Product owners often fear saying no and disappointing the stakeholder or customer. But saying no doesn’t have to be so difficult.
At times we all have to say no to a project stakeholder and saying no can be very difficult as most of us like to please others but saying no to stakeholders is an important part of the product owner’s job. The product owner is tasked with optimising the value delivered by a product, meaning we can’t say yes to every customer request.
For every time a product owner says yes to some stakeholder’s feature request, the product owner will need to say no to some future customer request. The team’s time is limited and a ‘yes’ today will necessitate saying no to some later opportunity, this means that learning to say ‘No’ to stakeholders is a skill every product owner needs to master and not be afraid to do.
When product owners need to tell stakeholders that they are not accepting/prioritising a request, they should be clear about what ‘No’ means and quantify their reasoning, don’t leave the door open to encourage the stakeholder to ask again later, this is a waste of their time and frustrating for you as a product owner to have to continually say no.
Be firm and offer your one most compelling reason for saying no. If the stakeholder successfully convinces you to change your mind by arguing that point, it may well be worth considering whether your secondary reasons for saying no are sufficient. If not, you might need to say yes to the feature.
If you find yourself in a position of rejecting a request, you should explain the consequences of saying ‘yes’ to the stakeholder, these could be a reason such, ‘this will mean we won’t meet our deadline’.
The most important thing to remember is that stakeholders also want the project to succeed, so don’t take resistance personally if they do not agree when you say no.