Situation: There is an open item/problem X that got escalated to you, and as a PM, you are supposed to find a solution. Based on years of experience, and after doing your research, you decide to recommend A as the solution. Next, you can do one of the following:

  • Approach 1: You send a public message on Slack; mention the problem and propose your solution: A.
    • What happens next: A long debate starts on the thread, some people argue for B, someone brings up options C and D, and eventually, the discussion digresses to where your team should go for Friday team dinner.
  • Approach 2: You set up a meeting; get all stakeholders together. You talk about the problem and propose your solution.
    • What happens next: Half of the people don’t read the agenda and have no context, some of them argue for B, someone brings up options C and D, and eventually, the discussion digresses to where your team should go for Friday team dinner.
  • Approach 3: You set up a meeting; get all stakeholders together. You talk about the problem, propose 2 possible solutions: A and B, and wait for the participants to arrive at an answer. You don’t recommend your preferred option.
    • What happens next is one of the below
      • Half of the people don’t read the agenda and have no context, some of them argue for B, someone brings up options C and D, and eventually, the discussion digresses to where your team should go for Friday team dinner.
      • Since the decision-maker is not clear, and no one wants to take ownership of a big company, eventually the decision is taken by consensus, most of the time it will be the HIPPO. You leave the meeting feeling inadequate. People wonder if you have any decision making power.
      • People push their own agendas, and the team with most participants in the meeting gets their choice.
      • Nothing happens. Follow up meetings are scheduled. And the decision is pushed higher up the management ladder.
  • Approach 4: You send a public DM about the problem, propose 2 possible solutions: A and B, and recommend A. You tag a bunch of people requesting their inputs. You request permission to take the decision.
    • What happens next: No one replies. You follow up a few more times. You come across as someone who can’t take an independent decision.
  • Approach 5:
    • How I actually close decisions
      • You write a doc with all open items; a separate doc if there are more than 3, or just part of the spec
      • You put in the effort required to identify all possible options. Write the pros and cons of each.
      • You get feedback from a group of people who are closest to the problem, have context and help you fill the gaps in your own knowledge.
      • You give an early preview of the doc to your manager and align him.
      • You identify key stakeholders who might be impacted by option A and give them a heads up. This is the key step I had missed for years. Never surprise key stakeholders in a meeting. Always know what they would want. Align themselves before the main meeting.
      • Make sure you, your designer, devs, and anyone else who is relevant have bought into the solution are driving
      • Set up a meeting with all stakeholders now. Make sure you identify the decider and circulate the DACI prior to the meeting.
      • Walkthrough the problem, propose 2 possible solutions: A and B, and recommend A. Also identify options C, D (non-preferred options for which cons outweigh the pros), and clearly mention in the doc which they are not the right options.
      • Anticipate arguments against your preferred option A. A good PM thinks ahead and already knows the in and out of the solution he is advocating for.
      • Recommend, not ask. Most meetings are a waste because the driver of the decision is meek, and is scared to stand up for something. Don’t do that. If you think A is the best, say so.
      • Be open to inputs from all stakeholders. If any new fact comes up which can change the decision, be open minded enough to reconsider. Don’t marry to a solution.
      • Once you see people aligning, say “it seems we all agree that A is the best option we have at the moment. I am marking it as a closed decision.”
      • If it is a big irreversible decision, then you might want to give a couple of days more for people to think and get back with concerns, if any.
      • Share the decision on mail as part of the MOM.
      • Send a message on Slack to to-be-informed from DACI.
    • What happens next: Hopefully you leave the meeting with a solution and can focus on the implementation. You come out as someone who knows what he is doing. People start trusting you with big decisions.
    • Reiterating: If you organise or attend a meeting without: an agenda, knowing your preferred outcome, and how you will get that, then all of these will be driven by someone else. What you think of as organization politics is often always you not doing your homework.

It took years for me to perfect approach 5. As a junior PM, you probably go with one of the other approaches, then feel powerless after a decision goes against you. It is far better to learn how to navigate these situations, learn stakeholder management than blame big company politics.

Note: You can replace X with any open item in your [spec]((https://manassaloi.com/2020/01/23/product-spec-twitter-messages.html).

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