January 21, 2023
Product Management

Decision-Driven Stakeholder Management

Effective Product Managers strive to incorporate empirical processes such as data-driven decision-making and evidence-based product management. The data collected by these processes are essential to drive analytical activities such as hypothesis-driven development, experimentation, feature toggles, A/B Testing and,

Decision-Driven Stakeholder Management: A process that uses stakeholders’ input and feedback to inform decisions in an organization or project.

Before we dive too deep into this subject, let's get grounded on our key audience.


By actively seeking out and considering stakeholders’ input, organizations can make informed decisions that are better aligned with stakeholders’ needs and priorities. Decision-driven stakeholder management designedly connects stakeholders with evidence, facts and data to assist in key product management conclusions. Stakeholders are individuals and groups who frequently interact with a product manager to provide inputs that facilitate the creation of a product. Stakeholders typically include customers, users, and sponsors.

  • Customer: An individual or group who will benefit from the product or service.
  • Example: As a Traveler, I need to reserve a seat on a flight to Miami next Monday morning so that I can attend a conference.
  • User: An individual or group that interacts with the product or services in order to facilitate the transfer of benefits to the Customer.
  • Example: As a Travel Agent, I want to delight Travelers with efficient and cost-effective travel plans so that they will tell their friends to use our services.
  • Sponsor: An individual or group that provides the resources and support required to create and maintain the product or services.  
  • Example: As Staff Lawyer for the Product Developer, I need to ensure any liability for travel planning is properly managed to protect Customers, Users, and our Company.

Fast Flow with Planned Communications

Successful product development must include a fast flow of new features with tight feedback loops. A well-managed stakeholder group will quickly provide key feedback needed to make better decisions that grow your product. Your communication plan should focus on the decisions that are needed and facilitate the feedback necessary to quickly pivot your product or service.

This approach involves actively engaging stakeholders to understand their needs, priorities, and perspectives, and then incorporating that information into your decision-making. The process also involves stakeholders in the implementation of decisions by providing regular updates. This helps to ensure that stakeholders feel heard and invested, and it can also lead to a more effective and efficient implementation of decisions. Additionally, decision-driven stakeholder management often involves using metrics to track progress, evaluate the effectiveness of decisions, engagement strategies, and identify areas for improvement.

Stakeholders should provide valuable feedback, perspective, and insight to the Product Manager. Good stakeholder feedback requires good communication and communication planning by the Product Manager. Each Stakeholder is an opportunity waiting for the right motivation to influence a key decision in the lifecycle of a successful product or service.

Slow down and craft your messages

Pressed for time, we often default to accepting unplanned communications; firing off emails, and scheduling urgent meetings with stakeholders. Instantaneous communications aren't the same as effective communications. Experience shows that taking time to review, rethink, and refine what, how and when we communicate will actually improve the quality of stakeholder feedback and your decisions.

Poorly managed stakeholders provide little to benefit the product or service. Ineffective stakeholder management becomes a tedious chore necessary to minimize conflicts, disruption, and misdirection. The result is a negative environment where evidence, facts and data turn volatile and must be carefully screened and packaged for stakeholder consumption to avoid collateral damage.

The ability to communicate in a way that drives decision-making requires the Product Manager to slow down enough to plan and craft messages that convey the full context of the issues at hand. Presenting a comprehensive representation of a situation that your stakeholders can quickly understand is the essence of decision-driven communication.

Example decision-driven communication plan

In this example communication plan, the first column identifies the decision that is needed. Additional columns define when, who, what, and how the communications should be completed to support the decision. This type of plan is frequently updated as the need for new decisions develops. For each decision that involves stakeholders the key elements are:

  1. What is the decision to be made and the target decision date?
  2. What is the stakeholder group to be consulted?
  3. What is the evidence they will be given as input?
  4. What is the communication method and medium to be used?

Preparation is the key. The communication methods and medium may vary. Investing time upfront in framing the purpose, requested action or desired outcome of communication can save more time in the future by avoiding unnecessary confusion and debate.

Conclusion: Focus stakeholders on evidence

Keep stakeholder enthusiasm focused on evidence, facts, data, and the things you can control. Use what you know, what you plan, or your next experiment. Use your product roadmap, not the product backlog, to manage stakeholder expectations.  A roadmap can facilitate more productive and efficient communication about the product across stakeholders. Highlight research and evidence in your communications. Base your communications on data from carefully selected metrics, and present that data to your stakeholders as input to their feedback.

Decision-Driven Stakeholder Management should cultivate and enrich a valuable resource for your product. Stakeholders are not an inconvenience to be controlled. They are a partner and advisor that will help you as the Product Manager in making the decisions needed for a successful product. If, you manage and communicate effectively with evidence.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Contact me on LinkedIn so I can learn from your experience and ideas for improvement to the practice of decision-driven stakeholder management.

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Henry Pozzetta is an Agile Coach with extensive experience in software engineering and product management. His goal is to accelerate the delivery of value from product management with progressive adoption of agile best practices and lean servant leadership principles.