As I commented in the chapter Roles, responsibilities and seniority, expectations management is something that occupies between 50 to 80% of the time of a head of product. Your daily routine revolves around your relationships and interactions with many people inside and outside your organization who are interested in the product you lead. In corporate jargon, these people are called stakeholders:
In the last decades of the 20th century, the word stakeholder has been increasingly used to mean a person or organization that has a legitimate interest in a project or entity. When discussing the decision-making process for institutions – including large companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations – the concept was expanded to include everyone with an interest or stake in what the entity does.
A product manager with some experience knows the importance of maintaining good relationships with product stakeholders. I will share here two tools that help to better map these stakeholders and how your relationship with each one should be.
RASCI is a very useful tool to help define and understand the roles and responsibilities of each person and function. It is the abbreviation of the first letters of the possible roles that a person, area or function can have in a task:
- Responsible: is the person responsible for executing the task, that is, who has to lead the effort to plan, do and complete the task. There cannot be more than one responsible. Remember the saying that a dog with two owners dies of hunger.
- Accountable: is the person responsible for the task and who has the power to delegate to the responsible the task to be done. Responsible and accountable can be the same person. The rule also applies that there cannot be more than one accountable per task. If responsible and accountable are two different people, the accountable can be seen as the sponsor.
- Support: are the people or teams that work together and under the coordination of the responsible for the execution of the task.
- Consulted: are the people or teams who do not participate in the execution of the task, but who need to be consulted before or while the task is being performed, as they can provide relevant inputs for its execution.
- Informed: are the people or teams who do not participate in the execution of the task, nor need to be consulted before or while the task is being performed, but who need to be informed when the task is completed.
The following is an example of a RASCI responsibility matrix between engineering, UX, product marketing and product management that we used at Locaweb:
How to use
The first step is to build the responsibility matrix. My recommendation is to fill this table by bringing together in a room all the people involved, so you can discuss whether the division of responsibility is ok for everyone and if there is a task missing. Most likely, some “shared responsibilities” will appear, but this is a great time to discuss them and define who is responsible. There can be only one person responsible for any task.
Then, the team should try to do the tasks following the responsibility matrix for some time, like one or two months. Then, it is important to do a retrospective to see if everything is ok, or if any adjustment is needed.
From then on, the use becomes automatic and people will no longer need to refer to the responsibility matrix. Every year or when a question arises, or even when a new task arises, it is good to revisit it.
The Power-Interest Grid is a concept first developed in the 90s by Aubrey L. Mendelow, and later explained in the book “Making Strategy: Mapping Out Strategic Success”, by Fran Ackermann and Colin Eden. Based on the power and interest that a person or team has in your product, you can classify them into 4 main categories.
- The players are those who have great power and interest in your product. You need to collaborate with them often. The users and customers of your product are players, you need to collaborate with them to build the best product that solves their problems and meets their needs. In some companies, probably the closest founder to the product is also a player. You should invite these people to any meeting where strategic decisions are made. Schedule individually to present the decisions and ask for their comments and contributions.
- The subjects are those with little power, but high interest in your product. They do not have the power to veto or change decisions, but they do have a deep interest in your product. In some companies, we can think of customer support, sales and marketing as examples of areas that play the role of subjects. They have great interest, but they do not have the power to change the product. You can communicate with them via weekly status email and product demos. It is important to collect their opinions, but remember that they do not have the power to change your decisions.
- The context setter are those with the power to change your product, but little interest in your product. Examples of areas that can play a role of context setter are HR and Legal. If HR doesn’t help you build the team, you won’t have a team to build your product. If Legal is not aware of and aligned with the legal aspects of your product, it has the power to block or delay its launch. A CFO and a controller are also two functions that have the power to change decisions that affect your product. It is important to keep context setters well informed about product decisions. Consult with them before making important decisions. Keep them informed weekly.
- The crowd is the one with low power and little interest. Even if they have little power and interest, it is important to keep them informed. Usually, a monthly update on the progress of the product is sufficient. It can be by email or in a monthly general meeting with product demos – I’ll talk about this and other meetings in another chapter. Usually it is people in the HR, Legal, Administrative and Financial areas who are not in the context setting group.
It is important to note that each company has its own dynamics, therefore, an area or person that plays a specific role in the power-interest grud of a given company may have another role in a different company.
These two tools are very useful for the head of product to better understand how to relate to their stakeholders and how to manage their expectations, which, as I already said, will take 50% to 80% of her time.
Empathy is a fundamental tool for the head of product to be able to manage its stakeholders. As I commented in the chapter “Developing the team and managing expectations”, empathy is the ability of one person to put himself in the place of another to understand his expectations. Their desires, motivations, needs and problems.
This characteristic is important for the head of product to understand the customers and users of the product, to know how they relate to it, and what problems they expect to solve or what needs they want to be met. It also helps to understand the impact of your product on your team and people in other areas. Last but not least, the head of product also needs to put herself in the shoes of the owner of the product, to understand their expectations on the results the product will bring to the company.
- Expectation management is anywhere from 50 to 80% of a head of product’s time.
- RASCI is a very useful tool to help define and understand the roles and responsibilities of each person and function.
- The Power-Interest Grid, together with RASCI, is a great tool to help you better understand and interact with your stakeholders.
- But don’t forget, the main tool that a head of product needs to better understand and, consequently, have improved and fruitful interactions with its stakeholders is empathy.
In the next chapter we will understand more about how to hire people for the team.
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