I build consensus every day. It’s a natural part of a product manager’s day to day. I build consensus with our development, operations, marketing, and even our own product team. I consider it the most important part of the product process. If you can’t get your co-workers to agree with the vision (or at least understand the vision) or each other, there’s no question that the product will suffer.
Consensus building is also one of the hardest things to do. It can be a tedious process. I’ve often found myself dreading it.
It’s easy to get in the habit of avoiding consensus. You start to decide that an improvement is small enough that it doesn’t need consensus. Or maybe you decide that you don’t need to change the way the product works. It will be a controversial topic and take a long time to achieve consensus across all the people that would be involved. The product seems to be just fine after all.
This type of thinking is cancerous. You can find easily find yourself in a position with a product that doesn’t meet the mark and a lot of stakeholders that have lost their trust in you and the product.
If there are too many people to build consensus with, trim the amount of people down. Find the key people that can represent the larger group and work with them.
When you can’t seem like you can get anyone to agree on anything go start with the basics. What are the goals? What are the problem statements? Find common ground there and build off of that.
We spend a lot of time thinking about how to improve our products but often overlook how we can improve the way we build products. Step back and improve the way you build consensus.