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I am a manager at a company which has struggled the past 2 years with the changing market and due to this has had several budget constraints. Just recently I finally got a budget to redesign one of our web products that actually will be considered that products EOL (end of life) update. After that the product will have no future updates released. The main reason is a pivot in the core of our business to another market segment.

Now that I have a budget, have outsourced the work (all planning and decisions completed for deliverables), and actually have started to execute on the project I received an email from another managers that wants to include their opinions with screenshots of what the update should look like (that boat has sailed already). I worked with one of our business development members for high level input on design but ultimately I am the decision maker.

Our office culture is one that is open to opinions and feedback but in this case I do not want this project to distract our new direction, nor do I want to have it get off the rails with features that simply don't matter. My fear about the latter is that we have an owner who has at times had "knee-jerk" responses to managers feedback that have blown out the budget and scope of projects.

Question: How can you tell coworkers that their input is unnecessary or unneeded, not only because the plan is already being executed on, but to be honest this is not their project to worry about in a polite and constructive way since our culture is one generally open to opinions? In this case it is a manager who also happened to CC about 4 or 5 other managers/personnel on the communication with their opinion. How can I nip this in the bud so this project stays on focus?

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Btw, even on an end-of-life product it's worth maintaining a prioritized list of bugs and feature-requests... not least because it gives you a way to answer "yes, that's a known issue/yes, that's a new issue / bur as you can see these seventeen things have higher priority. If you can convince upper management to fund your item we can discuss trying to do it sooner, but if not my hands are tied." – keshlam Jan 25 at 21:59
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Oh right, the "final update". I've seen those before. At least your friends can rest assured the next "final update" will be able to address their concerns. :-) – corsiKa Jan 25 at 21:59
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I’d just tell the manager what you told us. It explains why you think input might be unhelpful in this specific case, and it gives the manager a chance to decide whether their input is actually valuable in the circumstances. – Paul D. Waite Jan 26 at 11:15
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Reply and say, you have filed it in the folder marked "Next version" - if there actually is one then this would be useful to review. – Matt Wilko Jan 26 at 15:02
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@CarlWitthoft I believe that in Managerish it's spelled "Duly noted.", but if the interactions and relations are positive, it's probably not the best idea, as they might get hurt. – luk32 Jan 27 at 15:26
up vote 136 down vote accepted

So in summary it sounds like you guys normally all work well together, are open and share ideas, but in this one case that process was not followed for what appears to be a very good reason: expediting this last update to an effectively dead system.

How about replying with something like this:

Thank you for your helpful suggestions. Just so everyone is aware, this update to Application "X" is the final update as Application "X" has been scheduled to be sunsetted in the near future.

That means we are keeping the scope very rigid and the budget tight. As usual, I'm always open to suggestions and ideas but in this case I won't have much wiggle room as I need to ensure that we keep to the scope and budget. Please don't be disappointed if that means that I cannot implement additional ideas.

As we pivot to the new market segment, I'll be pinging you for suggestions on how to best do that and look forward to your suggestions in that area.

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Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Jan 28 at 10:56

Just say "thanks for your input" and leave it at that. Said input may in fact be useful for understanding longer-term priorities even if you can't or don't intend to act on it now.

Chad wants me to explicitly say why: Because this answer acknowledges that the suggestion was probably well intended, acknowledges that it has been heard, and politely sets it aside without any confrontation. I don't know a better way to "nip it in the bud" than to simply not stress about it.

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I'm curious about what you think long-term priorities would be for an EOL project? – Amy Blankenship Jan 25 at 17:10
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@AmyBlankenship: EOL projects have a nasty habit of stringing along long after they should just go away. – Joel Etherton Jan 25 at 17:49
    
True, but not because of any long-term plan :) – Amy Blankenship Jan 25 at 17:58
    
Perhaps these "long term priorities" refer to more general things that they could keep in mind for other projects. – Sumyrda Jan 26 at 4:39
    
I fear that, at least in the US and A, "thanks for your input" has taken on the role of a sarcastic blow-off response. – Carl Witthoft Jan 26 at 19:51

Don't just close the door in their face even though that's what you really want to do. Explain the current status of the project and that new suggestions at this time cannot be implemented. Suggest you will either hold on to their suggestions and possibly ask for their feedback if you get another budget to redo the sight.

If you're not careful, they could take these suggestions and go over your head. You could be blamed for not taking their suggestions if something goes wrong or the people don't like the site. Try to keep them from getting too involved by having them get involved at a more appropriate time.

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Actually, "going over your head" is not necessarily a problem. If someone insists on a change, you could tell them that that is a change you cannot sign off (e.g. because it requires more money). Then the best option might be to tell them "Please discuss the budget with senior management." – sleske Jan 27 at 15:19

You don't tell them :-)

You say that your company's office culture is to be open to discussions, so that makes it really hard to tell him that you don't want his comments. On the other hand, there are times (like right now) where you have no interest whatsoever to consider his comments. But don't tell him that. People like to be involved, like to have an opinion, so try to let him have his opinion but without wasting your time.

I'd tell him truthfully that the whole project is on a very, very tight budget, both money wise and time wise, and that unfortunately, even though his ideas are truly excellent (Ok, that may be a lie), any delay right now even in the planning stage means you will go over that budget. You wish you had thought of A, B and C which he suggested, but unfortunately the train has left the station, and there is absolutely nothing you can do to change things anymore at this change.

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Senior Management Problem

Given these three facts described in the Question:

  • This project is a large one, a significant one.
  • This project is part of a larger change in strategy for the company.
  • Other managers, that is, your peers not just your own subordinates are the ones offering input.

…this sounds like a senior management problem.

The senior managers have not clearly explained the new strategy being undertaken by the company. They have not made the product plan well-understood. Perhaps they have not made clear the end-of-life nature of the OP’s project’s products; certainly not its timeline as you say the design decision deadlines are in the past. And certainly they have not made clear the need to focus on the future products on which the company is betting heavily.

I suggest you go to your boss or the senior managers, very soon. Rely the fact of your getting these offers of input. Explain your concern that this may mean the teams are not in focus with the new company agenda. Ask them to make clear the bigger picture in general, and ask them to make clear in particular that your project no longer needs/deserves their attention.

If those three conditions listed above were not true, if this were a more minor project, I would agree with some of the other Answers posted here. But in this case the Question’s problem is more of a symptom of a bigger problem.

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Good idea to try and see the "big picture". If people do not understand the strategic goals and priorities, such problems will crop up again. – sleske Jan 27 at 15:17

Be transparant. When an EOL is already agreed on there is no point in letting other managers believe they can provide feedback. I think you could avoid the situation.

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If you can not hide your project and you can not forbid people from meddling, you next option is distraction.

Report about your project and ask for feedback, but explicitly ask about those aspects which don't really matter to you at all and which can be changed with very little work. The more trivial the aspect the better, because that way you ensure that everyone can form an opinion about it. You might also consider placing a duck in your project description: An idea which is completely absurd and out of place, so people have something they can shoot down.

While people keep arguing about whether the font should be Helvetica or Arial, you can keep developing those parts which actually matter. In the end they will all feel like they did their important contribution and had the share of influence they deserve, even though they actually didn't.

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Downvote: Surely getting your colleagues to waste time on unimportant stuff is unprofessional, and detrimental to the company's overall success. – tripleee Jan 27 at 10:21
    
@tripleee When people insist on wasting their time (which I implied by saying "when you can not hide your project and you can not forbid people from meddling"), you can at least try your best to make sure they cause the least amount of damage while doing so. – Philipp Jan 27 at 14:11

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