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Conflict resolution for competing priorities

Together, we become stronger.

Navigating the complex realm of product strategy often feels like steering a ship through choppy waters. As a product team, you craft a meticulous strategy, and meticulously plan your course, only to face a barrage of questions and conflicting challenges from internal teams, subject matter experts (SMEs), and other organizational groups questioning your priorities. Conflict resolution becomes a fever dream.

Have you found yourself in this precarious situation? It’s not uncommon. In my video above, I delve into three potent strategies instrumental in managing these conflicts.

Our instinct is often to race toward the first solution, a habit perhaps ingrained from our academic years where the goal was to swiftly reach the answer at the back of the textbook. But as product owners or managers, we’ve all stumbled in certain areas:

Insufficient Explanation 

Often, product teams fall short in elucidating their decisions, leading to resistance. Take Apple’s removal of the headphone jack—a more detailed stakeholder explanation could have mitigated misunderstandings and customer backlash.

Over-commitment to Ideas 

Teams sometimes become excessively devoted to their pet ideas, hindering adaptability when faced with feedback or changing circumstances. Remember the ambitious but slightly off-the-mark Windows 8 design?

Lack of Alternative Options 

Presenting only one solution limits collaboration and breeds debates over whose idea reigns supreme, akin to Google offering only one design for Gmail.

Offering the Solution at the End 

Simply offering the solution without involving stakeholders in the discovery process is like joining a movie midway—it misses the narrative. When stakeholders aren’t involved early, conflicts can erupt as they bring in different perspectives and suggestions.

As a product owner or manager, entering a conflict situation should be reserved for matters of true importance. Conflict resolution necessitates:

Clear Objectives 

Align your company and product OKRs (Objectives and Key Results Video). These guide your priorities. Think about Netflix’s objective to increase engagement with its video streaming service. (What is an A/B Test?)

Early Involvement 

Engage peers, SMEs, and stakeholders early to unearth opportunities aligned with customer needs—like those discovered from interviews.

Visualize Solutions Together 

Finally, employ tools like the Opportunity Solution Tree to jointly brainstorm and refine ideas with stakeholders. This collaborative approach streamlines decision-making and prevents last-minute pivoting.

But what if stakeholders aren’t accessible or engaged? Keep them in the loop through regular updates and scheduled discussions. Foster a culture of debate, akin to Netflix’s approach , where opposing viewpoints are explored constructively.

When faced with equally appealing solutions, experiment. Rapid prototypes or A/B tests can illuminate the best path forward. Experiments need not be full-fledged implementations—small-scale trials can yield significant insights.

In essence, product managers must welcome diverse ideas, for within the clash lies the true essence of collaboration and conflict resolution. Keen on experiencing this firsthand? Join us in our advanced workshops, where we simulate real-world scenarios to hone these strategies.

 

To resolve a conflict on priorities for your product you need to (add 1, 2 and 3 as words)

  1. Be very clear about your objective and key results OKRs for your company and for your product. Ensure they are aligned and your priorities are aligned accordingly. To learn about objectives and key results watch my OKR video, link in the description below. If we take the Netflix example, an outcome for Netflix’s video streaming service could be to Increase engagement with the video streaming service. 

  2. Involve your peers, SMEs and other stakeholders very early to discover opportunities to deliver on the outcome. Opportunities are customer needs or pain points. Lets say, from your customer interviews you find three opportunities 1. I don’t have anything to watch, 2. I can’t remember the show my friend mentioned, 3. I want to watch my shows on my commute, 4. I don’t know when a new season is available. Let your stakeholders in at this point and run this visualization exercise called the opportunity solution tree. It comes from Continuous discovery book from Theresa Torres. 

  3. At this stage, your stakeholders might bring in new perspectives or might provide feedback on the opportunities you discovered. This will help you refine them. Engage them in a discussion about solutions you might come up with on each of the customer pain points or opportunities. You are now getting them involved in coming up with solutions together. This helps the decision making process better and avoids pivoting at the last minute

 

Several of these stories are from the netflixblog – https://netflixtechblog.com/

 

 

In essence, product managers must anticipate, and even welcome, contrasting ideas. The journey from discord to agreement is where the true magic of collaboration lies.

 

 

 

Additional Reading:

How Agile helped Unilever deliver hand sanitizers faster during Covid-19

Product Owner Case Studies

Psychological Safety and the Scrum Master  

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