How to setup TPMs for success

Updated: Jul 11

Today, I wanted to take a different angle and share some tips for teams and organizations who are starting to hire TPMs, to help them scale and be more efficient. However, many times teams and orgs make the mistake of thinking of TPM as someone who can help scale another individual like an engineering manager or do the tasks you don’t have the time for or don’t want to do. Think of a TPM as a strategic partner, someone who will make your vision come to life.

Here’s how you can ensure that TPMs on your team are successful and enable you to meet business objectives.

Make a plan

When bringing on a new TPM, have a plan in place before they join your team/org. Think about your top 3 priorities that need TPM support. Talk to your team members and other stakeholders and get them prepared for the TPM arrivals. Make sure everyone on the team understands the TPM’s role.

Work together

Once you have planned on what the TPM can take on once they join, don’t just handoff a plan and disappear. You and your teams need to work collaboratively. The TPM will likely have lots of questions and having someone to partner with will help them understand the team/org. This will make it easier for them to find the right solutions that work for you.

Empower them

Give the TPM ownership of a meaty problem. Point them in the right direction but make them feel empowered to come up with ideas and solutions. Brainstorm and discuss those ideas together and even challenge them to think outside the box. Do not micro manage them but hold them accountable. Build a trusting relationship and the TPM will be your biggest advocate. Make them feel part of the team.

Involve them

Don’t expect the TPM to perform if they are not in the relevant discussions. TPMs are often analytical and need to understand the rationale behind what is being asked of them. Make sure that TPMs are in all relevant product and technical conversations like requirements discussion, design reviews, user feedback etc. They may not be writing requirements or code, but their understanding of the big picture and ability to connect dots is highly useful in all conversations.

Provide clarity on ownership

We all know that TPM role straddles multiple disciplines especially product and engineering. In smaller teams, an engineering manager or product manager will often play the TPM role. However, as teams grow and a TPM is brought on to handle cross-functional complexity, the lines of ownership of certain areas can get fuzzy. Every team is different and every individual has different dynamics. Therefore it is important to sit down and have an open discussion on ownership and who will do what.

Provide timely and direct feedback

A TPM will grow and make a bigger impact with continuous feedback. Provide them with feedback regularly so they can quickly incorporate any changes in style or action to produce results that work for the team. Make your feedback direct and honest. This can be difficult but circumventing the actual issue will not help either party.

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