Healthy product decision-making is a sign of a healthy product team. In this ProductTank London talk, product coach Ellen Gottesdierner highlights some of the dysfunctions around decision making and offers ways to overcome them.
Watch the entire session in full, or read on for the key points:
- Decision-making traps and pitfalls
- A better way to make decisions
- Collaboration patterns
- Making decisions with your product team
Decision-making traps and pitfalls
Product managers often have a variety of decisions to make about strategy, tactics, discovery, and delivery. There are several process traps and pitfalls they might run into when they make these decisions:
- Making decisions too late or soon
- Narrow framing
- Confirmation, anchoring, or overconfidence biases
- Having decisions overridden by the highest-paid person’s opinion
- Not engaging the right product partners or stakeholders
Group dynamics traps and pitfalls
Some of the pitfalls that can affect groups specifically include hidden agenda, ambiguous language, overly dominant people, a lack of group diversity, group-think, and overusing consensus – this happens though mutual agreement among members of a group where all legitimate concerns of individuals have been addressed to the satisfaction of the group. This includes people affected by the decision, those who implement the decision, or those who support the decision.
If you’re always looking for consensus as a product person, you’re being empowered by being in charge of making the choice, but at the same time being informed and learning from the group.
Decision making: a better way
There are better ways for product managers to make decisions.
Collaborative decision making
Research has shown that involving other people from the product ecosystem in the decision-making process helps to ensure that decisions are sustained. Product managers need to be transparent about the decision-making process to achieve this, as it helps to build contractual trust. It also helps to provide a diverse group of stakeholders across the product ecosystem with the relevant information. Ultimately this can lead to greater commitment, higher-quality decisions, and increased trust.
Collaboration pattern: Decide how to decide
Decide how to decide
A group needs to reach closure on a specific issue, and the people in the ecosystem must know when and if a decision is made. The key to doing this is to have common decision rules. These are mechanisms for reaching closure that tell the group how to know once a decision has been made. Here you need to have consensus again, and a gradient of agreement, which is a tool to check whether stakeholders oppose or endorse the decision.
The process for reaching that decision rule involves:
- Framing the decision: Identify goal or problem, clarify stakes and stakeholders, decide on decision rule and clarify the decision process.
- Exploring options: Generate alternatives and evaluate alternatives.
- Making the decision: Close the discussion, clarify the proposed alternatives, check in using the gradient of agreement and apply the decision rule.
- Retrospectively analysing the decision.
Decisions with your product team
The key takeaways from this talk are that product managers should try to make decisions collaboratively as this builds trust. Decide how to decide by identifying your decision and decision rules. Always be transparent about the decision-making process and tap into the wisdom of the product ecosystem to achieve better products and better teams.