Juggling Stakeholders Like a Pro: Tips for Stakeholder Management
Product management is a balancing act 🎪
Product management is like being a circus performer walking a tightrope. Instead of juggling balls, you're juggling the demands of stakeholders on one hand and the product you're responsible for on the other. It's a wild ride that requires a combination of skill, agility, and a good sense of humor.
But don't worry, you don't need to be a clown to make it work. With a little bit of finesse and the right approach, you can balance those competing needs and keep everyone happy. So let's roll up our sleeves and jump into the ring, where we'll manage those stakeholder expectations and make sure everyone is singing the same tune. After all, the show must go on!
What is a stakeholder?
A stakeholder is any person, group, or organization with an interest in the success or failure of a product. These may include team members, customers, regulators, and financially vested investors. They can be internal, such as employees and executives within a company, or external, such as customers, partners, or suppliers. Their goals and priorities will likely differ, and the product manager must understand and balance these competing interests.
The influence of stakeholders on the product can vary, but the product manager needs to recognize the importance of each stakeholder and their potential impact on the product's success. By managing stakeholders effectively, product managers can increase their chances of delivering a product that meets the needs of its intended users and delivers value to the organization.
How to identify possible stakeholders
As a product manager, you work cross-functionally. You develop a vision and strategy, conduct market research, identify customer needs, manage road maps, and more. But managing stakeholders is also a key role in product management and is often overlooked to the detriment of your team and your product. Since stakeholders can be anyone interested in your product's success or failure, it can be overwhelming to identify them. Follow these steps to make it easy:
- Conduct stakeholder analysis - Evaluate all the individuals and groups who might have a vested interest in the product or have a direct or indirect impact.
- Determine their level of interest and influence - Assess the level of interest each stakeholder has in the product and their level of influence over the product’s success.
- Prioritize stakeholders - Based on the analysis, prioritize stakeholders based on their level of interest, influence, and impact on the product’s success.
- Engage stakeholders - Communicate with stakeholders to understand their needs, concerns, and expectations. Seek their input on product requirements, design, and strategy.
- Maintain regular communication - Regular communication with stakeholders helps build trust, ensure alignment, and manage expectations.
This is a rough timeline, and every stakeholder is a bit different. And, of course, this varies widely depending on the company, location, and industry. But these steps are a tried-and-true method.
The relationship between stakeholders and product managers
Stakeholders rely on product managers to create a product that meets their needs and expectations. In contrast, product managers rely on stakeholders to provide feedback and support. A healthy relationship between stakeholders and product managers is essential for the product's success.
Effective product management requires engaging and communicating with stakeholders regularly to ensure that their needs are being met and that the product is aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the organization. The relationship between stakeholders and product managers is a two-way street–with stakeholders providing feedback and input on the product roadmap, features, and performance.
How to build relationships with stakeholders
Building relationships with stakeholders is crucial for managing expectations and facilitating effective communication. Here are some tips for building relationships with stakeholders:
- Be open and transparent - Be honest and transparent about the product and your plans. This helps stakeholders understand what to expect and prevents misunderstandings.
- Listen to their needs - Listen to the needs and expectations of stakeholders and take their opinions into account when making decisions about the product.
- Keep them informed - Keep stakeholders informed about the product's progress and any changes made. This helps them stay informed and prevents misunderstandings.
- Be responsive - Be responsive to the needs and concerns of stakeholders. This shows that you value their input and helps maintain their trust.
- Build trust - Building trust is essential for a healthy relationship between stakeholders and product managers. Be honest, keep your promises, and act with integrity.
Be kind to yourself. This is a hard job.
Managing stakeholders as a product manager can be a complex and challenging task. One of the biggest difficulties is conflicting interests among stakeholders, who may have different requirements and expectations for the product. The priorities of stakeholders can change quickly, requiring the product manager to be agile and adapt to shifting priorities. Stakeholders may interpret the product's goals, features, and benefits differently, leading to misunderstandings and misalignment. To effectively manage stakeholders, a product manager must have strong communication skills, empathy, strategic thinking, and the ability to navigate complex relationships and situations.
Be patient with yourself so you can approach each stakeholder relationship with a clear mind, calm demeanor, and a focus on finding the best possible outcome for everyone involved. Ultimately, being kind to yourself as a product manager will help you to be more effective in your role and better equipped to handle the demands of working with stakeholders.
How to deal with stakeholders
Dealing with stakeholders can be challenging, but it can be a positive experience with the right approach. Here are some tips for dealing with stakeholders:
- Be proactive - Be proactive in addressing the needs and concerns of stakeholders. This helps prevent conflicts and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
- Manage conflicts - When conflicts arise between stakeholders, it's necessary to manage them effectively. This could involve facilitating discussions between stakeholders, mediating disagreements, or making decisions to resolve the conflict.
- Be flexible - Be flexible and open to change. Stakeholders may have different opinions and needs, and flexibility helps ensure everyone's needs are met.
- Be solution-focused - When dealing with stakeholders, focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on the problem. This helps create a positive atmosphere and ensures everyone is working towards a common goal.
A healthy relationship between product managers and stakeholders
A healthy relationship between product managers and stakeholders is essential for the product's success. A healthy relationship is characterized by open and effective communication, trust, transparency, and a commitment to meeting the needs of all stakeholders. When product managers and stakeholders work together positively and productively, the product is more likely to be successful.
Effective communication between different stakeholders
Effective communication is essential for managing stakeholder expectations and ensuring a successful product. Here are some tips for facilitating effective communication between different stakeholders:
- Use clear language - Use clear and concise language when communicating with stakeholders. Avoid jargon and technical terms that they may not understand.
- Update regularly - Provide regular updates to stakeholders about the product's progress. This helps keep them informed and prevents misunderstandings.
- Be accessible - Make yourself accessible to stakeholders. This could involve holding regular meetings, being available for one-on-one discussions, or responding to their inquiries promptly.
- Be inclusive - When communicating with stakeholders, involve everyone involved in the outcome of the product.
- Be clear about expectations - Be clear about your expectations for the product and what stakeholders can expect from you. This helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Managing stakeholder expectations and facilitating effective communication between different stakeholders is a critical aspect of product management. By building relationships with stakeholders, dealing with stakeholders in a proactive and solution-focused manner, and facilitating effective communication, product managers can ensure the success of their products and meet the needs of all stakeholders