3 Ways to Address Internal Naysayers

The following excerpt is from Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products by Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin. 

Let’s face it, we all have naysayers in our organizations. Naysayers are strong influencers who object no matter what, think they have a better idea, or believe an alternative option is the right path. And sometimes that alternative path won’t be one of the primary options already being considered and analyzed. It happens. And some of these influential naysayers can derail the decision process. These folks have to be addressed to get broad commitment.

But there’s hope. We use the following list of good practices:

1. Identify any highly influential naysayers who could derail the decision-making process. 

They may or may not be a person who must be primarily consulted, but they hold strong influence in the company. We’ve seen tenured engineers, senior leaders of non-impacted organizational functions, board members, and investors be naysayers. They could have the ear of the CEO, your executive leader, or your CTO.

2. Understand their point of view. 

A simple feedback gathering session might be in order. Trial ballooning a proposed decision is a good way of getting their point of view. Understand what their objection or their desired path is and why.

3. Use data. 

When possible, to do a quick thought exercise on what the path they suggest looks like, asking these questions:

  • How does their idea or path measure up to the criteria you are using to decide? Evaluate it with any data you have available.
  • What are the critical dependencies (e.g., technical, manufacturing, political, resourcing) in executing their idea or path?
  • What would you have to prioritize in the product (e.g., features, infrastructure, roadmap items) to make their path successful and how does that differ from the proposed decision path?
  • Are there other, possibly unforeseen, operational requirements for their path (e.g., marketing, support, operations)?

These are questions you should already be asking of the obvious options in your decision, but they are important to ask as they relate to the strong naysayer’s path as well. Don’t make this a huge, time-consuming expedition. We don’t usually spend more than a 30-minute discussion and a 30-minute thought exercise fleshing through their desired path to understand the implications it has, building a case as to why it isn’t the right thing to do considering the criteria at hand. Or maybe it is? There have been times when their perspectives bring new thinking to the table that must be considered.

Always anticipate who your most influential naysayers will be and gather the information you need to understand their perspective. Do quick due diligence to understand what it would take to execute their presumed path so that you can confidently speak to it. It not only ensures you haven’t missed anything, but it also shows the naysayer that you are thinking broadly and considering all options, not just what you are proposing, makes them feel heard, and sets you up for a much higher probability of commitment.


If you like what you see, there’s more where that came from. Pick up Groundwork: Get Better at Making Better Products by Vidya Dinamani and Heather Samarin from Amazon.

Product Rebels is a product management training and coaching firm run by long term product executives for companies like Intuit and Mitchell International. We have trained over 200 companies, small and enterprise level, in the skills and frameworks that help product management leaders and product managers deliver kick-ass customer experiences. We have a passion for finding efficient ways of infusing customer insight into everything product teams do in pursuit of experiences that customers love …and that drive growth.  Join us in the Product Rebels Community on Facebook or the Product Rebels Community on LinkedIn.

Take a look at our very practical training courses and coaching programs that give you practical tools, frameworks, and support you can use tomorrow in becoming a more effective product leader.  www.productrebels.com

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