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Internal Politics is Product Management

Helen Bui discussed dealing with internal politics in this episode of This is Product Management. Helen describes her experience navigating internal politics at a large organization and explains why miscommunication is so rampant, why objectives are decided in a meeting and then nothing gets done, and how to champion and execute initiatives in large organizations. She also discusses some tactics and practices you can use to communicate with team members. (via @tipmpodcast)

How Do You Overcome Internal Politics to Build Great Products in a Large Organization?

Alpha HQ held a panel discussion that explored how to navigate the thorny landscape of internal politics in large organizations to build great products. “The panel discussion brought to light the delicate balancing act of maintaining a user-focused mentality while juggling numerous stakeholder priorities.”

Winning Office Politics

Baruch Deutsch once viewed office politics as a negative activity until he attended a talk where the speaker suggested “wherever there are two or more people – there’s politics…Your only real choice is either to participate in the political process or to become a victim of it.” Baruch suggests that the best way to participate in the political process is to improve your stakeholder engagement abilities. (via @baruchdeutsch)

The Politics of Product

Not everyone in a corporation (or even in a startup) is motivated by delivering great products or delighting customers. In fact, most aren’t. Most people are motivated by self-advancement to varying degrees. At the extreme end is the Political Animal.” Paul Jackson describes the political animal and suggests some lessons for working with them. Some of those lessons include acknowledging that politics exist and you’re part of it, that it’s not personal, being right isn’t important, and being smart is irrelevant. (via @pivotservices)

Product Management is Inherently Political

As a product manager needing to make decisions about what does and does not get done, you are inherently going to run into organizational politics. Rich Mironov suggests that instead of ignoring the political nature of decision making in organizations, you should lean into it by building “political support for the decision process and your final choices.” (via @RichMironov)

3 Mistakes All Project Managers Make with Their Stakeholders

Sometimes it’s useful looking at worst case scenarios to guide us. The first mistake Rachel Burger lists is identifying the wrong stakeholders. To avoid being perennially frustrated by lack of movement by an individual stakeholder, it’s wise to group each one in a low-to-high power and interest matrix. Once this is done, look at yourself and question if you’re being too optimistic when promising milestones and delivery dates. Thirdly, we return to communication. Along with being a better communicator, you must also have a plan for communicating. How often will you speak with your stakeholders and when, to discuss updates, environmental impacts, and roadblocks?

How to Get Internal Stakeholders to Trust Product Management

A theme we should return to is trust. Without this, your position and ability to make decisions are drastically reduced. Other than using data, building trust largely comes from you being able to communicate effectively — listening and talking. Sara Aboulafia reminds us that you should make your stakeholders feel heard. And not rely too heavily on your own instincts or masterplan. Another outcome of communicating better is that expectations can be managed better. Regular and accurate reporting of where a project is will instill trust in you and your process.

Stakeholder Management

The best place to start on this topic is figuring out what a stakeholder is and then identifying who in your organization fits the definition. Marty Cagan explains that anyone who has veto power to stop the launch of your product is likely a stakeholder. So this can go from the CEO all the way to the head of legal compliance. It’s your responsibility to get true, authentic input and clearance from these people so you can build trust. Once you have built trust you can achieve success with tactics like not sharing your product too soon, having regular 1-on-1s with each stakeholder and, as always, using data to back up decisions you are making.