Eng leaders: 9 ways to improve your partnership with your TPM

This is written from the perspective of a Technical Project Manager and is meant to provide insight to Eng managers on how to build a strong relationship with your TPM to ensure your projects move forward smoothly and quickly.

  1. Take the time to discuss roles and responsibilities with your TPM before embarking on a project together. That includes metrics/reporting, decision making, escalation, and feedback processes.
  2. Treat your TPM as a loose direct report. Provide timely and actionable feedback throughout the project lifecycle. Invite them to a team meeting so they know what else your folks are working on. It’ll help them understand resource contention, team dynamics, and individual expertise.
  3. No moving targets. Be clear about your expectations of your TPM, and make sure any changes to project requirements, business goals, or direction are necessary and communicated well to your TPM partner. Require your engineers to do the same.
  4. Make the tough calls. Don’t let a project languish while waiting for you to make a decision. A delay in the schedule impacts your TPM’s success as much as it does your engineers’.
  5. Be objective in your decision making. Don’t always side with the engineers… or guard against being seen as doing so. Provide rationale for your decisions and ask for feedback or acknowledgement from the team, and be open to challenges, to ensure everyone remains on the same page.
  6. Give your TPM the opportunity to build trust with you and your engineers. Be open to feedback and offers of help. Accept it publicly to help them build trust with the rest of the project team. (it also shows you’re not a micro-manager, so it’s win-win)
  7. Appoint a qualified engineer to partner with your TPM on the project to minimize turnaround time for questions and project basics. Not only will it build camaraderie, but it’ll provide an opportunity for both people to learn new skills and points of view.
  8. Attend and participate in scheduled meetings or provide feedback on the meetings you shouldn’t attend. You set the example, so if the meeting is important enough to attend, it’s important enough to put your phone down and close your laptop during it.
  9. Thank your TPM often. Seriously- it’s a mostly thankless job. We know eyes roll when people see us coming, and it doesn’t feel great. Throw us a bone every once in a while.

A lot of this is about seeing your relationship with your TPM as a partnership, rather than autocratic. It’s also about setting an example for your engineers and peers. A great TPM is an asset to be valued!