How I Lead Product Reviews
Get the decisions, alignment and visibility your team needs to achieve more.
Generally, these reviews involve presenting an artifact (a strategy document, a vision deck etc.) with a few asks attached for the leadership group. These questions focus the session around three possible outcomes:
Alignment: ensure that leaders know how a decision was made and make sure they are on board.
Decisions: use the leadership team's larger point of view to make decisions.
Visibility: keep your workstream top of mind and bring relevant people into the team's decision-making process.
After we made our recent roadmap, I reviewed it with our leadership team. This group contained leads from product, engineering, marketing, data science, design and sales.
Below I’ll share the way I approached my review with templates that you can use. Hopefully, this will save you from all the trial and error that I did during my first few reviews. 😅
Speaking of error: In my first product review, I remember presenting for 25 minutes and asking for feedback on this presentation for the last 5. Don't do this!
The main goal of a product review is to get feedback from leaders. This is in the form of agreement on a chosen path (alignment), a decision to unblock the team (decision) or comments/questions about the team's direction (visibility).
This is why encouraging discussion and engagement on a handful of key points is the best use of time. Refrain from presenting unless it is a specific area you need feedback on.
Facilitating discussion requires defining the discussion points ahead of the review. Here are anonymized asks that I’ve made in the past:
Given the total addressable market and growing user base, we've prioritized Ecuador as our first target market (over Guatemala and Honduras). Is this group aligned?
The platform team has asked us to commit two engineers for 6 months on supporting initiative X. We think Y is a better investment. What does the leadership team think is a higher priority?
We’ve selected the following four goals for next year. Please let us know if you have comments or questions.
I’ve also seen two approaches for framing these asks. Here they are with a template for each of them:
Goals and Non-Goals: Helpful to set the discussion topics and topics you will explicitly not discuss. This is great for an ambiguous topic with many open questions.
Labelled Summary: Useful for status updates on execution (ex. roadmap reviews, check-ins). Allows you to jump to multiple areas easily.
Here are the steps I did for my recent review. You’ll notice this is a replicable process that can help facilitate conversations in many contexts.
Before the review:
Append the discussion points onto the document/presentation you want to review with your leadership. This may be a roadmap, a product strategy, market analysis etc. See what I mean in the template.
Send the document/presentation to the stakeholders whose input you are requesting 48-72 hours before the review. Encourage them to read it, leave comments in the document and come to the review with questions.
Even if people don’t have a chance to pre-read, it’s helpful to set your desired expectations and share context ahead of time.
Ask a team member if they are able and willing to join the review to take notes. This allows you to prioritize driving the discussion.
During the review:
At the start of the call, ask if everyone has read the pre-read. If they have, jump right into the discussion points. If they have not, spend a few minutes reviewing the most important context before jumping into the discussion.
Start at the discussion points. Be clear what the desired outcome from each discussion point is.
Ask people to leave comments in the doc if they have lightweight thoughts or questions that can be resolved asynchronously (i.e. not during this meeting).
For points of alignment, document decisions and next steps.
After the meeting:
Re-attach the pre-read and encourage people to leave comments or questions
Recap key discussion points, follow-ups and next steps in an email to the relevant parties. Try using the example in the template.
Use leadership reviews to align, decide and provide visibility. This will make sure all relevant stakeholders are on the same page about how your team will achieve it’s mission.
Set discussion points on the most important topics at the start of the meeting. Do this by appending specific asks to the document/presentation you want to review.
Remember that the majority of the session should be about soliciting feedback. Make sure someone is taking notes, and follow-ups are captured.
Encourage people to leave asynchronous comments or notes before, during and after the meeting.
After the review, document the key points and follow up with stakeholders.
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