’s framework is so effective — it digs deep into the core of a product and its users.
The “Who?” represents the people involved in the product and helps teams frame the project in a way that covers everyone involved. This includes stakeholders, the team, customers, and product owners.
You can almost think of the “What?” as a product definition stage. It sets expectations for the entire project and defines key problems that need solving or features that should be included.
The “When?” tasks us with estimating timeframes. It can be helpful to save this question for last, because the other stages will define the processes you need to estimate timeframes for. This stage helps us communicate and set expectations for interested parties.
This used to be a simple question to answer. However, it's a little tougher to define in this age of remote work and hybrid teams. Where we deploy a project may be a far cry from where it was created. To keep the team aligned and maintain productivity, asking “Where?” can be extremely useful.
Some teams will start blindly working on projects using only technical specifications. What tends to follow is a lifeless product that ticks the boxes but fails to provide value to the user. Think about the other W questions and their answers. Within those answers is why you’ll be creating the product. Customer needs, business needs — your “Why?” can be anything as long as you know what that “Why?” is.
The 5W’s and 1H framework can be used in countless situations, including journalism, research, and police investigations. Even in a product development context, there are many ways to use this framework. The idea is to gain a deep understanding of the task ahead using insights and other key information.
While Product Managers can use the 5Ws and 1H framework at any stage of the development process, it can be most beneficial during product definition. During this stage, the team is trying to figure out what they are building, who they’re making it for, when it should be released, where it will be used, and why they’re building it. Does that sound familiar?
By asking the 5 W questions during the product definition stage, the team can understand what they’re setting out to achieve. They will be able to identify key factors, align with the product vision, and stay focused on the matter at hand. Once they’ve figured out the W’s, they can work on how they will create the product.
Learn how to prioritize by making it a simple process, to build products that stand out. Learn more about how to source insight, choose the right prioritization framework and much more.