Have you been in a position where you need to persuade a designer or an engineer to take on an idea? Perhaps it came from the VP or maybe it’s one of your own. However, you’re unable to influence the key team members to work on it.
You may be tempted to use the “this is coming from the top-down” technique, but that surely will aggravate the team further. What ends up happening is that everyone is left with a bad taste in their mouth and doesn’t feel good about the work they do.
So, how do you get people excited about “change?” How do you influence people without seeming authoritarian?
Realize that the premise is wrong
The problem is that when you start with an idea, you’re jumping towards the end. Ideas are not necessarily opportunities–too much has been already figured out and it’s all in your head.
When you bring an idea–such as a new feature–to a team member they’re going to be confused. And more likely, they will feel undervalued. They will wonder why they were not included in the discovery process. “Am I not valued?” “If I’m going to build the thing, shouldn’t I understand the ‘why’ so it can be implemented properly?”
An “idea” is a small piece of the bigger picture. Designers and engineers need to be involved in the process in which the idea was formulated if they’re going to design and develop effective solutions.
Get everyone working together, from the start
The simplest and most effective way of getting designers and engineers working on your ideas is first NOT to bring them ideas. Bring them opportunities and get them working together from the start.
Opportunities are great because they’re a sturdy foundation onto which others can build.
Here’s an example of an idea vs and opportunity for a Learning Management System (LMS):
|Email notification templates.||90% of students do not complete their assignments by the due date set by the training officer.|
Just looking and the two you can see how much easier it is to build on top of an opportunity rather than an idea. The unanswered questions are obvious–which helps guide the next steps.
With an idea, the only questions are, “what” and “why” based. It’s not clear where to start because there is a lack of history. So your mind does an elaborate gymnastics trying to get back to the start.
Collaborative, not authoritative
Work should not be handed off to designers and developers. They should be part of the discovery process from the very start.
When you get them involved in identifying things like the value for the business and customers, identifying constraints, and planning strategies they will be fully invested–guaranteeing they’ll be on board with working on an idea.
Share the product vision
Sharing your vision also goes a long way in giving people the confidence they need in your abilities.
Be open about how you plan to identify and validate opportunities. Discuss how and when you’ll bring them to design and engineering–as well what you’ll expect of them.
When people have a shared vision of the product knowing what to do becomes clear. It helps guide them in most decisions they need to make.
Influence and persuasion
I’ve mentioned persuasion in my post 3 strategies to ensure the Product Roadmap is not hijacked. It’s worth a read as persuasion is a skill that all PMs should learn.
When using persuasion tactics, it’s important to remember that less is more. Don’t pile on the persuasion. Just stick to one good piece of evidence. It strengthens your arguments as it doesn’t make it look like your padding your “evidence.”