As part of the product team, you’re under tremendous pressure to deliver impactful products and features that can move the needle across multiple metrics, especially revenues.
This pressure sometimes shows up in the shape of sales teams pushing for features and changes so that they can win a contract. Sometimes it looks like emails from your executive team. And sometimes it looks like a stream of Slack messages from your marketing team sharing notes on an interview they did with customers last week.
Those inputs are valuable, to be sure. But you also need to have the space and clarity to look at them with strategic lenses, this is why it is important to find practical ways to help internal teams share their feedback and develop the trust required to know that they are being heard without having to react to that feedback immediately.
As one of our customers puts it:
Daniel Strazzulla, Product and Research Manager at Contentful
“In every organization there are always hidden channels of communication. For example, you bump into somebody in the kitchen and the person says, ‘Hey, you should fix this thing.’ That feedback tends to be stored in people’s heads, and that creates a false expectation that something is going to be done. People are disappointed as a result.
These types of interactions, if not managed well, can result in teams not trusting one another, which diminishes collaboration.We spent a lot of time developing a proper understanding of how feedback moved through our organization and lived in our culture. We asked ourselves what the most effective ways to submit feedback were.
Ultimately, we’re all working on it together, so we need to make sure we’re all focused on the right things.If you push for a different way of doing things, maybe people won’t adopt it because they don’t think it works best for them. For example, if people like to submit feedback via Slack, then you have to find a way to work with that instead of forcing unnecessary changes.
There’s a reason why people share their thoughts with you in the kitchen. Maybe it’s because they don’t trust the regular channels.
I think it’s about having empathy with other teams. They are using their own tools and have different workloads and time constraints, so if you make people fill in a form or whatever method you like, you may be adding more complexity to their workflow or discouraging their efforts to share useful data with you.”
Mapping your internal channels
Mapping your internal communication channels will help you understand where information can fall through the cracks and identify the most reliable channel to capture your team’s inputs.
It can be as simple as creating a matrix of the teams who provide feedback to the product team, the type of feedback they provide and the channels they normally use.
Remember, the goal here is to identify the easiest and most effective channels for internal teams to communicate with the product team. You may want to reduce the number of channels or funnel the information to a central place without making it too hard for the rest of the organisation to share feedback.
Managing internal channels is only the first step. You want to also communicate how their feedback will be stored and how it will be considered. It goes both ways. You need to design processes that make it very easy to receive and share information both ways.
Mapping your channels is about more than just reducing information overload for the product team. It’s but also about reducing the anxiety other teams experience about whether feedback has been acknowledged.
The rule of thumb here is to make it extremely easy to share feedback. Ideally, people won’t have to learn another tool to make it happen.
PROTIP 👉 Some of our customers find sending internal feedback via email easier, some use our Slackbot so people don't have to leave Slack to share feedback. Some build a Typeform or Google form for everybody to send feedback to the product team in a standardised way. Whatever channel you pick, it needs to be based on your understanding of how people currently share inputs and why they pick those channels to do so.
Once you have agreed with your team which channels to use to share feedback the next step is to build trust.
Lack of trust is a common issue that often stops people from sharing their feedback with the product team. If they feel their feedback will not be heard or considered why would they share it?
A good way of approaching this challenge is to clearly communicate how their inputs will be stored, analyzed and considered within the product strategy.
Client facing teams are not always familiar with the product development process or the prioritization criteria product teams use. It is always important to clarify that sharing feedback does not always mean executing on it. This is where expectations need to be managed.
If you can communicate how decisions are made within the product organization and how their inputs help that decision making, it is very likely the business will be more receptive to participate and provide their feedback or share feedback from the customers they talk to.
Closing the loop
Another way of building trust is to consistently close the internal feedback loop. Whenever your teams' inputs were considered and used in the development process be intentional in sharing that outcome.
💡Getting internal teams to support your initiatives is not always easy this is why we wrote The Practical Guide to Change Management.
Change management is probably the single most important skill a product leader should master in her career. It is the skill that separates the majority from those who consistently and successfully bring together the entire organization to deliver the best product and experiences to their customers.
Understanding how change management works will transform the way you help your business communicate, how initiatives are prioritized, and how you coordinate multiple departments and agendas within the organization. It is what will help you grow with the business as the business inevitably evolves.
Have you found an effective way to get internal teams to share product feedback and ideas? Share them with us in the comments section below.