How To Get Management Buy In?
How To Get Management Buy In?
Getting buy-in or influencing others is tough. Often data and logic are not enough to make your case. How do you navigate getting buy in on someone else's road-map? Our leaders will share key insights from how their teams work on ensuring overall product success
Moderated by Jonathan Bowman, join the conversation, share your insights and probe the speakers on the elements of their talks that left you wanting more.
Jonathan Bowman: Thank you to our panelists. Welcome guests who are watching. Be sure to ask questions. I encourage that and let's kick it off. So, we're talking about how to get management buy-in, which is a great topic. And we have amazing experts today to talk about this. So, there we have already introduced everyone. Let's just go straight to it. Let's start with Yael. Sorry. So, when did you first realize you needed buy in?
Yael Gutman: I when I started in product management there were situations where I would get directives from executives or from stakeholders on what solution we should create instead of talking or on what problems we're trying to solve and in other cases we would have, we would discuss what problems we think we're trying to solve, but it wasn't based on data. It was more based on this folklore that was in the organization or intuitiveness of the stakeholders and executives and intuitiveness is very important but it can't be the sole driver. And so, to sort of manage these expectations of them to do what I'm being directed to do and my intuition to figure out what should be done based on what the needs are. I started sharing data and after that started sharing the data with those executives. We had fruitful discussions and productive discussions on what we're actually trying to solve what the needs are. And after that we are going to be came up with solutions, so that was my path to alignment through data with the organization.
Jonathan Bowman: Okay. Yeah. You made it sound simple but I'm sure it's very challenge.
Yael Gutman: The main, thing about sharing the data is really the socialization of it. So, I spent a lot of time socializing insights and explaining what things mean and what the context is around data so it's not that simple. It's a lot of work and it's a lot of communication. That's actually how I mainly spend my days mostly communicating, hearing what others have to say, and then translating it back in a way that the audience can understand.
Jonathan Bowman: Got it. Got it. So, you had to basically curate your data and present your case. Okay. That sounds about right. Is that something that resonates with you or do you have a different experience?
Yael Gutman: Yeah, I mean, I guess the first, if you're talking about realizing that you need management buy in for something, that's usually as a result of realizing that something has to change about the way that you're working, something is going wrong. And so, just thinking back to the first time that that happened was probably years and years ago when I was working for potty power in Dublin. And every time we would release something agent and so that was a bit of a realization that something needs to change. And then of course, I think when you're earlier in your career as well, maybe your first experience with this, you don't really come to this realization a hundred percent by yourself. It's through the people around you and the team start to get ideas, et cetera. And we realized that we basically, I needed to start talking to users along the development process and so I guess that was the first realization. And then you start the process of trying to see who in management is interested in this like, who cares about it? Who can I try to bring on board as an ally? Who will help us work this out together? And that was the first time, I guess.
Jonathan Bowman: How about you all first time that you realized you needed to buy in?
Lowell Goss: It's interesting as I listened to folks talk about that. I think that so often my experience is that on day one, you get hired with the pretension being we want to change. We want design to be better for the company. We want the product to be better. We want our users to love us and the Delta becomes between that interviewing and hiring recruitment buy in and then the actual functional delivery buy in that happens once you show up and go, "Okay. So, here's some of the things that we might start to do to understand our users better, to get more data there, to change the way that our products are developed and ultimately to change the outcomes." And I think that's the part where people go, "Whoa, hold on. We want it to change, but we don't actually want to change." And then achieving buy in becomes a really important part of getting over that hump between good intentions and actual outcomes.
Jonathan Bowman: You put that very well. I think a lot of folks can totally feel you on that. You got in, you want to do some change and everyone realized that it's actually pretty big job, pretty big on setting. Going back to Yael, data to basically plead your case and get everyone to really understand that we have to get this stuff done. So, can you explain that process a little more in depth, like how did he use data were you having the exam, the sessions that you gather data through some tool? Did you use your own tools? Because I know that's a big kind of point of contention in a lot of companies. They really don't like to spend a lot of money, especially on something like research and things like that.
Yael Gutman: Sure. So, to get a holistic view of what your users are doing and what they're thinking, what you're thinking they're doing and what they're actually doing, you have to marry the quantitative data with the qualitative data. So, in most companies that I've been in the quantitative data is there. So, whatever tool they use Google Analytics whatever it is. In my experience that user research is where companies are challenged in sort of adopting the discipline of gaging users and hearing from them or observing them to what they're actually doing and what their needs are and I started in the last three companies I've been in really cheap because user research was not a discipline that was available in the organization. There was no team and there was no previous exploration with user research. So, I started doing user interviews and user tests by myself with a colleague. I would plan them. I would execute them by myself and I would record on them all within my day to day job and so there was no extra costs for the organization. So, this was a way that I was able to introduce user research to their organization with no investments from their organization and then I was able to show the impact of that research and how it impacted our decision making and made it more informed. And once that was the cadence on my project that was the nature of how we did the product life cycle. It became the expectation from the rest of the team and then came the investment. So, there are ways to start really cheap, I think its wonderful organizations that already have user research within them and the investment is already there but in legacy organizations, that's not always the case and there are ways of studying really cheap. Also, with surveys, they started with survey monkey, super cheap thousand dollars a year. So, it's not as flexible as other tools and it made the case. It made the case of how it impacts KPI and strategy. And then I was able to get more investment in order that tools.
Jonathan Bowman: Awesome. That's a great story of starting small scrappy and being able to have it grow so that's very cool to hear. Larger companies are a little bit different. You might have a team already dedicated to research. So, Lynsey, do you want to speak on how it works at a bigger company maybe?
Lynsey Thornton: Yeah. I guess certainly when I joined Shopify, it wasn't a bigger company. There was any 140 of us. And I came in as to basically solve the problem, we don't know a huge amount about our customers right now with the company was just getting to the stage where the all the knowledge that the founders had was starting to get dispersed a little bit. We were starting to move up market slightly and so they needed a bit of additional insight to understand where they were up and so we built it up from there. But I think what I can commonly say in any business, I don't know whether small or large matters in this case, nobody cares about your discipline per se. They only care if it can make the business better and so that's what you're there to prove. And that's what you're there to show. So, like, I think one of the biggest mistakes I see people make, especially if they come into Shopify is that over the years we have. They'll take the design discipline to include research, to include content strategy that includes even like different types of front-end development, all sorts of specialisms and the mistake people make along the way there and getting management buy in for their work is thinking that we're trying to invest in their discipline and we don't care about their discipline. We only care that they're working, their skills can make the company and the product way, way better. That's what we're putting the investment into. And I think when people understand that it's a lot easier for them to position their work. Then to say, I have to establish service design as a discipline here. No, you don't. You have to show that service design can be really helpful to the company and then integrate those practices. And a lot of the things that we do where sit, where we're seeing success simply.
Jonathan Bowman: That's awesome. And if you don't mind a follow up question on that because he brought up some really cool points. In that case, it sounds like in this process, there's a step one which is more humanistic and more on my soft skills than my hard skills. So, how do you develop those skills of just building relationships within the organization and getting folks to like you, I guess essentially.
Yael Gutman: That is important so when I joined Shopify, I got brought in to work on one particular project. That project was about to ship. I joined as a researcher and I got brought in to work on a particular project that was going to shaped in, I would say a month after I joined and so I essentially said to my boss, who was the Chief Design Officer, all I can do is a risk assessment for you here. Do you mind giving me a bit of space and let me work out if I can be more helpful on another project or another piece of work around the company and they were good enough to say yes to that. And so, I just went around and tried to work out where I could be helpful. What teams needed my help, what products were going to be big or have the potential to be big. What areas would actually take on and integrate some of the research findings that you were going to put out, otherwise you might as well not waste your time. And so, I think like just working across the company on a bunch of different pieces of work helped me build a cross company context. It's actually really important as a researcher or any leader in a company but also by helping solve other people's problems, you make them look good. They start to ask for your work more. It becomes a cycle.
Jonathan Bowman: Very cool. Very cool. Teamwork set up there. Lowell, quick question for you. How do you find champions? Because a team, I keep hearing as you guys are talking about someone internally kind of latched on to what you want to buy into, and I'm not really helped sort of spread it out and pollinate this idea. So, how do you find champions at your workplace to help you?
Lowell Goss: That's a great question. I think that Lindsey talked about relationship building as a core part of what you do. I think there's an alternate approach to think about as well that are maybe less dependent on personalities. And sometimes we've got designers with prickly personalities but one of the things that we've done is really tried to get people excited. And so, for Reddit, there's a sense of play. There's a sense of excitement. There's a sense of creativity and collaboration that are a big part of how we successfully operate. And I think in part that's because it's much more of a consumer product we don't really have users with problems and actually a lot of what we do is resistant to some of the ways in which teams solve problems. These days we start with a problem and you look forward data, and then you come up with the solution. In fact, we often start at the other end of the spectrum where we try to figure out what's cool and then figure out if anybody gives a damn. And if that's going to be something that they actually care about. And so, the way that we do that by being radically transparent about everything the design team does. We publish a weekly publication in a bunch of different ways through Slack, through Reddit itself, through creating an email. And it circulates literally to everyone in the company. And it shows everything that the design team is doing. Every cool idea, every interesting notion and what we've found through that radical transparency is the champions appear. That people come out and they say, "I saw this thing in the design weekly. It's super cool. How can my team help? How can we get involved? That's definitely something that we should be doing." And that happened literally from people who have just joined the company all the way up to the CEO. So, it's a public forum where people can comment in the Google Slides. They can comment in Reddit, they can have that debate, Slack. And that public conversation really interesting ideas to be emergent in a way that I think doesn't happen. Then when you're working sort of with a product team exclusively or you're working through a more traditional process where if you've got five ideas, those get whittled down to two or three or one before that team presents it to some executive committee or to the CEO. And so, as a result, oftentimes those executives have no visibility into the actual possibilities that the company is producing or the design team is producing. And I think that that is more of a rubber stamp cover your ass kind of approach, as opposed to actually showing the strategic value of what design and research can provide to a company. And so, that's been a dramatic change, I think about.
Jonathan Bowman: That's phenomenal. That's phenomenal even to hear how you both Lynsey and Lowell able to make massive changes within the organization. Sounds amazing. We talked a lot about there's some relationship aspect that was brilliant to hear from you all, how you got these champions by being super transparent. What's an example of failure? Because you surely didn't arrive here and just knock it out of the park. What are some things that I might be doing wrong in my organization that's not getting by is that I should really avoid? Yael, you mind taking that.
Yael Gutman: So, I'm really connecting with Lynsey said before about a discipline. I actually started in marketing and moved into product and sort of went into user research because there was a need in the organization for it and I think similar to what Lynsey was saying sometimes people in their organizations feels very precious about their role details. And their discipline that they are advocating for and it builds sort of borders between them and others that they should have more of a collaborative approach with. So, I worked with design is that I've been so precious with the design that I'm not willing to listen to the research. For example, seeing product managers that own the product and because they own it, they won't listen to feedback and so I think it's really about the people. And once you're able to identify who within the team has the skills and everybody brings what they have then you can really make the best product because the most point of views that we have of course not everything needs to be a committee, but there's value to the different point of views to create the most meaningful product. I think the people aspect is really important and to be able to accept. I find that listening skills and knots, I guess, natural to everybody. I mean, you have to really be active in listening and be able to hear what someone else is bringing to the table especially if it's a different point of view, there might be something there that's really key to making whatever you working on much, much better and so in the organizations that I've been in and one of the first things I do is sort of be able to identify key people in different departments that I should be working with and really create this foster, this relationship where we can talk to each other and hear each other. And that's been super successful in my experience.
Jonathan Bowman: Right. That's awesome. Because you actually answered one of the questions that we have come in, how do you navigate different personalities? So, thanks so much. That's super helpful. I'm sure a lot of folks might be running into that when they're trying to get buy in. You mentioned, you have these weekly emails and you let people know what's going on in the design team sometimes even on Reddit, which would be cool by the way. We can take a look at. How about you? Were there any struggles when you got to this point? I mean, surely now you have a method, you have a way of getting through this but how would you work with people that maybe are difficult or trying to go against what you're trying to implement.
Lynsey Thornton: I think it's a great question. I think that I spend a whole lot of the last 20 years looking to essentially step in every possible that the other two speakers have talked about whether that's focus on discipline or a focus on process of focusing on establishing the group, thinking about design in terms of authority. I think that at the end of the day, what we've done is kind of taken a bit of a hands off approach, it's not quite Jesus take the wheel but the whole idea being that if we can get people excited about something whether that is our users, our executives, our collaborators even those resistors that the excitement really becomes the thing that overwhelmed the moment. And so, it really does dovetail with research in some interesting ways. And so, when I think about research, I've got a couple of kind of look comments. I think the quantitative research so often is a little bit like trying to drive a car by just looking at the Speedo without actually looking out the window and trying to figure out where you go and even worse, you're recording only what has happened in the past and not what's going to happen in the future. And so, quantitative data is a great way to look at optimization. That's a great way to see past results. It's not necessarily a particularly good way to figure out how to steer your path moving forward. Similarly, when you look at qualitative data it's got its own problems. When we think about human cognition, our ability as human beings to be self-aware and to think about what we think about. In an accurate way is really tricky. We see it in criminal justice. We see it in other areas and it changes across different kinds of companies. When you think about something that's B2B, you're much more likely to have an engaged user that when you say, what do you think that what they think is an accurate representation of the problems that they're trying to solve and the things that they're trying to accomplish. If you think about a consumer product, especially something like Reddit when you ask people why do you use Reddit or any related question, the answers are pretty fuzzy. It's like, "Ah, it's cool. He sent me a link. I've got it on my phone." They're not particularly revealing. And in those cases, I think that we really try to take more of an ethological approach to research where we're trying to understand how people feel and we're trying to observe what they do but we don't really care very much about what they think because they don't necessarily even know accurately what they think about something. We had an incident happened recently where we made some type changes and we got an email from someone that said, "This is awful. I hate it. You guys are idiots. You never should have changed it." And I was actually incredibly proud of this person because a week later they wrote back and they said also, "I'll never adjust to it. You've made my life awful." And a week later we got an email back from that same person and I was astounded for them to say, "I understand why you guys have done it. The app has gotten better. But never do it again." And so, often we're talking about a version to change, a version to the new, a version to difference. Garett's got a question here about the anti-sponsor. The change might be a perception of threat to power or a perception of a threat. And so, by really allowing the ideas to be the thing that people get excited about to orient yourself visually as if you're on the same side of the table as the person that you're talking to and you're working with them, I think becomes important. And so, I think that if we think about everything that everyone said your day, that relationship development becomes really important. The supporting data becomes really important, but I think the key is really about generating excitement and love and emotional stuff. Again, when we look at human cognition, we tend to make decisions first and then justify them later. And those decisions as a result are largely emotional decisions and liking decisions. And so, everything that you can do to generate excitement and liking and people, all sort of getting up for what you're doing, you're much more likely to then generate positive outcomes.
Jonathan Bowman: Wow, that's awesome. That was really awesome. And the whole positive outcome thing reminds me of something Lynsey said it's really about what you're doing for the company. Right? And you articulated it well, all, you mentioned that down to the customer level because we're always thinking about what we're doing in our offices. It actually makes impact. So, Lynsey, can you describe how all this hard work and getting buy in, obviously it's worth it but what does it translate to when it comes to your customers. Are you getting good feedback from them?
Yael Gutman: Yeah, definitely. I mean, not university, good feedback and that's too much to ask. The impact of the work shows up in a couple of different ways. It shows open whether people are working better together whether you're having less churn on projects where you get to a certain stage and you're finding that you're not solving the problem correctly, et cetera. So, I think if it usually prevents a couple of development cycles by having accurate feedback upfront but I do genuinely think it has to like all of the research that we're talking about has to be balanced with opinion as well and maybe my larger point here is that in any role you do in any company, you have to be able to adapt to that company. Otherwise, you're not going to see the impact on the other side. Like you have to understand the system that you're entering and how that company works and quite possibly adapt your working style to fit in there. Because as other people have mentioned earlier, nobody wants to change for change's sake there has to be a really good reason, and that reason has to be pretty evident to people. I think making sure that you've done all that you can to play in the way that suits that company. If they're a data driven company, lean into that a very data informed company, respect that and try to apply your skills the best you can but like for us, certainly the impact shows in general awareness, I think of team members and their relatedness to the problems that we're solving, how like fit our products are for market whether we have the trust with our customers to launch new products and really what I think we as a company are going for and what we want to achieve is a really solid psychological understanding of entrepreneurship, which is the game that we're in and on how to apply that to product development and I think that shows open all sorts of ways that we frankly don't even really have to measure on a very accurate basis because it's just everywhere around the company.
Jonathan Bowman: That's awesome. And on that note, we are at time. Thank you so much, Lynsey and Yael for joining us today. It was really, really good to hear your expertise and thank you so much.