How to scale and find balance as a TPM

Updated: Jul 11

In order to achieve meaningful impact as a TPM and level up your career, it is important to achieve the right balance in your work. TPMs are often juggling with competing priorities and it can become difficult to navigate the ever increasing list of to-dos. As you grow in your role as a TPM, you will be expected to handle bigger programs that are more complex from a technical, program and people perspective. Finding the right balance between breadth and depth coverage becomes a must to become a successful TPM.

I have seen many TPMs get stuck because they are unable to get out of the scrum master mode. Don’t get me wrong - being a scrum master is actually good when you are just starting out in the TPM role. It helps you learn best practices, be detail oriented and track progress in an agile way. However, as you and your work evolves, so should your way of doing things.

Here’s a few ways you can strategize your time to level up yourself.


1. Automate and Delegate

Are you always busy? Do you feel yourself working longer hours because you took on that extra bit of work or a bigger program? Do you feel like you are stuck at the same level working on the same type of projects? Then you need to pause and think about how you are spending your time.

Make a list of everything you are doing in a week. Think of it as journaling or food logging. You have to note down every small task as sometimes you may be doing these without even being conscious of it. Once you are done producing the list, categorize the tasks into buckets such as high value, manual, mundane and so on. For each task, think how it can be automated or if someone else or some system can take care of it.

For example:

  • You need to generate a progress report weekly. What parts of the report can be automated through dashboards? What tools can you utilize to collect and display data or run queries every week?

  • You need to monitor certain topline metrics and send emails to key stakeholders if it drops below a threshold. Can you set up alerts to notify you instead of you having to go to the metrics dashboard? Can you automatically send an email to someone who can take action.

  • You have been running the sprint demos for months. You enjoyed it at first but now it’s taking away from your project time. Is there someone on the team like a tech lead who can take over?

Once you have identified a few tasks, set aside time to implement the solutions. It may be painful at the start but the ongoing benefits outweigh the time/effort you put in now. Talk to your manager and peers as you make these changes to ensure they understand the rationale. They may even have good ideas to share with you. It also helps set the right expectations so they are not taken by surprise.

Time is Money! Keep ROI on your time investment high!

I also recommend the book Freetime - Lose The Busywork, Love Your Business by Jenny Blake. Though her book is geared towards business owners, the concepts and principles can be easily applied to the TPM role. We work with many systems and always have multiple balls in the air.


2. Create repeatable processes

The task list you created will also help you identify things that you do over and over again for every project. Maybe you don’t do it all in the same week but you often find yourself in a deja vu situation. Have you accidently forgotten a critical step because there was a lot going on? If you find yourself starting from scratch each time or scrambling to get it done, then you should think about creating a process that you can easily duplicate. Once you create and document a process, you will reap ongoing benefits of these formalized steps required to reach a desired outcome. It will become a reference for you and will also help others that may come after you. In fact, they will thank you for not having to reinvent the wheel.

A few ways to create such repeatable processes is:

  • Creating a checklist or a playbook for a new launch in another country. You already have a set of steps you followed for the first launch which can be easily transposed for the next. This will likely speed up future launches.

  • Creating templates for reporting to different stakeholders. Your template allows you to plug information from different places into the report. Even if you have different reports for different levels of stakeholders, creating a plug and play reporting template means you can produce multiple reports with slightly different information in the same amount of time as one report.

  • Creating an on-call process that can be rotated through the teams so no one person will bear the responsibility for eternity. It will help create redundancy and ensure you have strong backup mechanisms.

Each repeatable process will allow you to free up time to focus on high value work. It will help you build trust and credibility as others will leverage these simplified workflows for their own benefit.


3. Prioritize ruthlessly

Have you been in a prioritization meeting where every feature or initiative is marked as P0 (Priority 0 as in highest priority). There is a saying that I like - “When everything is P0, Nothing is P0”. Sheryl Sandberg (COO, Meta) often talks about Ruthless Prioritization which by nature is painful. Prioritization doesn’t mean the second thing is less important but that there is another thing that is more important.

If it doesn’t hurt, you haven’t prioritized hard enough!

Your tasks and projects need to be subject to the same ruthless prioritization philosophy. Force rank everything you do - think about the cost benefit, ROI, scalability etc.

Differentiate between Urgent vs Important to help you be more effective and successful in your work. You can think of/define these two terms as:

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are professional or personal.

  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are usually associated with achieving someone else's goals. They are often the ones we concentrate on and they demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate.

The Eisenhower Matrix shown below will help you prioritize and make effective decisions.

A constant sense of urgency makes TPMs reactive which takes away from creating meaningful impact.


4. Teach others to fish

Do you fear delegation? Do you feel that you have to do everything yourself because you don’t trust someone else will do it the way you would? You have to build trust and let go of these fears. Delegation helps you expand your sphere of influence and multiplies the impact you can have on the team or organization.

Start working closely with others and sharing your knowledge with them. Train and guide your team so they can also become multipliers like you. By teaching others, you remove yourself as the bottleneck which effectively means you can get results faster. It also gives you mentorship experience that will always come handy as you grow in your TPM career. And it gives others a chance to learn a new skill.

For example:

  • Train engineers and technical leads how to navigate Jira sprint boards or run a scrum, so you can find time to go track dependencies and mitigate critical risks with key stakeholders.


5. Build accountability in others

Holding others accountable is important for you to succeed as you will be responsible for the final outcome. If you are delegating a responsibility, make sure to set the right expectations in terms of time and quality of work. Check in periodically and have them come to you proactively to report progress. Celebrate the little wins so they find the experience rewarding. It is important to start in a place of trust and not micro-manage their work.

If you are working on a new project with a team, you can start by addressing the need for accountability at a kickoff meeting. You can create a publicly aligned process of getting commitments and following up on action items. You also need to lead by example so others can follow suit. And when you see issues, raise them with the appropriate people in the management chain.

For example:

  • If you are working with another team on a dependency for your project, find one person in that team that you can partner with to manage their deliverables. Detail out the dependency requirements, timeline and expectations. Lay out the milestones and tools to report progress. Align on a process to communicate with each other. This way you can keep track of when your dependency is complete without having to “nag” the other team.

If you are or want to be a people manager, building a culture of accountability will help you create high output teams and become a strong leader.


Your ability to scale means you will always get interesting projects that will help you thrive. It will bring you recognition from your peers and stakeholders. It will elevate your game!


Would love to hear from you in the comments below if you have other tips that have helped you scale.

 

Are you feeling stuck in your role and want to get to the next level? Are you tired doing the same things over and over. TPMify can help with your career goals so you can achieve excellence and be the most sought after TPM. Contact Us to learn about our personalized career coaching services.

 

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