In our annual report on the state of product management, we learned that product managers believe that they spend too much time handling a key responsibility. When asked a series of questions about where their time is most valued and efficiently allocated (on a scale of 1 to 9, where 1 is ‘not nearly enough time’, 5 is the ‘perfect amount of time’, and 9 is ‘way too much time’), product managers reported spending slightly too much time meeting with internal stakeholders, and way too much time navigating internal politics. This is problematic given how crucial rallying stakeholders is to the job and how important it is to be able to do so efficiently.
So we consulted the experts from our interviews on the podcast, This is Product Management, and discovered that industry leaders focus primarily on three solutions: storytelling, data, and consensus. Here are the very best quotes on the topic:
“You need a story to move the product forward. You need to say here’s where we are, here’s what we’re doing right now, here’s where I want us to go, here’s where I think we can go, here’s where I think there’s opportunity to go. You need to be able to paint a picture of where tomorrow is and of where the future of the product is that starts to elevate you beyond someone who’s executing what’s known to someone who is creating what will be. And you can only create what will be with a story or picture of tomorrow.” – Valla Vakili, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Citi and former product leader at Yahoo
“What hasn’t been so successful is scheduling a meeting and asking people to react naturally to a set of research or proposals…[so] “I apply the short ‘meeting before the meeting’… just a little bit more personal interaction beforehand with the people I know are going to be critical to the success of that meeting.” – Joe Lalley, Digital Strategy and Product Management Leader at PwC
“You need to gain consensus around goals before you even start tracking any of the data. That’s going to help you so much more down the line. If you have a bunch of data, you can tell any story that you want, and it becomes very easy to let that data dictate the story you want to tell. You can sometimes easily overlook aspects of that data, only look at it from one angle and it can become very biased. If you can get that consensus ahead of time, understand what goals you’re trying to measure and track and then say what’s the data we need to identify or prove that we are successful or not, you’re going to be in a better spot… Not everyone knows exactly what this data means even though it’s right there in front of them, so make sure you’re properly telling the story and the results of what’s happening so there’s not a bunch of open ended questions.” – Kevin Steigerwald, Founder and Chief Product Officer at Notion
“They have to see real results in an analogous industry… Finding a company in an analogous or metaphorical industry is probably one of the critical steps in convincing the CEO or the board. Another is having a high-performing senior executive willing to lead the charge, somebody’s got to say ‘OK, I’m going to put my career at risk because I believe in this, I understand it, and I’m eager to make it work because our product management is stagnant and we’re getting modest organic growth, and we need something disruptive and I’d like the capstone of my career to date in this company to be the person who figured this out and brought the next piece of organic growth to our company.” – Bob Dorf, Best-Selling Author of The Startup Owner’s Manual
“When you’re building those partnerships internally to get people behind your idea, your idea is a pretty broad thing so it’s value has a lot to do with, or is different to everyone. So when you’re with those people, frame your idea in a way that is applicable to them and gets them excited…One thing to do is to get their buy-in, put yourself in their shoes, be empathetic to who they are, understand, because in most instances they’ve probably identified some of the same pain points that you have, whether it’s pain points internally or pain points for their customers…so think less of it as your idea but more of it as an opportunity to get more people behind you to help you improve in your own business and business for your customers.” – Helen Bui, Founder at Skylet and Former Head of Innovation at Newscorp
“I think we’ve reached a point of where we’re fetishizing data and anything which is called data. One specific tactic I use in meetings is to ban the word data because it forces people to actually talk about the information at hand as opposed to hiding behind the word.” – Matt LeMay, Co-founder at Constellate Data and former Senior Product Manager at Songza