6 Surprising Tips for Better Product Team Meetings
June 10, 2021

6 Surprising Tips for Better Product Team Meetings

by Brian de Haaff

Boring. Unproductive. Contentious. I have written before about several types of meeting fails. While every bad meeting is ugly in its own way, the end result is usually the same — no progress. This is especially damaging to productivity. Product teams need unity and clarity. When everyone is aligned around the same goals and feels safe sharing their view, it is possible to have super efficient and impactful meetings.

Product teams sit at the crossroads of the technology organization — integrating diverse perspectives is necessary to deliver an exceptional customer experience.

You will ideally have voices from product, engineering, marketing, sales, and customer success in a product team meeting. The teams themselves can look and function differently depending on the company. The release cadence and the methodology you follow will also impact how the team is structured.

But no matter the company, I have always believed in the power of product teams. And the best products I have ever worked on had the brightest and most collaborative teams behind them. Our product teams at Aha! launch new functionality and enhancements nearly every week.

We are continually refining our meeting process and testing new ways to make our time together more impactful. We recently drafted a team charter to delineate who owns what, how we work together, and what success looks like. Anchoring each discussion in our goals and initiatives forces us to focus on driving the product strategy forward.

Considering multiple viewpoints helps the team achieve a more holistic view of customer needs and make more informed decisions about what to build next. It also builds a togetherness to represent the best of the product both internally and outside the company.

Building a lovable product hinges on productive team meetings with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

There are always opportunities to improve collaboration and build a better product. This is true whether you and your teammates are analyzing customer feedback, reviewing progress, or coordinating cross-functional groups around upcoming work. Some of my (unconventional) advice for revamping your product team meetings might surprise you:

Team before roadmap

I know this sounds odd. After all, your product roadmap is essential. But you want discussion not dictation. You are here to seek feedback and ideas from cross-functional teammates. Use your curiosity to understand what customer-facing groups are hearing. See what engineers think about work in progress. Focus on knowledge sharing and discovery to open up the conversation.

Ditch personas

Personas are not real people. Bring actual customer examples to your product meeting to root the discussion in reality. This helps to build empathy as you remind everyone that customers are real people with solvable problems. When the team has a deep understanding of who your users are and what they need from your product, you can work together to deliver a more integrated customer experience.

Embrace not doing

Diligence is noble. But sometimes doing nothing is wise. Especially if you are a fix-it product manager, constantly jumping in to preemptively solve problems. You want to push for strategic thinking and give others opportunities to contribute. Think of yourself as the emcee who is giving others space to shine.

Be shallow

Sometimes it is useful to go deep on a topic — especially when the team needs more context in order to understand how the work supports the product goals. But be mindful of when the level of detail is no longer relevant for the entire product team. If people go too granular, suggest that the smaller group continue the discussion at another time. Regrouping like this can prevent people from feeling that their time is being wasted.

Get heated

You are passionate about what you are building. When your teammates are equally passionate, disagreements will inevitably arise. Rather than trying to resolve them immediately, welcome dissenting viewpoints and encourage debate. Just make sure the conversation does not become antagonistic — hostile language quickly sours morale.

Forget full retrospectives

Take an incremental and immediate approach to reflection by carving out time in each meeting for a mini retro — whether it is a specific sprint or project. You can discuss what is going well, why, and what needs to change. For example, a customer success team member could summarize recent customer feedback, or a product marketing teammate could offer ideas for improving the next launch.

Product teams play an integral role in the success of any technology company. Optimizing your time together leads to a better product and happier customers.

If your meetings need a lot of improvement, start small. Always set an agenda and record what was discussed and decided. Outline goals and desired outcomes, then assign specific team members as owners, supporters, and approvers. This helps everyone understand who is responsible for what and why you are focusing on certain activities. Keep building together.

How do you structure your product team meetings?

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Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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