The Value of a Morning Huddle for TPMs

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With skilled TPMs at the forefront of business strategy, modern companies can deliver multiple complex projects and scale their operations to stay ahead of the curve.

Role of Technical Program Managers

In this digital age, where enterprises adopt cutting-edge technologies to strengthen their bottom line, technical program managers (TPM) play a crucial role in ensuring the best-laid plans do not go awry. 

With skilled TPMs at the forefront of business strategy, modern companies can deliver multiple complex projects and scale their operations to stay ahead of the curve.

Amidst all this, a 5-15 minute morning huddle becomes critical to maintain orderliness in a program — especially when collaborating with technical staff, cross-functional stakeholders, and discussing business with upper management constitutes a typical day in a TPMs life. 

The daily huddle allows project leaders such as TPMs to address several tactical issues and ensure everyone is updated on important projects and pertinent goals.

The practice was followed by the likes of John D. Rockefeller and Steve Jobs who implemented regular short and powerful huddles to scale productivity and maintain seamless flow of information across all levels.

So, what is the value of a morning huddle in technical program management? To understand that, we first need to determine the day-to-day responsibilities of a technical program manager. 

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Day-to-day responsibilities of a Technical Program Manager

TPMs oversee various interconnected projects — collectively known as a program — each of which have short-term goals and are focused on a single, specific deliverable. These projects form different phases of a program's lifecycle, from strategy creation to completion, and are geared towards a common long-term goal.

  • A technical program manager manages every aspect of a specialized program, such as a software launch or migration from one environment to another throughout the program's lifecycle. 
  • They are responsible for managing these complex programs, identifying and solving problems, and building strategies to enhance their speed and efficiency. 
  • They also oversee the non-functional aspects of programs like software delivery such as application telemetry, performance, reliability, resilience, security, and compliance

Given that TPMs are responsible for handling complex cross-functional programs and streamlining a range of cross-team dependencies, their days begin with a morning huddle that lays the groundwork for efficient management throughout the program cycle. 

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The Early Morning Huddle

TPMs work closely with VPs and directors of engineering, engineering managers, tech leads, principal engineers, and lower-level engineers to coordinate project objectives and successfully execute a technical program.

They also rely on project managers to seamlessly manage related projects and product managers if the program includes software delivery. In addition to this, marketing teams, legal operations, and vendors, are also part of a technical program's life cycle depending on its nature and requirements.

All of this is to say that for a position that requires you to collaborate with a range of cross-functional teams, weekly briefs and early morning meetups are an absolute necessity to ensure organisational alignment. 

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The Format of an Effective Morning Huddle

Morning huddles happen across levels, starting with the executives down to project managers, engineering managers, and other involved teams. 

Here's how technical program managers carry out these briefings. 

  • Technical program managers sit with the VP of Engineering and the directors of engineering to discuss the progress of the program and schedule ongoing projects for the week.
  • After deciding weekly tasks and goals, they meet up with project managers and engineering managers to discuss their plans for the week.
  • Following this, every day, a morning meetup takes place where managers inform TPMs about the progress made, key challenges faced, and risks undertaken to accomplish business-critical goals during the previous day. Technical program managers take note of any issues and assist managers in resolving them.

Having charted a uniform course of action for stakeholders and teams, for people looking to become a technical program manager, you can learn to prioritise goals and direct their efforts towards dealing with bottlenecks in the program.

Corey Apar, a technical project manager at iHeartRadio, says it's impossible to work in technical project management without strong organization and communication skills, especially with the many cross-functional projects competing for your attention. She says, “prioritizing happens through conversations with stakeholders, identifying dependencies and talking with the team about their capacity in each sprint.”

The Value of a Productive Morning Huddle

A successful technical program manager leverages power-packed morning meetups with executives, associates, managers, and fellow TPMs to ensure everyone is on the same page. These conversations guide contributing teams and stakeholders throughout the program lifecycle and keep them aligned in their efforts.

Huddles foster a productive and hard-working work environment. Tracking daily progress allows TPMs to trace inefficiencies in the program and devise preventive strategies to address potential risks.

Verne Harnish in his book Scaling Up iterates the importance of morning briefings by saying — “The daily huddle can save everyone an hour or so of needless email updates and ad hoc interruptions.”

Given the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of their job, a 15-minute early morning meeting, otherwise known as an early morning huddle, is the most effective mode of catching up and relaying information to the teams involved. Especially now when companies including Facebook and Twitter are adopting remote working environments and regular communication is key to building high-performance teams. 

If you don’t have a strategy in place to ensure seamless flow of information, you’re already operating from the back foot. So,  how can TPMs facilitate uninterrupted communication in a cross-functional environment and build productive relationships with team members? The answer is undoubtedly, morning huddles.