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Maximising Stakeholder Buy-in to Product Strategy and Product Roadmap

Published on 8th July 2024

The most amazing product strategy and product roadmap are ineffective if the stakeholders don’t support them. Without their buy-in, you’ll struggle to execute the strategy and find it hard to deliver the roadmap. But it doesn’t have to be this way. This article shares my tips to help you secure strong stakeholder buy-in to strategic product decisions, align people, and achieve product success together.

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Involve the Right Stakeholders

Stakeholders can form a large group, especially in bigger companies.[1] They might include senior management, marketing, sales, service, operations, finance, and HR. Securing everyone’s buy-in would be impractical—it would most likely take too much time.

You should therefore focus on the stakeholders whose input and support you really need. To achieve this, perform a stakeholder analysis using a tool like the Power-Interest Grid shown in Figure 1.[2]

Power-Interest Grid
Figure 1: The Power-Interest Grid

The grid divides stakeholders into four groups: crowd, subjects, context setters, and players depending on how interested they are in your product and how much power they have. The individuals whose buy-in to strategy and roadmap decisions is crucial are the players: They are interested in your product, as they, for example, will have to market and sell it. They are also powerful: You need their expertise to make the right decisions and their support to successfully execute them. I refer to this group as key stakeholders.

Keep the other groups in Figure 1 informed about changes in the product strategy and product roadmap, for example, by inviting subjects to bigger review/demo sessions and having one-on-ones with context setters.

Secure the Right Level of Buy-in

Not all strategic decisions are created equal. Some require more stakeholder support than others. Generally speaking, the bigger the impact of a decision is, the more buy-in it needs.

Decisions related to a new or significantly changed strategy have a very high impact. Consequently, the key stakeholders should unanimously agree with them. Smaller strategy updates and product roadmapping decisions, however, are not as critical. Ensuring that everybody consents, and nobody disapproves is usually enough, as Table 1 shows.

Decision TypeLevel of Buy-in RequiredCorresponding Decision Rule
New or significantly changed product strategyThe key stakeholders endorse the decisions.Unanimity
Smaller strategy updates and new or changed product roadmapThe individuals don’t have any meaningful objections.Consent
Table 1: Decisions, Level of Buy-in, and Decision Rule

When you decide by unanimity and consent, it can be hard to understand whether you have achieved the buy-in required. A great technique to uncover the current level of support is using an agreement scale like the one in Figure 2.

An Agreement Scale
Figure 2: An Agreement Scale

The scale shows five gradients of agreement, ranging from wholehearted endorsement to serious disagreement. You can, of course, use more gradients if you wish to, but I find that in practice, the five options in Figure 2 are usually enough.

With the scale in place, ask the players to express their agreement, for example, by dot-voting. Draw the scale on a whiteboard, be it a physical or virtual one, and invite people to put a dot underneath the appropriate number. The resulting picture nicely visualises the group’s level of agreement.

When most people wholeheartedly endorse a new or reworked strategy and a few agree with minor reservations, you have achieved unanimity. Similarly, consent has been reached when nobody signals that they can’t support the strategy or roadmap and no one has serious disagreements.

If there is no agreement, you have two options: either continue looking for a strategy or roadmap that attracts more support or change the decision rule. Say that you have already had several lengthy discussions with the stakeholders about a strategy change, but people still disagree. It might be best then if the person in charge decides, unblocks the process, and helps everyone to move forward.[3]

Co-create the Product Strategy and Roadmap

The traditional way to engage the stakeholders and secure their support is to present them with a draft strategy and roadmap, collect their feedback, update the plans, and, if necessary, show them the updated version. This process can work when smaller changes are needed and the stakeholders’ perspectives are similar.

But when bigger changes are required or the group is more diverse, the approach is not only time-consuming. It can be hard to reach the required level of buy-in without using design-by-committee, brokering a weak compromise, and agreeing on the smallest common denominator—which is hardly the foundation of a successful product.

A better way is to co-create the product strategy and roadmap with the key stakeholders. This approach makes it easier to reach unanimity and consent without making weak compromises. Additionally, it frees you from resolving conflicting stakeholder views and ideas on your own. Instead, reaching an agreement is a collaborative effort. Stakeholders learn about their respective ideas, concerns, and interests.

A great way to co-develop the product strategy and roadmap—as well as to review and update the plans—is to bring people together through collaborative workshops. Ask a skilled facilitator to help you prep the meetings and facilitate them so that everybody is heard, and nobody dominates. This is especially helpful when the group is new to collaborative decision-making and when the workshops take place online.

You can take this approach further and invite the key stakeholders to join the product team, as Figure 3 shows. See my article Building High-Performing Product Teams for more information on how to form such an extended product team.[4]

Product Team with Key Stakeholders
Figure 3: Product Team with Key Stakeholders

Co-creating the product strategy and roadmap replaces a traditional stakeholder management approach with a collaborative one. The individuals are now actively involved in making strategic decisions and thereby contribute to the product success.[5]

Help Stakeholders Meet their Commitments

When a stakeholder agrees with the strategy and roadmap, you should expect that the individual will follow them. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Say that Joe, the sales rep and a key stakeholder, helped update the product roadmap. But you now find out that he has promised a feature to an important customer, which is not in line with the plan.

It can be tempting to ignore the issue, add the feature to the roadmap, and get on with things. But this is hardly a recipe for success. As Joe was involved in the decision-making process and consented to the roadmap, he should adhere to the plan and not go against it. If you allow stakeholders to ignore an agreement, what’s the point then of securing their buy-in in the first place?

It is therefore important that you address issues like the one with Joe. A great way to do this is to use the feedback framework shown in Figure 4. (You can download the framework by clicking on the image.)

Roman's Feedback Framework
Figure 4: A Framework to Offer Constructive Feedback

The framework encourages you to take six steps to address and correct an issue.

  • Step 1, Connection: Take the time to check in and empathise with the other person.
  • Step 2, Objective: Describe the desired outcome of the meeting, state the issue, and describe the context in which it occurred.
  • Step 3, Issue: Address the problem. Start by asking the other person to share their perspective. Listen attentively with the intention to understand. Then describe your observations. Stick to the facts. Don’t judge, blame, or accuse.
  • Step 4, Causes: Identify the issue’s underlying causes. Create a shared understanding of why the problem occurred—why the other person acted the way they did.
  • Step 5, Actions: Determine the actions required to address the causes and improve the situation. Encourage the individual to come up with suggestions. Then share the actions that you want them to take and the changes you are willing to make. The latter shows that you are prepared to contribute to solving the issue and change your own behaviour if necessary.
  • Step 6, Closure: Wrap up the conversation and set up a follow-up meeting if appropriate.

Follow these steps to help stakeholders change their attitudes and behaviours and ensure that securing their support does indeed result in alignment and orchestrated actions.[6]


[1] A stakeholder is anyone who has a stake in a product—who is interested in or affected by it. While this definition includes users and customers, I use the term in this article to refer to the internal business stakeholders.

[2] The Power-Interest Grid was originally developed by Ackerman and Eden and published in their book Making Strategy. I cover the tool and its application in product management in my book How to Lead in Product Management.

[3] Ideally, the person in charge is the product manager/Scrum product owner, see my article Understanding Empowerment in Product Management. For more advice on decision-making and in-depth guidance on using decision rules, refer to my book How to Lead in Product Management.

[4] As its name suggests, the coach supports and coaches the product team. This includes facilitating collaboration, helping establish an effective way of working, and resolving impediments. The role might be called Scrum Master, agile coach, or product coach.

[5] This assumes that the individuals have the necessary availability and are sufficiently empowered to contribute to decisions on behalf of their groups/business units.

[6] For more advice on offering feedback and applying my framework, see the article How to Offer Constructive Feedback.

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