A Product Manager’s Contrarian View on Email, Meetings and Jira.
Spoiler alert: They don’t really suck.
Okay fellow Product Managers,
I know I’ll get flack for my contrarian views, but some things have to be said. It’s the start of a new year and a lot of new talent is considering product as a career. Time for me to dispel some notions, that in my opinion, have gone from “fair” to “bandwagon”.
Let’s dig in.
Notion 1: Meetings suck.
Well, yes…they can.
- The meeting appears on your calendar with little explanation
- The meeting doesn’t stay on schedule
- There are too many “participants”. Or too little. Or worse, the wrong ones
- The meeting concludes with nothing to show for, whether it be outcomes, action items, or hope 🙏🏼
But these are things you can guard against, and if executed well, a meeting can be useful and, believe it or not, appreciated.
If you own the meeting, then prepping comes easy. You arrive early, make sure you’ve mentally orchestrated AV handoff, and then you continue through the meeting as a constructive moderator. If you don’t own the meeting, that doesn’t mean you can’t help. Product sense goes beyond product. Great product managers have spidey senses that can gauge things like the emotional temperature of a room. And, pertaining to this topic, the mental fortitude to foresee a train wreck before it happens. You already know that some participants were accidentally left off the invite. You already know that certain individuals tend to have “computer problems”. In these situations, be prepared to help out. Constructive feedback moves a team forward; backroom scoffing does not.
Notion 2: Jira sucks.
Again, Jira can suck, but it doesn’t have to. A project management tool is only as good as the processes in place (and a team that’s willing to give it a shot). Jira… Trello… Pivotal Tracker… I’ve used every one of these tools and so many more. If you’re managing software, these tools can do a decent job accommodating your needs. That said, I’ve walked into workflows that were so over engineered that no one could comfortably say what belonged in what swimlane. Conversely, I’ve seen workflows so clean that team velocity and quality of life were greatly improved.
As a product manager, you’re vital to making sure the right project management tool is in place. Yes, even if you have an actual project manager on staff.
Listen. I’m not saying Jira is perfect and I’m certainly not saying that it’s right for every team…
I’m just saying that if you’re going to leverage a tool, be thoughtful in your approach and it may surprise you.
Notion 3: Emails suck.
I won’t lie. Sometimes they do!
- The subject line is just as long as the body…in that, they’re both 3 words long
- People are cc’d that shouldn’t be cc’d
- Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Quick Question!
- and so on…
If you see this happening, don’t turn your head and snicker. Use your product sense and figure out what could be better and drive towards those improvements. Maybe you reach out to the author and ask them if a meeting could quash the swirl? Maybe you walk over to someone’s desk and close the loop.
Be 👏🏽 Useful 👏🏽
Generally speaking, email is perfect for broadcasting information. For things like requesting feedback, you may want to consider a different medium. If you strongly believe email is your best bet, then make sure you provide enough info so people can read and reply without having to do their own research. The fewer questions you get back, the better. Also, set expectations! Who is required for sign off? What do you expect in return? If done right, an email can save the team from confusion and, yes, meetings. :)
If you agree, 👏🏽s are free. 🙏🏽