Ask Experiment Nation: Aligning with challenging stakeholders

CRO lives at the intersection of many disciplines: marketing, statistics, business, design, engineering, etc. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that CROs face conflict and objections from challenging stakeholders on a regular basis. While many CROs can lean on their reputation and presence to get through these rough patches, not everyone is so lucky. If you find yourself struggling with challenging stakeholders who constantly object, hopefully, some of these tips can help you in your practice.

Agreements require 3 things: common context, aligned goals, and agreed-upon decision criteria – in that order. Agreements can be seen as a journey – where an agreed-upon decision is a destination, and common context, and aligned goals are necessary milestones along your path. Shortcuts often never pan out.

Share a common context

Starting with sharing a common context – seek to understand each other’s worlds and pressures. The goal of having a common context is to have all the facts on the table to work from. Understanding that the other party has time or political pressures, or useful historical knowledge (or lack thereof) is fundamental to all future conversations because you cannot make any decisions if you don’t share common facts. Laddering is a great approach to understanding the other’s context at a deep level. If ever you run into challenges in later stages, you often have to go back to seeking common context.

Align on goals

Once you have a common context, you need to align on goals – otherwise, you will be working in different directions. Of course, you won’t have the exact same goals, or else you’d be the exact same team/person. However, uncovering whether you have conflicting goals will be important as it helps you find where you can find some common ground. While most organizations have goals that align, there are often teams that by their nature will have some conflicting ones (e.g. Sales vs. Product). Aligning on goals, or anything really, is also a great opportunity to build rapport and relationships with your stakeholders – which will make future interactions easier.

Agree on decision criteria

The final ingredient of an agreement is agreed-upon decision criteria – i.e., what path(s) you will take based on facts and evidence. In the CRO world, this is agreeing that a feature will be rolled out if a test shows certain results. It is in your best interest to document these agreements so you can refer to them later on. Doing this step after a test is a recipe for disaster – as you’ll go back and forth far more often.

Good luck and see you in 2 weeks!

Rommil Santiago
Founder, Experiment Nation

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Rommil Santiago