How to Say No as A Product Owner?


Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by

For the Product Owners, it is difficult to say no to the suggestions and ideas of the employees, customers and internal stakeholders. However, that doesn’t mean the Product Owner wants to oppose the team; they say no to achieving success in the project. 

So, if a Product Owner learns the skills of saying no and turning down the individual’s request effectively, you might be able to achieve success in the projects. 

Here are some tips that will help you say no to the business clients and stakeholders as a Product Owner. Let’s get started. 

Give Particular or Only One Reason to Say No 

Saying no with no or multiple reasons can be a daunting task. This creates confusion and builds second thoughts in the stakeholders, employees, and customers’ minds. So, as a Product Owner, it’s your moral duty to be ready with the potential reason of saying no. 

It will help if you choose a particular reason so that the argument will be in your favor. Answering the individual with the weakest reason may not favor you. For instance, let’s assume I am your consumer who asks you to know the merits of keeping their project aside from the team. 

Being the Product Owner, you need to give a particular reason, say to your consumer you have kept your team aside from the project to plan various Sprints and move forward in one direction with the least number of individuals. 

In this way, you will be able to answer them correctly and provide the exact reason. Apart from this, make sure to convince them with your answer. 

Convey About the Similarity of Product Goals 

Being the Product Owner who has a certified Scrum Product Owner certification and the stakeholder sharing the same product goals, it’s your moral duty as the Product Owner to mention the demerits and other things. 

But, sometimes, both of them have different goals and prospects for developing the Product Backlog. They might conflict at some point. So, in that case, keep in mind to share the product management with higher goals and references to sort out the conflict and prove your point. 

If the conflict is between the internal stakeholder and Product Owner of the same company, in that case, you can manage to say no like this: 

  • I think we need to focus on teamwork to stand for the goals of the project 
  • Be sure you have a single goal to define the product successfully; in that case, we can work on shared goals instead of bringing different opinions.

Reminding the internal stakeholders and consumers that they share the same goals will help them understand why you say no, even if they do not agree with you. 

Always Be Ready with an Alternative 

Sometimes even after saying no, you cannot convince the customers about your opinion and why you said no. So before you say no to them, make sure to be ready with an alternative and tell them the merits of the alternative and the demerits of the older one. 

A Product Owner needs to always stand on the front step with an alternative whenever there is a possibility of conflict between the Product Owner and customer. Moreover, you can convince them by following:

  • We are not doing everything as per the plan you’ve asked for, but what if we offer you an alternative that makes your product a bit better? 
  • Currently, we are working on multiple projects, so this may lead to a drop in the quality of the product we deliver to you. But how about we start a week later with full concentration and team strength? 

Express your alternative to the consumer when you really mean it or are sure about it. This is the only way you will be able to say no and convince them. 

Tell Them About the Impact of Saying Yes on Conflicts

Being the best Product Owner who has attended the CSPO certification course, if you reject the customer or stakeholder request, then do not forget to explain the impact of saying yes with different opinions. In such a case, when you feel pressured to say no to the project, tell them about the consequences in this way. 

  • We are not able to meet your expectations and deadline if you hold on to your views. Instead of this, we like to work on features that lead the product toward success. 
  • Our team has been working for a long time, so currently, I cannot give them more product workload as it may disturb the quality of products. 

Explaining the impact and consequences will help you convince the stakeholder and help you say no easily. 

A Quick Overview

As a product owner, you are responsible for managing the vision and direction of your product. However, you will likely face situations where stakeholders or team members request features or changes that don’t align with your product vision or strategy. Saying no can be difficult, but it’s important to maintain focus on your product’s goals and objectives.

  1. Set clear expectations upfront:

To avoid misunderstandings, ensure stakeholders and team members know your product vision and strategy from the outset. This will help them understand why certain requests may not be feasible or relevant.

  1. Understand the request:

Before saying no, take the time to understand the request and the underlying motivations behind it fully. This will help you communicate your decision more effectively and avoid misunderstandings.

  1. Communicate the reason:

When saying no, clearly communicate the reason behind your decision. This will help stakeholders, and team members understand your perspective and prevent frustration or confusion.

  1. Offer alternatives:

Consider offering alternative solutions or compromises if a request cannot be accommodated. This can help maintain positive relationships with stakeholders and team members.

  1. Stick to your principles:

Ultimately, staying true to your product vision and strategy is important. While it’s important to be open-minded and adaptable, compromising your principles can lead to a product that lacks direction and focus.