32: Be flexible

I’m writing about 100 things I’ve learned as a product manager.

I’ve just kicked off another project through my firm, Product People Limited.  With the inevitable flurry of project start-up activity, a couple of basic tasks have reminded me how important it is for product managers to be as flexible as possible, whenever possible.

What it was that got me thinking that most simple of activities: accepting invites.

There’s a little background information you need.  I use lots and lots of different email addresses for different services.  It’s a little weird, but it helps me figure out which service is emailing me (or indeed, who’s sold my email address to the spammers), and gives me a neat, separate login for each service I use.  Yes, it’s a little OCD, for which I make no apologies.  The downside is that I find myself asking people to resend sharing or meeting invitations to different email addresses.

While this in theory makes my life easier because each corresponding service can then deal with the invitation smoothly, asking people to do this is exceptionally confusing.  Why on earth should I expect people to remember that the email address I use for meeting invites is X and for shared folder invitations is Y, but for everyday emails, just contact me on my usual email?  It’s more than a little unreasonable.  The net result will be that people end up emailing me on any one of several different addresses, essentially on the whim of their email client, which will helpfully auto-complete the email address they’ve used most recently for me.

When I caught myself doing this, I instead resolved to make life easier for everyone else, at the expense of a little extra effort on my part.  With the metaphorical equivalent of some duct tape liberally applied to email filters, people can send me meeting invites on whichever email address they please and they’ll end up in the right place, in my calendar.  It may sound like a small thing, but it’s part of a broader approach I want to take of being more flexible whenever I can.

If you’ve settled into a fixed, prescriptive routine, think about ways you could make life a little easier for the various stakeholders and team members you work with on a day-to-day basis.  The little extra effort you go to will make life a whole lot easier for everyone else.

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