The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world

What if two product managers disagree on something and can only agree to disagree?

I received the below great question a few days after my Art of War for Product Managers and High-Performing Professionals.  I thought you might be interested in the answer as well.

What if two product manager colleagues disagree on something and can only agree to disagree and cannot come to a resolution, what do you do afterwards?

I go into the: who, what, where, when, why and how in more detail in the IT Professional Development Toolkit product.

One recommendation is to find the common-shared goal among the three product manager.  Continue to bring the discussion to a higher-level until you get some type of agreement.  Oftentimes people are arguing over a detail or specific solution.  When people of like-minds and professions are arguing – it simply means that they are talking ‘at’ the wrong level.  It’s merely an indicator that the parties are looking in the wrong place for the answer.  When you pop-up the discussion to the next higher level, things tend to work out.

One example:   One product manager (Product Manager 1) states that this release needs to have a Drag-n-Drop feature in this release.  The other product manager (Product Manager 2)  is adamant that it cannot be included in this release because the code is from a 3rd-party company.  There simply isn’t enough time to get the legal authorization to change it on our own, or get the 3rd-party folks to change it.  Product Manager 1 knows that a high-profile client will leave the company and product – if we don’t but this feature in this release.

This is what I did:

1)     Paraphrased our common product goal:  Release the product with high-quality, on-time and with significant enhancements that clients will be very pleased with.

2)     Get everyone agreeing to the high-level common goal.  Get everyone on the same page with the company vision and mission.

3)     Try to kick-up the discussion by understanding “why” this change is needed in the first place.  I asked the team ‘why’ this change is needed.   Product Manager 1 says – “The client needs create a project plan from some of his other project folders.  He doesn’t want to start from scratch.  He wants to drag-n-drop his selected folders to create the new project.  He doesn’t want to re-invent”

4)     I paraphrased, “So, let me restate to make sure I understand.  You’re focusing on what the client really wants, which is what we all want.  And what the client wants is a method to import files from a previous project into his new project file.  He doesn’t want to start from scratch.  He wants an import function.”  (First understand and then be understood — from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People).

Product Manager 1 – “Yes – they want an import function”

I asked Product Manager 2: “I think we already have an import function, don’t we?  It’s not using the drag-n-drop feature.  But it accomplishes the essence of the goal.  It gets the job done, doesn’t it?”

Product Manager 2 nods, “YES – it’s called IMPORT.  You can browse your directory and click on the folders to drill down.  You can even drill down to the documents and specific lines to import.  Once you have highlighted the areas that you want imported, you just hit the IMPORT button.  You can even include everything and then mask-out things you don’t want to include (which are a faster way to important large amounts of data).”

Product Manager 2 is happy, “Really?  That’s even better than what they asked for.”

Product Manager 1. “And it’s already in the product that they have today.  They don’t have to wait until the next release….”


The stale-mate was caused by getting too caught in the details.  Product Manager 1 wanted to give the customer exactly what he/she was asking for; customer was asking for a specific solution (drag-n-drop) to answer their problem; Product Manager 2 was narrowly focused on the impossibility of that one solution (drag-n-drop).   By focusing on a single solution, we were in stalemate.

By disengaging from the specific details on HOW something will be accomplished, and focusing on exactly what is trying to be accomplished – most people can find a common, shared goal.  I talk more about how to use paraphrasing, listening techniques, negotiating techniques and finding the common ground in the IT Professional Development Toolkit.

I go through more of the: who, what, where, when, why and how – in the IT Professional Development Toolkit product.



About the Author

Laura is a Corporate Exit Strategist for the Blooming Entrepreneur. She is a certified business and personal life coach, specializing in time management skills, project management training and work/life balance strategies. She has been in the software and testing industry for over 20 years. She’s worked with such companies as IBM, Ericsson, Staples, Fidelity Investments and Sogeti in various client advocacy and project management roles. The techniques she uses in her business coaching and client advocacy work saved these companies both time and money, which resulted in on-time, quality product delivery with higher client satisfaction. Laura now uses her client focus, project, quality and people management skills in her personal life coaching career. As a personal life coach, she helps people transform their life by integrating their goals and dreams into their everyday lives. Laura uses creative and practical tools to help her clients realize what really matters to them. She helps others to easily transition into their next chapter whether it’s the next ladder of success within their corporate environment or into the entrepreneurial playground. I am not a fan of choosing to act in spite of fear. Rather, together we will collaborate toward a plan of inspired action. We will develop a plan together that you feel confident and excited about. For us, Taking The Leap will be magical, exhilarating and natural. If you are eager to take that next logical step but are unsure what it is signup for the Corporate Exit Strategy Coaching group. We have books, tapes, training materials, twice-monthly group coaching events, 3-day workshops, and individual coaching sessions to help you on your way toward your freedom and prosperity.
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