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Tips to Stakeholder Communication

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Introduction

Hello, I am Takaba, a Product Manager in the Global Development Group at KINTO Technologies. In this article, I will share my tips on effective communication while talking with various stakeholders as a Product Manager.

Having worked on products for many years, I've seen how communication influences the atmosphere and success of a project. Here are some of the things I have experienced and still use and practice every day.

The Pyramid Style

As a Product Manager, I talk to people often. To ensure clarity so others can understand, I communicate using a certain method. That method is called the Pyramid Principle for Logical Speaking.

There are three reasons to use this method.

First, I feel like I needed some kind of method because I am not very good at speaking in public. For example, when I do a presentation or take part in a discussion, I use this method so that I don't fall into a loop where I worry about whether the listeners understand what I am saying, then become worse at conveying what I want to.

Secondly, the job of a Product Manager involves talking to various people, and they will inevitably give a lot of different opinions, and it will be difficult to organize them. However, I find that using this method helps things run more smoothly. For example, a Product Manager talks with many stakeholders about products in an organized manner, but stakeholders have different opinions, and sometimes is hard to discern among the many options available to one. By using this method at times like that, I can solve it relatively smoothly.

Third, you have to speak logically in order to accurately communicate information to others. Speaking logically lets the listener understand better. For example, when I explain something to someone, speaking logically usually makes it easier for the listener to understand. By using a logical approach to communicate the things you want to say, you can convey it in a friendly way that is easier for others to understand. The way you communicate things is very important because doing it in a friendly approach can affect the atmosphere and success of a project.

What I've just explained was structured with the logical speaking approach of the pyramid principle in mind. This method is described in the book "Speak in One Minute" [1] by Yoichi Ito, who taught me in person during a seminar conducted at an IT company where I used to work. I used part of the above to explain the pyramid-style logical way of speaking, which I needed to use when I first became a Product Manager.

I will now explain the pyramid-style speaking method.

Pyramid

As you can see at the top of this pyramid, the first thing you need to start is with the conclusion. That means saying first what you want to convey the most.

The next step is the reasoning. State the reasons supporting the conclusion. Relying on only one reason is weak. You should aim for at least three.

The third step is giving examples. The more specific examples you provide, the more likely you are to convince the listener. This part fleshes out your conclusion and aids in their understanding. Be specific and make it easy to imagine.

I will use an example to explain. For this example, the conclusion is, "There should be a regular product meeting once a week." It looks like this with the pyramid style.

Pyramid

Pyramid-style logical speaking is basic, and there are lots of times when people should use it in business, but how many people actually use it in their day-to-day work?

I don't think that many people do. I think a lot of people assume that just because they understand a concept, the person listening can also understand it, so they tend to cut sentences short, skipping over a lot of key words. Like myself, there are many who cut conversations short, because discussing things in depth can be bothersome.

Training is necessary, because speaking logically requires skills and practice. If you use it every day, you will do it more accurately, and you will communicate in a way that is easy for listeners to understand.

Applying the Pyramid Principle also Involves Hypothetical Thinking

Many logical thinking textbooks may say the opposite. Starting with a conclusion and then reasoning backwards as in the pyramid style can lead to a form of 'self-centered logic’.

However, the author says, "In today's fast-paced world, prioritizing speed, even if it means adopting a somewhat self-centered approach, is acceptable if it helps to formulate thoughts quickly." Even if your explanations aren’t fully complete, engaging stakeholders with your reasoning will put you closer in the process of reaching a conclusion.

For example, in a project, discussing with the entire project team at an early stage, polishing ideas and ensuring that everyone is on the same page will speed up the success of the project. When sharing and discussing, every team member will bring different ideas to the table. I think that by putting together these many opinions, we can come to a better objective conclusion for everyone.

I feel that this kind of hypothetical thinking (thinking from the conclusion above) is efficient, speed-oriented, and enabling you to think objectively is a great skill to have.

Using the Pyramid to Improve Listening Skills

I have talked about the pyramid style from the speaker's perspective, but this method can also be used to train active listening skills too. The other day, a colleague at work suggested that I should improve my ability to understand what is being said. That was when the idea struck me to use the pyramid method for understanding.

I create a box in my head corresponding to the "conclusion + reasoning" of the pyramid, and as I listen, I segment the information within this box. When I listen to the story while segmenting, it becomes easier to understand what is the core of the story and what is missing there.
Source: Yoichi Ito, "Speak in One Minute", SB Creative, 2018 [1:1]

This is not something that can be mastered immediately through training. We can improve listening and understanding skills by practicing this method in daily conversations as well. Therefore, I incorporate this method into both speaking and listening training every day.

Conclusion

Today, I talked about a communication method that I use in my day-to-day work. Are there any methods that you use consciously every day? If you are interested in the pyramid method of speaking, I would recommend you to give it a try.

I believe that communication skills are very important to become a better Product Manager, so I will work hard with everyone in the future.


References

脚注
  1. Yoichi Ito (Author), "Speak in One Minute", SB Creative, 2018 ↩︎ ↩︎

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