Remote and Asynchronous Product Management

How to thrive as a PM when working from anywhere

  1. Resist the waterfall
  2. Build shared context through documents
  3. Create requests for comment
  4. Make most meetings async
  5. Reserve synchronous interaction for high-bandwidth discussion
  6. Prefer 1:1 meetings over team meetings
  7. Invest in team building
  8. Make offsites mostly social
  9. Use available tools
  10. Document communication expectations
  11. Find balance, disconnect if you need

Resist the waterfall

One anti-pattern to avoid when working asynchronously as a product manager is following too much of a waterfall process, where you spec everything out in detail and then just have designers flesh it out and developers implement it. It’s an easy trap to fall into — after all, that can be done completely asynchronously! However, the discipline of product management has spent the last 20 years becoming more iterative and collaborative, so we don’t want to throw that out of the window.

Build shared context through documents

One of the most important ways to avoid the waterfall is ensuring that the whole team has shared context for the opportunities being pursued and the solutions being designed. The best way to do that asynchronously is through shared documents.

  • Context and (customer) problem
  • Why (now)
  • Potential measures of success
  • Assumptions and risks
  • Solution options

Create requests for comment

In synchronous work environments, formal documents are often the last step of a process, the process output, after the most important points have been ironed out in meetings. In an asynchronous environment, documents should be treated as inputs, as starting points of the process. Accordingly, they should be shared as requests for comment — as initial drafts with the encouragement for others to provide feedback, questions, comments, and improvement ideas in the form of comments.

Make most meetings async

This perhaps goes without saying, but one of the keys to working fully remote and async-first is making most meetings asynchronous. This includes the regular team “ceremonies” such as standups. Teams can decide how exactly they want to organize themselves, or course, but we’ve found a lot of success with only conducting retrospectives synchronously (and even those have asynchronous preparation where everyone collects and shares their retro items before the meeting). All other ceremonies, including standups, planning, and refinement, are conducted asynchronously.

Reserve synchronous interaction for high-bandwidth discussion

When should you revert so synchronous interaction then? Whenever you require high bandwidth discussion. High bandwidth here means a discussion in which there is rapid back and forth and exchange of complex ideas.

Prefer 1:1 meetings over team meetings

As a corollary to the previous point, 1:1 interactions are ones where I would more often recommend a synchronous meeting than for team meetings. There are several reasons for this: firstly, team meetings are hardly high bandwidth for everyone — most often, there is only a subset of participants actively engaged at any given point in time. Frequently, at any given point in time, one person is broadcasting to the rest of the audience, and broadcasting is something that can be done asynchronously quite effectively. Secondly, globally distributed teams make scheduling team meetings extra hard, whereas for 1:1 meetings it’s often much easier to find a time that works for both participants. Lastly, the added benefit of synchronous interaction is the ability to read non-verbal cues, which is again much easier in a video call with one person than trying to discern facial expressions of 10 tiny Zoom pictures in a team meeting.

Invest in team building

A product manager is only as good as their team, and a team requires more than just talented individuals to show high performance. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to invest time in team building. In an office setting, some of that happens organically — a small chat while walking to a meeting, grabbing lunch together, meeting at the coffee machine, etc. While there might be some company-wide rituals in place for people to get to know each other, remote product managers should also consciously build their own teams.

  • Ensure to start any meetings that you do have with some social chit-chat, don’t get straight to work. If you do have team meetings, you could try some icebreaker questions.
  • Make time getting to know team members individually; probably, have regular 1:1s with each of them.
  • Consider some regular “fun” activities, like playing online games together. Make sure you respect your team member’s non-work lives and other obligations, though, and ensure you don’t accidentally exclude someone.
  • Remote work can be lonely, see if there can be (open) collaborative or pairing work sessions.

Make offsites mostly social

Many remote teams regularly (but infrequently) meet up in person. At RevenueCat, we had our first post-COVID formal offsites (one in Europe, one in the US) in May. We spent most of the time at the offsite with non-work conversations, with very occasional work stuff sprinkled through. Looking back, I actually think that is the right recipe — it’s much harder to bond and get to know your coworkers socially online, whereas the more “transactional” work can be done quite effectively through modern collaboration tools.

Use available tools

Over the past few years, the world has seen an explosion of tools for remote work. Make sure to experiment and stay on top of what is happening. Do not limit yourself to Zoom and Google Docs — that will likely mean you end up mimicking the in-office work style.

  • Whiteboarding and collaborative sketching solutions like Miro or FigJam
  • Meeting recording tools like Grain or Vowel
  • Asynchronous video tools like Loom
  • Collaborative data analysis tools like Hex

Document communication expectations

One of the most frustrating experiences working remotely can be getting stuck, and not knowing when someone will be able to help you out. In an office environment, you can walk around and try to find someone to help. In a remote and asynchronous environment, you can try and ping people, but it might take some time until someone is available.

Find balance, disconnect if you need

As a product manager, it is easy to feel the urge to constantly be on top of everything that is happening in the team and in the company. In a globally distributed company, something is always happening — there is not ever a time where everyone goes home and nothing happens until the next day (except maybe for the weekend). Trying to be “there” for all of it is a surefire path to burnout. So make sure to disconnect in a way that works for you, and use the flexibility of asynchronous work to your advantage. Talk a long lunch walk. Go to exercise classes in the middle of the day. Spend time with your family. Disable notifications when you’re not currently working and/or don’t install work apps on your phone.



Head of Product at RevenueCat; previously at 8fit, Yammer, BCG.

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