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Product Rituals: 3 secrets to get better feedback on your next proposal
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Frame

What: Option table

⚡️
Start with the template: type “/voting table with pros and cons” in any doc to insert what you see below.
Table of options
0
Option
Description
Pros
Cons
Vote up
Vote down
Proposed option
1
Build it
Build the tool ourselves
Flexibility
Branding
User experience
Time/cost to build
Cost to maintain
2
Buy it
Buy an off-the-shelf tool
Faster deployment
Cheaper to start and maintain
Cost to purchase
3
Both
Buy an extensible tool that allows us to augment with our own code
Fast to deploy
Flexible
Don’t have full control
Have to pay for tool and development
There are no rows in this table

Why: develop a shared understanding of the problem

Trying to align a team on a solution as quickly as possible is always tempting. But I’ve found that when you are having trouble aligning on a solution, the issue is that the group doesn’t have a shared view of the problem. One person sees and is optimizing for one part, while another person sees a different (perhaps, overlapping) part. Until you align on a shared frame for the problem and potential options, asking the group whether to go forward with a proposal often leads to chaos.

Finding the right question — the question that answers the other questions — is half the battle towards aligning towards a solution, and Shishir Mehrotra’s doc on Eigenquestions covers this in detail:

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Once you have found the important questions, listing the options (like in the template at the top) is critical towards driving alignment. A few reasons why:

Avoid the pitfall of talking past each other

Have you ever been in a meeting where two people argue about something for a few minutes and at a certain point someone notices they are both articulating a very similar thing in two different ways? By naming each possible option, you can easily pause such a conversation and say, “Joe - it sounds like you are talking about Option A. Sally, are you talking about a variation of that or something else? Should we list a new option?”

A framework for feeling heard

Oftentimes when someone is arguing against your idea, it’s less that they are against your idea and more that they have something else in mind. Explicitly listing the options provides a framework to include and compare new ideas based on their merits instead, couching the debate about a particular option within the context of the alternatives rather than an isolated “yes/no” discussion about only one particular option.

Sometimes this process generates new ideas that are worth considering and other times, when people can compare their ideas and associated pros and cons next to the alternatives, they may end up changing their mind. In any case, the framework leads to a much more productive discussion. And even if a stakeholder disagrees with the ultimate solution, they will be much more likely to “disagree and commit” knowing that their ideas were heard.

Find the controversial choices

I love reactions. They have changed the way I work. In this case, putting an upvote and downvote reaction next to each option can help surface which questions and choices are worth digging deeper into. I’ll often send out a writeup with several questions, thinking question A will be the most important one to discuss. But I’ll often find that the team is aligned on question A but split on question B. This helps me prioritize research, thought, and discussion towards question B and makes the next round of feedback (async or in a meeting) much more efficient.

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