Managing Stakeholder Conversations in Scrum
5th Jun, 2022
In any business, managing the stakeholders is crucial to its success. Stakeholder management is a responsibility and a skill of the Product Owner. Understanding and meeting the stakeholder's expectations is an essential part of Product Management. In Scrum, the Product Owner role is responsible for stakeholder management.
There are many ways, methods, and techniques to handle stakeholder conversations. In this article, let us look at how to manage better conversations by applying techniques from the famous concept called crucial conversations. Inefficiency in stakeholder communication can make the Product Owners agree to whatever stakeholders say or reject what they say. This will strain the relationship between the product owner and the stakeholders.
Get the clarity
As a Product Owner, whenever there is a tough conversation that includes negotiations, discussions, and brainstorming with the stakeholders, ask three basic questions before proceeding further.
- What do I want for myself?
- What do I want for my stakeholders?
- What do I really want in this relationship (between them and the stakeholders)?
These questions will help the product owners get that clarity in the conversation first before even they can get started. Without a clear understanding of how they want to behave in a conversation and what the talk is all about, it may not go well as expected.
During the crucial conversation, ensure there is a mutual purpose. It is wise to make the other parties understand a common goal in the conversation so that it is easy to bring them to a common ground. If there is no mutual purpose, try inventing one because it is needed. It is okay to explain if the other parties have not understood what is being communicated because of multiple barriers. Commitment is required to identify the mutual purpose that benefits both parties.
Misunderstandings are common in any conversation. Always clarify to avoid any misunderstanding, which helps in preventing unwanted arguments. In a common misconception, do not keep stressing about what you mean. Instead, try explaining what you did not mean, which helps clarify the intention. This contrast serves as first aid when the conversation reaches an impasse and is not moving in any progressive direction as it is intended to be. It is wise to sacrifice the ego by admitting the misunderstanding firsthand.
Listen, Ask, and Paraphrase as much as you can
Inquiry is a great skill to have in any type of conversation. People with good inquiry skills remain confident. There are different questioning skills like Socratic questioning, powerful questions, etc. In this case, asking to understand is the essential questioning skill one needs to get clarity. Instead of assuming what the other person meant, it is good to ask them.
Listening is one of the essential skills of the Product Owner. From talking to users in the form of user interviews, listening is inevitable for Product Owners. More details on listening can be found, here.
Paraphrasing is just a quick summary of what the other person meant in the conversation. It helps us quickly validate our understanding in any exchange. Letting the speaker know what was understood increases their trust in the listening.
Everyone is right from their point of view. When things do not go as expected, people may quickly resort to non-violent communication as their needs were not met or understood. Letting the other person know that they are heard and understood can help steer any conversation properly. People are people, and problems are problems. One should not consider people as problems, as the approach isn't right. The problem is not the content of the message but the condition of the conversation. Empathizing by understanding what the person is trying to communicate in a conversation can go a long way in building relationships.
Finally, ask for facts before making any decisions or reaching a conclusion. Always get back to facts when the conversation moves towards opinionated thoughts. Make sure to use cognitive abilities and skills without resorting to baser instincts.
This is just a speck of knowledge on your journey to becoming an expert in the industry. If you have any doubts or require career guidance, feel free to connect with our Industry experts and trainers for 1-on-1 coaching.
You are already a step ahead. Keep learning and growing!