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How do you ensure alignment when you have two senior executive stakeholders who disagree with each other on the proposed strategy and you are stuck in the middle?

2 Answers
Azim Mitha
Azim Mitha
HubSpot Interim Sales Director (Asia)September 5

Firstly, it's important to know what your role is in such situations. Typically, in such situations, your role is to facilitate the alignment process, maintain a neutral stance, and act in the best interests of the organization.

By creating an envirionment which encourages open communication, seeking common ground, and using data-driven recommendations, you can help two senior executives work together to reach a consensus on the proposed strategy.

  • Understand their point of view: First, make sure you really understand what each executive thinks. Talk to them separately and ask questions to fully grasp their ideas. Find things they both agree on, even if they disagree about the strategy. This can help build a starting point for agreement.

  • Bring the two senior stakeholders together in a meeting: Arrange a meeting where they can discuss their thoughts openly. You might need to guide the conversation and make sure it stays respectful.

  • Use data driven approach to your proposed strategy: The strategy that you are proposing should be based on facts, data, and research. Objective information can help them see what's best for the company.

  • Stick to the Company goals: Remind them that we are working towards company's main goals. The objective is to make decisions that help the company, not just one person. Explain how their disagreement could impact the company.

  • Take into consideration their feedback: Your strategy may have missed certain aspects which the senior stakeholders are concered about. Take that into consideration and adjust your proposed strategy if needed.

  • Escalate if necessary: If nothing else works, consider doing a clean escalation to higher management. This should be the last resort to avoid a complete standstill.

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Ken Liu
Ken Liu
Databricks Director - Sales Strategy & OperationsJune 8

When you're facing this unenviable position, I recommend adopting these best practices:

  1. Ensure both execs' strategy is trying to solve the same problem statement

  2. Help the execs review how well their strategy aligns against a company and customer first principle

  3. Ensure there is a holistic evaluation of the pros and cons of each strategy

  4. Flesh out what needs to be true from a time, money and people requirement for each strategy, as well as what are the risks

Align on problem statement - this might seem obvious, but it's surprising how often I've seen executives interpret have different interpretations of the problem statement. If all parties are not aligned on the exact problem statement they're addressing, then any comparisons are a non-starter.

Operate from Company & Customer First Principles - disagreements in solutions often arise from strategies that have an element of politics. People may have ulterior motives for a strategy (e.g. strategy may benefit his/her department and/or is easier for his/her group to implement) that is difficult to debate around. However, if all parties can define a strategy that clearly articulates how it puts the customer (end user or internal customer first), the strategy is more defensible from a first principles perspective in that it should maximize company and shareholder value.

Holistic Evaluation of Pros/Cons - it's easy for stakeholders to become focused on the merits of the solution, especially when they become entrenched in justifying the strategy. However, rarely is a strategy perfect, and a proper comparison of strategies requires a balanced scorecard. Help define a scorecard (or checklist of criteria) that both parties can agree upon to review the merits of their strategies. Populating the scorecard enables a more fair and comparable comparison of the strategies. You can also consider having an unbiased 3rd party help review the scorecard for both execs to vet both solutions.

Define Resources Requirements and Risks - related to defining a balanced scorecard, both parties should clearly articulate what are the resources (time, money, people) required to execute each strategy. You can also provide a level of effort (LOE) analysis where on one axis you help map out the relative effort/difficulty of deploying the solution and on the other axis you define the impact (L/M/H as a proxy for expected rev, cost savings, etc.). Additionally, you should articulate all the key risks and trade-offs associated to each strategy to help enable a holistic comparison of each strategy.

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