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After recently joining a startup one of the key tasks I set out to do was bringing some order and process to the product development process.
In my opinion it wasn’t clear who was doing what and how it all worked. We had multiple projects in play. Lots of opinions on what was most important and how to do it. Worst of all we had zero to no budget to grow the team.
There was an immediate need to learn who were the key stakeholders and their needs and wants. I use 3 tools to help me accomplish this:
- Stakeholder Map
- Dangerous Animals
- Build a RACI Chart
I’m not one to jump in with my bright ideas and tell everyone they are wrong. I take couple of weeks to get an understanding of the internal workplace dynamics especially. This helps avoid cognitive bias from only speaking to select set of peers.
Firstly, I started my stakeholder map so I could identify who were the key stakeholder in the company. I kept this simple and just had it on the back of my notepad as it was a personal opinion than a project specific.
If in a project environment I would look at creating a formal stakeholder map using Miro or something similar.
Included with the titles I added the peoples names to help me remember. One of the first was the CFO and understanding his needs.
- Health of company
- Market share
- Average order size
- Return on assets
- Health of finance
- Order to cash cycle
- Accounts receivable
- Accurate and timely financial reporting
- Borrowing costs
As the weeks fly by I will look at doing the same with the other executives and key stakeholders.
The Key Stakeholder Disruptors
Secondly, started identifying the various characters in the company. The 4 common people I run into as a product manager is the HIPPO, the RHINO, the WOLF, and the ZEBRA.
These are common across businesses especially in small companies where opinions run riot. I quickly started assessing and put tactics in place to tame them.
Printing out the below and putting up on a wall is a great way to get people to identify which animal they are being Hopefully they have the self-awareness to realize what they are doing is being disruptive and look at improving their behaviour.
Finally, after identifying the key stakeholders, some of the key disruptors and attending some sessions I quickly realized that the team were not clear and who was accountable for what.
RACI Matrix for Stakeholders
Working in a small company this can be pretty tricky as people double and triple job the lines can easily get very blurry.
For example we need user guides. Ideally we would have a technical content creator or product marketer than can could oversee this piece of work. We had no such person but the task had to be done.
Instead it would fall to the Product Owner, Designer, Team Lead and Digital Lead. It was just not clear who was ultimately responsible for the success of delivering this output.
This why I held a roles and responsibilities session where the output was a RACI chart. Firstly, we identified all the roles we would expect if we had unlimited budget.
Secondly, we listed all stakeholder across the top of our RACI table. Complete the cells of the model identifying who has responsibility, accountability and who will be consulted and informed for each task.
We ensured every task had at least one stakeholder Responsible for it.
No tasks had more than one stakeholder Accountable.
As we went through each task we resolved any conflicts where there is more than one for a particular task. Read more about creating a RACI chart here.
Conclusion on Stakeholder Management
All of the above was very much step one of identifying stakeholders and putting some guard rails in place to help the project run smoothly but that’s just the start.
My attention will swiftly switch to improving communication channels within the company and stakeholders which I will cover next week.
Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail