This is the last part in the Demystifying TPM Responsibilities series. You can read Part 1 and Part 2. In this last part, I will focus on Collaboration and Alignment aspects of TPM job responsibilities. A TPM’s role involves a lot of influencing without authority and therefore aligning with your stakeholders becomes crucial to a program’s success. Creating alignment, influencing peers and persuading leadership often requires a TPM to have sharp soft skills :-). I consider it the most important tool that a TPM can have in their repertoire. So let’s explore this area of the TPM role.
Work cross-functionally to develop best practices and product development processes in a quickly-changing and dynamic environment.
During the planning phase, you identify your key stakeholders (core team, partner teams, managers etc). These stakeholders can be internal to your team, cross-functional (outside your main team) or external to the company. As a TPM, you will have to identify the right strategy to work with each of these groups to ensure that inter-team/org dependencies are successfully resolved. For example, building trusting relationships with your core program team will help you during times when difficult decisions have to be made.
At first glance the job statement feels like a TPM is responsible for developing processes and best practices. However, bringing about a change through these processes is one of the most challenging aspects of the TPM job. It is not enough to write up a document that outlines a new process. The real impact only comes when the process is agreed upon and adopted by all relevant stakeholders. Change is hard for everyone, so it is important to empathize and understand the viewpoint of your stakeholders. For example, TPMs often want to bring execution structure to an organization to provide better visibility and improve efficiency. However, the long term benefits are not often seen similarly by engineers who may perceive structure as a speed breaker. In such a case, a TPM should work with multiple influential peers, address their pain points and aim to create a win-win situation
As a TPM, think about creating strategic alignment with key partners like engineering, product, and design. Be agile and keep an open mind during your conversations with stakeholders and be quick to adapt based on feedback that you receive. This approach of openness and trust will make it easier to solve challenges together as a team. For example, a TPM will engage with cross-functional teams to Identify resource gaps and constraints. They will work together to propose the right solutions to manage bottlenecks and quality issues.
At times, you may be in a situation that demands negotiation or escalation. it is important for a TPM to take an objective and data driven approach to create alignment and get the desired outcome. For example, you may need to negotiate with a team in a different org on deliverable timelines to address dependencies. You may disagree about priorities across your teams. This is the time to bring in all the data to support your proposal and ask for the same from the other team so you can both look at it objectively.
I cannot stress enough the importance of collaboration and alignment to the success of a TPM. The impact you achieve is amplified with the right behavior which often involves working with people in a collaborative, respectful and inclusive manner.
I hope this series gave you insight into TPM job responsibilities and how you should think of the role on a day to day basis. Think deeply into what actions would drive the outcomes required of you. What lessons have you learnt as you developed strategies to address challenges in the areas of program planning, communication or collaboration. Focus on results achieved and how you achieved them when you are crafting your resume or preparing for interviews.
In my opinion, a TPM’s role is not just about setting up program structure or sending regular status updates. The TPM role is highly people focused and smart, effective collaboration is key to achieving your program goals.