Feb 05, 2021
Dealing with top down request
Ugh, our team constantly get a top-down request
One of the teams asked me, “How can we create the culture of co-creation?”
After the discussion, I realized what they really asked was, “How to change the way our organization work so we can create real customer value?”
They asked that because the product team have been getting a lot of a top-down requests, which they had to execute even when it doesn’t make sense.
But, think about that for a second.
Why would executives give a top-down solution? I’m pretty sure they don’t have ill-intention, like making their company go out of the business (duh?).
Based on research, when we face an uncertain situation, our limbic system in our brain reacts with fear and anxiety. As a person who has the highest stake in the company, it’s scary to get the pressure, yet no one responds clearly what’s the right thing to build next.
Pressure and uncertainty are a deadly combination.
Based on my observation, a few reasons why the leadership makes a top-down request might be because (a) they don’t trust that the product team can come up with a good feature for users, or (b) they get pressure from shareholders, or (c) they don’t know what the other way of working.
As a result, a product team is not empowered to explore the problem space. They run a risk of executing unvalidated ideas or solve wrong problems. Which ends up not creating real value for the customers and slowly becomes irrelevant to the market later.
This is a chicken and egg problem.
Should the leadership give trust and space first? If so, can the product team actually deliver a good result?
At the same time, should the product team push back the top-down initiatives? If so, can they give a better alternative approach to achieve the business objective?
I believe the leadership and the product team in the company must work both ways to build trust. There are many ways to do that; my working hypotheses are that the product team should:
- Hire a strong product manager or a user research
- Build a strategic relationship
- Help validate the strategic questions
- Prove if the “new” way of working is better
- Persevere during the transition
Let’s explore this in the next post.
The human-centered practice is not about the workshop or the time you spent speaking to the customers. But it’s when the organization put humans in the center of their activities; when they make strategic decisions, they set their objectives and strategic trade-off. It’s the mindset.