How do you align two stakeholders with differing perspectives?


#1

So I’m trying to align two stakeholders who have very differing opinions on things. One is very technical and will think of every problem under the sun. The other is a major advocate of customers and their needs. Both stakeholders care about the business but I need to align them in their design requirements during a meeting.

My question is this, how do you conduct a meeting that pulls out the true requirements for a design whilst making the meeting productive and hopefully at the end - where the two stakeholders agree?

I have thought about card sorting exercises with post its - do you guys have any other suggestions?


#2

What a dilemma! When both perspectives are useful, but they’re initially getting in the way of each other.

Are there any 10,000 foot questions you can get them talking about? I couldn’t find a good blog post for that term, but it basically means an overview from such a place where the details aren’t visible, but the needs/goals are still there.

From personal experience, I attended a parenting class many, many, many moons ago and they asked us what we wanted for our children. Most of us wanted things like for them to be happy and fulfilled in their lives. That’s the 10,000 foot view. The rest, like being a Nobel Prize winner comes later. :wink:

My best guess is that they both want the same end goal, but they’re entrenched in their way of looking at things.

That’s not a very concrete thing, like your card sorting exercise. I hope it’s useful though.


#3

This is a great concept. Keep them out of the weeds. Don’t allow them to get detailed enough to bicker about details – build working agreements at a high level.

I’m curious-- what is your title within the company and role for this project? I only ask because that might affect my advice to you going forward.


#4

Another thing you can do is talk with each of them personally. Get their opinions (opinion A and opinion B). Based on their opinions you form your own vision (opinion C), conduct a meeting with both of them and present them the opinion C. They can both make adjustments to it, but by giving them 1 opinion to work with, you automatically make a huge step in aligning them on a single vision. Hope it helps :slight_smile:


#5

Think about it as incentives. What drives Stakeholder A vs. Stakeholder B? Is it a difference in perspective, or in job role? Does one serve as a check in some capacities on the other?

When you know their criteria, it’s easier to put your proposals in terms of what each of them needs to make their decisions. Use some of those UX Research chops, but think of the stakeholders as users, themselves.


#6

Thanks all for your answers lots of food for thought - I’m hoping that once both stakeholders actually sit in a room and share their ideas on the project that they will find some common ground. That will hopefully form the basis of the requirements at the first stage.

Will let you know when I have the meeting :slight_smile:


#7

@dougcollins I’m a Junior UI Designer however we’re quite open here and quite approachable. Being part of the UI team/Product design team we’re all in it together. But I understand there is a hierarchy so I don’t want to be too forceful if it’s not within my role just yet.


#8

First of all, good luck :slight_smile:

There’s a very useful definition of UX Design that I like to use in this kind of situations: meeting user needs with the business goals.

In companies where tech-oriented stakeholders hold more power, designers/consumer oriented positions are generally seen as people who above all else hold the user needs and have no understanding of the business. Your challenge with Stakeholder A may be to overcome this prejudice. This definition may help as a starter. Remind him/her that you’re not only there to make things pretty or make everything that a user might need regardless of your business or feasibility issues; you’re there to meet the users’ needs in a way that generates business for your company.

In the same way, if Stakeholder B is really out of touch with the business, he/she should be reminded (kindly) that their job is to make sure business goals are reached in a way that creates value for the consumer.

A few weeks ago we had a workshop that included stakeholders with very different POVs. One of the exercises we did was “Let’s imagine our product is featured on the cover of a magazine in 5 years. Which magazine would that be and what would be the headline?”. A lot of them said stuff like “Wired, Fast Co. etc.”. But one of the stakeholders said “A home design magazine”. His explanation is that the solution we provide might be technical but at the end of the day, the mindset of our consumer does not have to be. As long as we generate business and we are covered by the press, our focus should be the mindset of the consumer. And once people start imagining themselves on the cover of a magazine, discussions become more engaging and entertaining.

Hope this helps :slight_smile:


#10

Hi all,

Thanks so much for the feedback so the meeting went very well and I broke the meeting down into tangible chunks to complete within the 1hr:

  • 5 mins - brief outline of project; examples of post-its
    In one sentence explain ‘What is the goal?’ (business benefit)
  • 15-20 mins – requirement gathering
  • 15-20 mins – prioritise requirements work out MVP
  • 10 mins – overview of what next

I handed all attendees a pad of post-it notes and asked them to write what they thought the goal was for the project. Then asked them to right down the necessary information that a user would want to see. The two stakeholders - whilst initially came from different perspectives actually, became aligned at the end when they could visually see what the true requirements were for the project. Not only requirements came out from this meeting but we also discovered two personas that would benefit from this project which was not discussed previously when the project came into sprint.

Great insight and findings. I would encourage anyone looking to align two stakeholders to conduct a meeting in this fashion as it got them focused alot more and didn’t waste time.


#11

That’s fantastic! I’m so glad it worked out so well. Congratulations!


#12

You did a great job! I’m really happy it worked out for you!


#13

That’s a really great, harmonious way to address the problem! You should be proud.

It seems like you managed to give them a manageable portion of your job to do so that you brought them in with you, instead of letting them camp out in their comfort zones.

I’m going to try and remember this for later; I seem to have let myself get too focused in the technical writing and reports component of aligning stakeholders and didn’t consider the more collaborative options. Thanks for the perspective.