How to say NO as a PM

PMs, we all know the power of a simple no, but how do you craft the perfect no without setting fire alarms in the building?

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Great question!

Once I read a book it suggested saying no without saying no strategy. Let’s imagine an example, one of the stakeholders comes to me as PM with a feature request that can’t be done:

  1. I would make sure that the person no that request is taken into my consideration
  2. I would ask clarification questions to provide a bigger picture not only for yourself but also for the person. These questions should be aimed to cover why actually this is a “no” for the feature.
    For example;
  • Why is the requested item needed?
  • Who will benefit from the requested item? One customer or billions of them?
  • What is the impact on the company? Monetary, qualitative?
  1. After I receive the answers it would be clear to me and the stakeholder that it can’t fit in the Product Roadmap right now.
  2. I will share an honest perspective on the product roadmap. Something like this "This feature will not serve a big customer audience and does not have an impact on the company. Therefore, I will put it in the backlog and we can come to it later when we see that more we can benefit from it ".
  3. I will thank the stakeholder and also kindly ask to keep an eye on the opportunity and agree on the ETA to come back to the topic.

This is one of the potential examples. But in general, I will always explicitly say why NO without saying NO in the beginning and put the next call to action in place.