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I recently was running a small group meeting with 4-5 different people - developers, product, business, etc. The point of the meeting was broad open ended discussion about a new product.

The product person who understood the product best and had the best ideas/contributions about the future/direction of the product was not the most vocal and convincing about it to the business person.

The business person was more concerned about market viability and left to their own devices, would have preferred to copy what others were doing, instead of thinking from first principles.

Both sides of the discussion were quite clear to me and I could have presented the complete picture myself much earlier instead of waiting and first allowing them to figure it out for themselves.

I allowed/asked the product person to validate their suggestion and figure out how to modify it keeping in mind potential revenue streams, and they were not very good at it. The business person was a better debater. And now the product person is rather upset that their suggestions were not useful (they actually were), and wants to be excused from the next few group meetings.

What should have been the right approach in this kind of scenario? What will be the right approach for future group meetings with people with very different personality types?

PS: please add any other tags if relevant.

Edit/add - this is another relevant, somewhat related question.

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    Find a product person who can express themselves?
    – Kilisi
    Mar 9 at 5:49
  • Long term, yes.
    – Ahron
    Mar 9 at 8:00
  • Maybe you need to find a business person who isn't wedded to market viability. Why was both sides clear to you, but not to them? Mar 9 at 10:37

2 Answers 2

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  1. Prep the meeting. Make sure you have a clear agenda and goals
  2. Run the meeting. Subtly steer the conversion, make sure everyone is heard, use the agenda, to keep people on target.
  3. Document the meeting. Write down what's being said and make sure that its capture correctly. I typically do this by projecting a Power Point or Confluence page during the meeting and writing things down as they are said. Everyone sees it and can disagree or comment if doesn't properly represent their point of view (and it saves you time later)

In this particular case, the first item of the agenda probably should have been to determine what are the goals for the product? What criteria and metrics will be used to assess the ideas? Revenue growth, profit, customer satisfaction, brand recognition, competitive challenge, market shares growth, time to market etc. These are all different things and depending on how you prioritize them the opinions of the different subject matter experts also needs to be ranked, regardless of their ability to communicate or personality (although not regardless of their skill level).

Example: Given that we are primarily trying to enhance our brand recognition with Gen Z: Can "Product Person" please comment on how ideas A, B and C stack up in that regard?. That gives Product Person the stage (in a well defined way) and Business Person has nothing to contribute as they probably don't know anything about how Gen Z perceives brands.

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  • So basically, structure the whole thing rather than a free flowing discussion.
    – Ahron
    Mar 9 at 8:01
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    Nothing wrong with a little free flow, but some direction and boundaries are always helpful
    – Hilmar
    Mar 9 at 9:01
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This might not be the expected answer, but you should leave other groups out of such meetings altogether (IT, operations, so forth) until business and product have reached an accord. Otherwise, everyone will sit through those meetings nodding off while business and product have their little sparring match. They might be reluctant to tell you this directly, but it's a highly unproductive use of their time. It can breed a lot of resentment - they see your meeting invitations, roll their eyes, and say to each other, "what is it THIS time?"

None of those can give any input on the "how" until someone decides the "what".

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  • My rationale for having some other parties in the meeting was - Suppose product comes up with ideas that are either 1) hard to commercialize (business), 2) hard to program (tech), 3) hard to maintain (ops). What is the better way around?
    – Ahron
    Mar 11 at 7:24
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    @Yogesch when business and product agree, the outcome of their meeting should be a list of features with an assigned rank (must have, nice to have, medium, low). This gives the other groups a cue as what to talk about first in technical discussions (the "how"). It's a huge waste of time to get into in depth discussions and then learn that you've used your time on something that's actually a low priority when you look at the big picture list. So it's better to have more meetings, smaller ones, and stay more focused on things you actually intend to implement and complete.
    – Xavier J
    Mar 11 at 17:44
  • more meetings, smaller ones yeah, this is what I figured as well and am doing right now. The part where tech needs to get involved is clear. What about getting business and product to agree? Should they be working together from the start to figure out viability of features or should product do it independently and leave the business to figure out how to monetize it?
    – Ahron
    Mar 12 at 6:37

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