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Strategizing Arguments Using Scoring Grids

Cross-functional collaboration
Product

30 June, 2020

Benjamin Ritchie, CPO at Cognism, demonstrates the importance of making implicit decisions and actions readily obvious when debating company-wide topics.

Problem

As a product leader, you have to act as a diplomat across the entire company. You must make sense of what everyone is asking for and come to a consensus for what happens next. There are a few different ways you can go about that, the most obvious of which is getting people in a room to argue. That, however, doesn’t hold a good track record.
 

I tend to find that people often argue emotionally and aggressively when they do not have data. They form opinions through guessing and modeling opinions in their head about what the market looks like. Unfortunately, they can’t always bring people on their journey unless other people spend a lot of time looking at the market, and furthermore, are in agreeance.
 

The job of product people is to solve the issue of conflicting needs while taking into account the company strategy at any given point.
 

Actions taken

To do so, I extracted and removed opinion to create data that we could make sense of. I did this by using scoring grids, where we can score opportunities against different factors. Once we had our scores, we could begin to argue pairwise about which initiatives hold more weight.
 

In doing so, we made sure to factor in our specific north star metrics with concern to reply rate and data quality.
 

Lessons learned

  • Everyone has their own model of what the business is and how it needs to develop. A shared scoring grid creates a shared mindset for those variant models. Then, that body of evidence can be picked through later. It really helps remove the emotion and opinion from arguments.

  • If you can get people to be more explicit about what contributed to them having those specific dreams and ideas, then you can start to open the room up to create a consensus. In this way, you end up with a set of strategic priorities and you can shift those priorities based on what you want to factor in.

  • It is very hard for people to look at new initiatives that they have dreamed of for the business in the context of everything that already exists. Using this method exposes a lot of problems in terms of measurements for the business. If you look at things through a revenue and churn lens, for example, you end up thinking more about the features that the business needs from only those two perspectives.

  • You have to think about new factors that really matter. If you just use the scoring and do not evolve that model by letting new factors exist, then you will always miss things that people think should happen.

  • For us, it’s the product team that usually comes up with the ideas. We end up loving them and run through this process of obtaining a consensus and becoming a bit more realistic about it. Sometimes what we thought might end up being an amazing thing may not have scored that well and we surprise ourselves, which humbles us along the way.
  • Engineers provide scores for the level of complexity involved in actually building things. With that information, alongside the scores of other teams, the CEO may often feel as if they are losing control. You may want to add another column solely for the CEO to score which adds to the overall weighting, without stripping them of control. I prefer to force the CEO to justify their dreams in the context of these scores. That in itself can be a challenge.

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