Gatekeepers of Time
Post # 65 - As TPMs, our job is to be the gatekeepers of time, and as such, know when something is truly fixed or movable. How do we build plans in such competing realities?
“We have to ship at this date at all cost”
“We have 6 weeks left in development and only 10% of the work done”
“If we slip this date, we will lose money”
“We must stick to the roadmap and that date is final”
If Product Managers are the voice of the customer…
If Engineering is the voice of the technology…
Technical Program Managers are the voice of time…
We build plans that show that x will be delivered by Y time.
We develop dashboards that highlight N work needed by Z time.
We are discussing and driving conversations with cross-functional stakeholders to resolve M problem by Z time so not to risk the Y delivery date.
We are evaluating resourcing gaps that hold us back from shipping A Feature by Y release deadline.
Our purpose as TPMs is to ensure things are done on time and to the desired outcome. However, in our pursuit of the deadline, we can often begin to make choices and decisions that may get us there on time but not in the desired or ideal state.
“You are really gung-ho about getting to ship by this date”
“Are we sure this is the right decision just to meet an arbitrary deadline”
“That date is not set in stone, why are we rushing this?”
“We can move that date to make sure we do this right”
“Give me a flexible plan so we ship when we are ready”
“Lets just deal with this as tech debt for the next release, we are out of time”
“Its an edge case not all users will hit, we don’t have time.”
Plans hinge on the fixed nature of time. In a constantly shifting and “agile” world, how do TPMs build plans that are based on moveable goal posts?
“Is a plan real if the deadline is not truly fixed?”
“How do I put a plan together if the end date keeps moving?”
“If I had known that date was not fixed, I wouldn’t have incurred that tech debt”
“I don’t have confidence in my own plan because the end date keeps moving”
TPMs have two options in such moments:
We advocate for fixed time deadlines and push like hell to get to it.
We build in flexibility into our plans and adapt as needed.
Before you condemn option 1 as waterfall, there will be cases where a date is indeed fixed and moving it comes with real world consequences.
“Market conditions currently indicate that if we do not ship this feature in the next 6months, we will be behind our competition”
“We have purchased shelf space for our device at X retailer, moving it means a millions of dollars in penalty”
Flexible plans are susceptible to scope creep and more moving deadlines.
As TPMs, our job is to be the gatekeepers of time, and as such, know when something is truly fixed or movable.
Lean on your Product and Engineering counterparts to determine what is fixed or movable.
Design your program governance structure to create an environment in which these discussions can be elevated to the right decision makers.
Build resiliency and stability in your product teams in those moments when dates move because it can impact both momentum and morale.
Above all - do not get caught in the trap of sacrificing too much scope or cutting corners to meet a deadline (ex: reduce testing time to meet a deadline).
Until next time 👋!
📅 1-day cohort coming soon
Over the past few months, I have been taking the time to chat with many of you over email or zoom. Many of my readers are either playing the TPM role or are seeking knowledge to help them level up their TPM skills. Some are curious about this unique role and what it takes to jump into this career.
I have been wondering if I can do something that will help you become a great TPM or take your TPM skills to the next level. Then, an idea hit me…
I am offering an intensive 1-day seminar on “Becoming A Great Technical Program Manager”.
Schedule → May 2023
Date & Time → Weekend (either Saturday or Sunday)
Time Commitment → 2-3 hours PST (not finalized hoping to find a good balance for EST and CET and Europe friendly timing). I highly recommend that you consider clearing your calendar to make this experience be effective.
Pricing → $500 (Not Finalized Yet) //
💰 Best Part → You can potentially get reimbursed for the course fee through your employer.
Class Size → I will limit this to just 10 people for this 1st cohort to ensure a lively and amazing experience.
Location → Live over Zoom
Platform → Maven
If you are interested in attending this course, please click on the button below to show your interest. 🙇 🙏
If you know someone who might be interested in attending this course, please share this post with them. 🙇 🙏
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