Your Question: As the product lead, how do you deal with situations in which you don’t think the individual PM has actually made a compelling case for their initiative/test?
My Answer: In the early days of building a product team, I spend a lot of time with the product leaders leading up to this meeting, helping them to sort through potential winners/losers but largely ensuring they are fairly disciplined in their thinking/approach.
They do get a lot of feedback in the shared Google Slides/docs so sometimes they re-think what they choose to discuss/share the next day.
And, yes, there are some minor disasters during the all-day meeting. In most cases, the product leader was unconvinced by me or others and has sufficient courage to share their thinking more broadly. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong.
One of the trickiest things to evaluate is a product leader’s judgment — around the product, people and the business. If there is a bad pattern surrounding one product leader over the course of a year — not disciplined In their thinking, poor execution, inability to deliver results — then I often make a decision to “cut” that person with hopes that the next person can do a substantially better job. There is often a discussion about the effectiveness of a particular product leader after an all-day product strategy meeting. But I encourage a degree of patience. But a year of a negative pattern is typically a sufficient timeline to make this decision.
I will do some lightning round answers to your other questions:
Q: You explicitly mention that this is not a decision-making session, so do you then take the PM’s proposal and decide not to “fund” the project with resources?
A: I often suggest to a product leader that an obviously bad project not be presented/discussed the night before.
Q: Do you let them fail (quickly) and reflect the failure in a performance evaluation?
A: Yes, it’s a hard job and it’s super challenging to predict success/failure, so sometimes you let the project go forward and hope for the best. But the feedback is ongoing — not just at an annual review. And I am sometimes wrong, too. A project I thought was a loser, wins.
Q: Do you meet with them beforehand and make sure that you, as the team lead, are on board with 100% of initiatives discussed?
A: Sometimes. But I do try to avoid too many pre-meeting and prefer to let the sparks fly In the meeting itself. That’s what makes it fun.
I hope you found this helpful