Operationalising Product Meetings
Note: The below advice mainly holds good for mid to large orgs where multiple PMs handle different parts of a larger product (mostly in a B2B product environment).
Most junior PMs gravitate towards focusing on execution. In large companies, their scope is usually limited to a feature area or a problem area or a segment. So in their mind, interactions with engineers, designers and data analysts form a major part of their job. Activities like sprint planning, scrum ceremonies, backlog management, priorities take up a major portion of their time.
In the absence of structure, PMs end up de-emphasising important work like interacting with users, customers, and customer-facing stakeholders. It is very easy to get absorbed in the day-to-day minutia of work. Important interactions tend to get easily sidelined. This leads to sourcing product ideas top-down, leaving users unheard and under-represented.
Every PM knows they should:
- Conduct customer and problem discovery sessions on an ongoing basis
- Have regular conversations with their product’s users
- Seek clarity and align on business goals
- Get feedback from customer facing stakeholders
- Build relationships with team members, and
- Stay on top of what’s going on in the market.
Left to their own devices, very few PMs make the effort to have these conversations consistently. Even if some PMs are having these conversations, they do so in isolation. This doesn’t help improve the effectiveness of the team.
The Product team is a single organism. It should operate like one. It doesn’t help if some folks are operating towards realising a grand vision while others are only thinking as far as the next release.
As a manager of Product Managers, one of the best ways you can help your team succeed is by adding guard-rails that can help all PMs in your team, new and experienced, function as one organism.
One place to start is by helping systematise their calendar. You can do this by setting an operating cadence for important meetings. This single action has streamlined so many things for us. We now work together as a unit, by combined action.
Given below are meetings we have with other stakeholder teams as a group.
|Customer facing Stakeholders||Meeting Frequency||Purpose|
|Internal Roadmap presentation to the entire company||Quarterly - within 2 weeks from end of Quarter - 90 minutes||Present work done in the present quarter and showcase roadmap for next quarter|
|Sales||Bi-monthly - 2nd Monday - 1 hour||Align on asks, get feedback and insights from the field|
|Pre-sales||Bi-weekly - 2nd and 4th Tuesdays - 45 minutes||Feedback from prospects (pre-conversion)|
|Product Marketing||Bi-weekly - Individual PM & PMKt Mgr connect - 30 minutes; Monthly - Group meeting with VPs - 1 hour||Competitive landscape, Market outlook, Pricing discussions, Product/Feature launches|
|Success teams (Account managers)||Monthly - Last Monday - 45 minutes||Feedback from Customers, Risks, Success stories, churn preventive measures|
|Implementation & Enablement||Every 2 months - 1st Thursday - 45 minutes||Pain-points during new deployments, First impressions from users, Feedback on Governance & Administrative sections|
|Customer Support||Monthly - 1st Wednesday - 1 hour||Getting on top of customer issues|
|Strategic Services||Monthly - 2nd Tuesday - 45 minutes||Feedback from internal power users|
|PMs and Design group sync||Weekly - 1 hour||Learning (sharing data), Brainstorming|
|Product Ops & GTM||Monthly - 1 hour||Communicating launch status, Building consensus and support|
|PM - all hands||Weekly - 45 minutes||Align on updates, plans, dependencies|
All of these meetings are already on the calendar of all PMs in my team. It has helped us in many ways:
- Internally, within the product team, we now operate as one coordinated team rather than individuals thrashing in different directions. Meeting as a group brings efficiency as all PMs and required stakeholders can surface dependencies, deliberate on solutioning and align together faster.
- We choose topics of discussion beforehand and come into meetings prepared. When it comes to new requests, SMEs now have a focused forum to connect with product. Being around experienced SMEs (sales, marketing, support, etc.) helps us look at things from a specific SME group’s lens. We learn new things from them and can then piece all the knowledge from this, and previous calls together. It gives us a far broader perspective than most SME’s have.
- Our updates on new releases, feature education or communication about delays go out to all stakeholders with a unified voice.This helps us build credibility.
- We have lesser interruptions, have more time to do “think work” and are not operating in reactive mode.
Below are examples of meetings that I advocate each PMs have individually or with their squads.
|PM Meetings||Meeting Frequency||Purpose|
|Standups||Daily - 15 minutes||Unblocking engineers and design|
|Data analytics||Monthly - 3rd Wednesday - 1 hour||Closer alignment on usage tracking, KPIs, Feature usage metrics, Experiments, Red flag callouts|
|Documentation||Monthly - 1st Thursday - 30 minutes||Communicating status around upcoming feature launches, product education and feedback on WIP documents|
|PMs grooming with Design/Engineering||Weekly - 1 hour||Ensure everyone on the squad is familiar with at least the next 5 prioritised items on the backlog|
|Retros||Bi-weekly - 30 minutes||Evaluate past work cycle|
|PMs & Engineering Managers Group||Weekly - 1 hour||Planning priorities and capacity|
|Internal Demos with all Engineering staff||Monthly - 60 minutes||Internal demos showcasing recently shipped work|
|1:1 PM and Product Director meeting||Weekly - 30 minutes||Voice issues, Career growth|
|1:1 PM & Eng Manager connect||Weekly - 30 minutes||Team health, Brainstorms and updates|
|1:1 Skip-level meeting - PM and Product VP meeting||Monthly - 30 minutes||Career growth, Align on strategic direction and priorities|
|PMs Backlog Management||Weekly - 1 hour||Collate all feedback / inputs from Slack / Community forum on a weekly basis|
This method of operationalising meetings has helped set up our team for success.
You can adapt it too. It adds just the right amount of structure for any team.
Obviously, this alone won’t help your PMs succeed. They still need to ensure that they’re showing up, contributing actively, being honest about what they don’t understand, and being reliable.
Through regular touch-points, your PMs can build up a positive reputation, and easily exercise influence, even without authority.
Some more notes:
- Since these are recurring meetings, we have attached separate google sheets in the invites for each of them. Meeting participants need to list out agenda items, questions, inputs and comments beforehand. This keeps discussions focused.
- Where it is needed, we try to send out pre-reads so that stakeholders can have richer discussions as everyone has enough context beforehand.
- We actively clear the deck of meetings we don’t need. Sometimes we don’t have new things to discuss. We are already aligned. On those occasions, we choose to cancel that instance of the meeting.
- All PMs have similar times at which “No meeting hours” are pencilled in their calendar.