A framework that I use myself and repeatedly tell the PMs in my team to use is internal then external.

Another related framework/idea is concentric circles of alignment.

Let me expand on both using a real-life scenario.

You are the PM for Swiggy’s Product discovery flow.

The PM for Loyalty wants you to incorporate a new gamified loyalty points feature in the food ordering flow. Knowing that this gamified loyalty points feature has support from upper management and to earn brownie points by shipping another feature, you say Yes without figuring out how this new feature will impact the customer experience, how will you even measure the impact of this integration which will consume at least a month of your team’s bandwidth.

2 weeks later your boss, the lead of Consumer experience tells you the idea was flawed and asks you why you said Yes without first figuring out the WHY behind this integration. He tells you to go back to the Loyalty PM and say No to the previously agreed-upon work. Your boss also somehow manages to convince the CEO that it is a bad idea and we need to rethink the Loyalty program.

Now you lose face in front of the other PM. They now know you are a junior PM and they should have taken approval from your boss. Your developers are mad at you for wasting 2 weeks of their life. The designer feels she was not looped in.

What could you have done better?

Despite the project having leadership buy-in, you should have thought of the project from a customer-first perspective. Written a new spec highlighting why you think it was a good idea. Defined success metrics. Done your research. Worked with the designer on how to design the best customer experience while integrating this loyalty feature.

First get convinced yourself. Then align your manager. Get yes on the WHY and the WHAT. Work with the designer and developer on the HOW.

Once the team is convinced go external and say yes to the Loyalty PM.

Internal then external flow: You -> Your Manager -> Your team -> External stakeholders -> Management

You can also think in terms of concentric circles of alignment: You and your manager -> A larger circle consisting of you and your manager + your design team -> Slightly bigger circle consisting of you and your manager + your design team + dev team and so on.

Only once you’re convinced your manager is convinced all the important internal stakeholders have signed off on the project you go to external stakeholders.

You should never be in a position where you are presenting something to Management and your boss comes and publicly disagrees with you because they were not looped in earlier. Get their buy-in. The same goes for other stakeholders.

I know this is a long process, but this will help you avoid months of developer cost if there comes a situation where people come back later questioning the WHY or the WHAT.

Internal then external also works when you change the context from stakeholder alignment to thinking about how you do product development.

Think of the WHY, WHAT, and HOW as concentric circles of alignment. You don’t jump to the tech implementation discussions without doing your homework and aligning on the WHY first. Wasting your developers time on doing POCs without first knowing the WHY and how you will measure success metrics is criminal IMHO and something which you should avoid at all cost.

Comment from Aditya: I think one big challenge with this framework is at times, you need to disagree and commit where you’re internally not satisfied but still have to commit because of xyz external reasons. How to approach this very same situation in that case? I think this might be a good caveat/scenario to add.

Reply from me to the point above: In this case I make sure that the actual ownership of the decision is captured in the DACI table of my spec document and I focus on the execution. If you find more and more decisions being taken without your support and feel like you are just acting as a project manager, then see if you follow the action items mentioned here: Planning a new feature. If this does not work too, then find another job ;)

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