5 tips to deal with difficult stakeholders in Discovery

Wether we want to or not, stakeholder management is a big chunk of a product managers job. And it's not all flowers. Some are challenging your ideas. Some are challenging. Period. Discovery is inherently high-uncertainty work and therefore easy to challenge.

TL;DR: Product Discovery is a team sport. As in, you need everyone's input and commitment. Showing every input is being considered and valued will be essential in conducting successful discovery, and making sure the outcome will be accepted.

Here are 5 random tips to adopt immediately, or do it like me, and learn from making mistakes.

  1. Allow all your stakeholders to dump ideas somewhere. They are valid. No eye rolling. Share the goal of this Discovery cycle and allow everyone to give their 2 cents.
  2. Workshop to brainstorm experiments for those ideas. Including stakeholders here makes them see how hard it is. They might just stop annoying you with random feature requests.
  3. Do the first user interview this week. Just start, even without an interview guide. Even without all the stakeholder buy-in. You're not putting the business at risk. Relax.
  4. Post updates on your findings regularly in 1:N channels. Like Slack. Do not use evidence to shit on their ideas.
  5. Know and communicate openly that you are no smarter than a head of sales. You both learn from the market.

Embrace your colleagues motivation to help out. Even if their ways of "helping" is not helpful to you.

Bonus #1

  • Over communicate your progress in regular intervals. Often Product Discovery seems fuzzy for others. Also the purpose of Discovery: Focus our work on the highest impact thing for the business.

Bonus #2

  • Speak about your results with confidence. You need to be a product leader. So you can't be too timid, even if you don't know everything. Most colleagues swing around strong opinions without any evidence. Don't wait for statistical significance to have an opinion.

Obviously all these tips are highly situational. You are smart. Don't overstep boundaries or risk your career.