If you want to accomplish anything during the work day, you need to learn how to avoid unnecessary product management meetings (aka Corporate Adult Daycare). While it’s not up there with learning to hunt for food if you get stranded on a deserted island, it’s kind of critical for you if you want to keep your job. Having said that, wasting time on meetings is such an important topic, even the giant brains at Harvard study it.
While there are tons of articles about how to run better, more effective meetings, which you should learn as large part of a product manager’s job involves things like knowing how to use your product roadmap as a communication tool, which may require a meeting from time to time.
This isn’t that.
Specifically we are going to suggest ways for you to live by the mantra of “this could have been an email“.
Obviously, as an organization grows, it becomes much more logistically challenging to include every single person from the relevant departments. The result is that over time, meetings become more and more tedious as you need to repeat and review things because people either didn’t attend a previous meeting or read the preparation material.
The Secret Of Meeting Avoidance
Beyond the obvious function of a meeting as a means to sharing information, meetings perform a special function with an organization. They enforce a certain level of “social obligation” within an origination. An obligation to “participate”, because what meetings have a habit of doing is highlighting who prepares for work and who doesn’t, who “delivers” on their “deliverables” and who actually read the memo.
So, the key to knowing how to avoid unnecessary product management meetings is understanding that individuals have to assume more personal responsibilities in the sharing of information and the attainment of milestones. We’ve broken down the art of meeting avoidance to individual, group and technology level solutions
Avoiding Unnecessary Meetings As an Individual
As an individual, you can avoid unnecessary meetings as both an attendee and an organizer.
As an attendee: You need to decide if a meeting is worth your time. As you plan your next day, decline meetings where you have no clear role or will not learn something of value. If you really are needed, the organizer will reach out and ask you if you can attend. Yes, this involves putting more burden on the meeting organizer, but organizing meetings should carry this burden.
As a meeting organizer: You carry the burden of “selling” the meeting to the attendees. The best way to do this is by being clear with the desired end state of the meeting is. What do you want the attendees to leave the meeting with? Figure this out and include it in the meeting invite. If you can’t do this or the benefit isn’t much of a benefit at all, do not put it on other people’s calendars.
Avoiding Unnecessary Meetings As an Organization
Mandate personal responsibilities: Many meetings are simply scheduled to hold staff accountable for some action item, reviewing a deck, reading a memo or producing some sort of deliverable. This expectation of completing work responsibilities must be clear and explicit. Make sure as an organization, you provide training to your team on the software tools used for collaboration as this will be core to your ability to avoid product management meetings as a group.
Start a no meetings allowed day: Consider making this a monthly, rather than weekly, occurrence. This cadence is more realistic. Be vigilant about enforcing the policy because when a few employees break the rule and have a covert meeting, the entire concept loses its power. Before you know it, everyone will be having meetings on “No Meetings” day.
Leverage Technology To Avoid Unnecessary Product Management Meetings
Although it should go without saying and almost every product management software tool does this, but make sure the platforms allow for some form of self service/group access functionality.
Providing self-service access items such as roadmap, requirements and mock ups is key way to build consensus and get stakeholders on your side. It will minimize product management meetings, bridge a lot of communication gaps, and save you from having stakeholders tell you, “Why didn’t I know we were doing that.”
Always remember, there is no free lunch, even when it comes to avoiding meetings. It requires all employees to accept a certain level of personal responsibility they may or may not be ready for.