We’ve all been there. You’re working on a digital project and a team member or stakeholder completely disagrees with your approach or ideas. Disagreements can arise over everything from content strategy direction to product management techniques and more. Even when you’re backing up your strategy with user research, journey maps, and informed personas, not everyone will interpret the research the same way and make the same decisions. So how can you turn these potentially negative interactions into a united drive for project success?
Don’t Go Over, Under, or Through - Bring Your Critics In
Often, disagreements around project direction are born out of poor communication. Perhaps your critic does not feel like they’re being heard or that their ideas are valued.
Opening up the lines of communication is the first step on the path to turning your critics into champions. Make an effort to understand your critic’s communication style and what sort of information they require to make decisions comfortably. Do they rely heavily on data and numbers? Do they like to start with details and work up to the big picture? If you approach your critics in their preferred communication style you will put them at ease and pave the road for a productive conversation.
By giving your critics a seat at the table you are helping them feel heard. And while you may not agree with everything they say, tensions will be drastically reduced if you take the time to listen to their concerns.
Understand the Value of Constructive Disagreement
Of course you may become frustrated with your project critics when they disagree with your approach, but don’t underestimate the value of constructive push-back. Once your critics have a seat at the table you may hear a lot of things you don’t want to. But just because their ideas are different doesn’t mean they’re bad.
Your critic may have a different perspective than you, and varied perspectives are valuable. Perhaps while you're incredibly focused on the end user experience, your critic is determined to consider improvements to internal efficiency. Both of these things are important, and one without the other will not lead to success. Keep your mind open to your critic’s perspective. They might see something you don’t.
Keep Your Critics Involved Throughout the Project Lifetime
Encourage your critics to actively participate in the ongoing project. Invite them to view dashboards, sit in on user testing, view demos, etc.
Even if your critic doesn’t hold the biggest vote in the room they can still cause tension and slow down project progress if they don’t feel involved. Pass on the information and data they need to assuage their fears.
And if they feel strongly about an aspect of the project that is not as vital to you, consider throwing them a win so you can focus on what’s important to you. It’s all about compromise and keeping your project on track for success, not winning for the sake of winning.
For more tips on how to align your digital project team and critics for success, check out this video.