Wednesday, February 21, 2024
HomeSoftware EngineeringStakeholder Administration for Product Managers

Stakeholder Administration for Product Managers

Greater than 20 years in the past, tech entrepreneur and enterprise capitalist Ben Horowitz wrote {that a} good product supervisor is the CEO of the product. Many product managers disagree with this analogy, however it has some fact.

Senior product managers usually type sturdy relationships with the C-suite as they navigate transitional states, undefined goals, and competing stakeholders. A product supervisor’s knack for readability is pivotal in occasions of change when CEOs are extra weak. In these moments, stress from boards and pushback from staff can thwart strategic transformation, risking income and careers. By contracting a generalist product supervisor to handle relationships with stakeholders, CEOs can achieve operational insights and buy-in for merchandise and initiatives in any respect ranges of a company.

Reasons board members removed CEOs; 31% cited mismanaging change.
In a seminal 2015 survey of 1,087 board members, 31% reported ousting a CEO on account of poor change administration. Mismanaging change stays a serious vulnerability for CEOs.

Why Product Managers Make Nice Deputies

Everybody likes a product supervisor. Or, not less than, nobody is threatened by them. That’s as a result of product managers haven’t any authority outdoors of the product group. Their purpose is to make sure the product roadmap solves compelling issues and addresses person priorities. To do this, they have to examine the ins and outs of every enterprise unit, constructing rapport alongside the best way.

Consequently, stakeholders really feel protected answering questions that would expose vulnerabilities or trigger misunderstandings. For example, one among my purchasers, a for-profit college group, was acquired in a leveraged buyout, and the brand new board ordered staff to digitize decades-old processes. However the board’s steering was obscure and didn’t make sense in each state of affairs, main some stakeholders to disregard directives or quietly improvise their very own workflows. Had this been found, management would have penalized these stakeholders for going off-script. However their conduct was a realistic response to systemic issues that they had no authority to get rid of. I documented these top-down issues, not the stakeholder workarounds, as critical ache factors we wanted to resolve.

A product supervisor makes use of cultural data to map the corporate’s de facto processes, then shares problem-solving suggestions with the C-suite. Right here’s how they go about it.

How Product Managers Strategy Key Stakeholders

An skilled product supervisor will construct rapport with stakeholders to establish issues firstly of a undertaking, negotiate options to these issues, and be certain that the options are viable. This course of requires a sequence of steps that leverage the product supervisor’s gentle abilities and a broad array of onerous abilities.


At first of a undertaking, the product supervisor will maintain one-on-one conferences to permit stakeholders to talk freely about their ache factors with out the danger of retaliation. If there isn’t time to satisfy with each stakeholder, the product supervisor will goal a subset with probably the most affect. These stakeholders are sometimes long-tenured managers or contributors who perceive the group’s structural points and function mentors to their colleagues.

Subsequent, the product supervisor will divide groups into small dialogue teams to learn the way they operate. Conserving these conferences small ensures that people really feel snug airing grievances, strategies, or anxieties. By the top of the listening section, the product supervisor can have captured crucial particulars about every stakeholder’s workflow and constraints.


The product supervisor will then use a software like Miro or diagrams.web to map relational workflows, information constructions, and organizational dependencies to launch additional dialogue with stakeholders. This map introduces management to on-the-ground realities and reveals employees that different colleagues share their roadblocks and goals. The map additionally facilitates the roadmapping course of in a while, serving to to establish identified and unknown dangers to the group, from counterproductive workflows to looming disruptions that would have an effect on wholesome enterprise models.

At this level, some contract product managers will ship a tidy abstract and a few handsome slides earlier than signing off for good. This isn’t who you need to rent. A superb generalist product supervisor will stick round to collaborate on stakeholder-led options that work and hand off day-to-day troubleshooting to an in-house product supervisor as soon as the undertaking is operating easily.


After drawing the map, the product supervisor will begin problem-solving, beginning with every stakeholder’s most simple ache factors. This train ought to yield fast advantages for the group at massive. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the product supervisor shouldn’t get too embedded inside a specific enterprise operate, or they danger changing into a part of the dysfunction they’re making an attempt to resolve.

As a substitute, the product supervisor ought to arrange bigger, cross-functional initiatives and implement information-sharing processes to preempt siloing and friction. The product supervisor might choose representatives from every related enterprise unit (usually gifted however underutilized group members) to collaborate on the undertaking.

Suppose gross sales and advertising and marketing want higher alignment. On this case, the product supervisor may maintain a weekly working group with one marketer and one gross sales consultant to prepare their groups’ goals and processes and consider new buyer relationship administration (CRM) programs. These representatives would then report their findings to their respective groups.


Mediating amongst stakeholders is probably the most delicate however rewarding stage for product managers. Strategies might fluctuate, however my strategy to mediation is straightforward:

  1. Manage a gathering and embody all stakeholders who will use or be affected by the product. The invite checklist ought to embody the capabilities that different stakeholders are inclined to overlook when planning main adjustments. These capabilities fluctuate between organizations however usually embody customer support, human sources, or finance. Extending invites to as many stakeholders as potential ensures that nobody derails the product out of self-interest, or fails to undertake the answer in favor of again channels.

  2. Based mostly on the assembly notes, draw a tough map of the capabilities’ overlapping and competing pursuits and priorities to seek out factors of commonality and battle.

  3. Foyer every group by figuring out the way it will profit from an initiative. If a group sees no upside to initiatives that inconvenience it, it should decide out or resist. Say the CRM working group decides the engineers should replace the present platform to include new lead era instruments for the gross sales group. The ensuing disruption may final for months and closely impression advertising and marketing’s efficiency. To get advertising and marketing’s buy-in, the product supervisor should clarify the long-term benefits to the advertising and marketing group, equivalent to improved automation options.

  4. Reconvene the stakeholders and supply one or two inventive alternate options to the primary proposal in case it fails to realize consensus. If stakeholders can’t agree on an answer, the product supervisor ought to choose one and clarify why it’s the best choice.

  5. Repeat conferences with particular person stakeholders to solicit suggestions and clarify the plan’s impression on them and their groups. The objective is to have blunt discussions that the product supervisor can use to craft a compromise.

  6. Define an motion plan and guarantee stakeholders perceive that their ideas and time are important and can generate worth for the group.

On the finish of this course of, stakeholders will view the product supervisor as a pleasant mediator and begin involving them in common data exchanges. Product managers capable of work throughout capabilities and with many stakeholders may also help get rid of inefficiencies and silos all through the corporate.

A chart lists a product manager’s top five skills.
Product managers are expert multitaskers. One generalist product supervisor can cut back many operational silos.

How CEOs Get Misplaced within the Company Fog

The “fog of conflict” is a time period derived from the treatise On Struggle by Prussian navy strategist Carl von Clausewitz. It refers back to the necessity of creating operational choices with incomplete data. This fog additionally develops in altering organizations, equivalent to early-stage startups or extra established firms within the throes of a scale-up or digital transformation. Activist boards demand fast outcomes, whereas anxious staff resist change, battle over sources, or withhold data from management and each other. In the meantime, new purposeful overlaps and unexpected dependencies add complexity, deepening the chaos.

Within the case of the college group consumer I discussed earlier, educators, directors, and workers had been gradual to implement new processes as a result of the processes had been complicated or ill-suited for a selected context. When the board’s new imaginative and prescient did not manifest rapidly, it fired the CEO. By the point I arrived, the board had changed the whole C-suite twice in a single 12 months, to little impact.

Executives are sometimes too busy managing direct experiences and board expectations to observe operational trivialities. When efficiency lags, they could exert broad stress, worsening fissures and dysfunction throughout the firm. An skilled product supervisor can break this vicious cycle by exploring all ranges of the group, gathering data, and organizing initiatives.

Product Managers Are Allies, Not Opponents

After the CEO, the senior product supervisor has probably the most vital transverse position inside an organization, developing webs of relationships and influencing tradition and strategic course. This affect can appear threatening to CEOs, significantly if the product supervisor strays out of their lane. For instance, an overenthusiastic product supervisor may recommend altering the firm’s technique or suggest initiatives outdoors the scope of their task. The stress of keeping off a rogue product supervisor can lead CEOs to micromanage, slowing decision-making and lowering autonomy all through the group.

CEOs and different C-suiters ought to keep in mind that it’s unlikely a wayward product supervisor has ulterior motives. Whereas the job does have some gentle talent overlap with the CEO and even the COO, it lacks lots of the calls for of these roles. Product managers don’t cope with buyers or the press like a CEO, or payroll and hiring like a COO, and that’s a part of the position’s attraction. However, finally, belief will rely on the distinctive relationship between the CEO and product supervisor, significantly in smaller firms. Expertise and expertise are necessary when evaluating a product supervisor, however belief will make the distinction between a counterproductive energy wrestle and a transformative collaboration.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments