Four Kitchens

The project manager and the tech lead: The best pair of coaches for your project

3 Min. ReadDigital strategy

It’s that time again: Time to start a new engagement. Let me set the stage. The creation of the development team, a new cadence of meetings, and a looming, seemingly never-ending roadmap. It’s the beginning of — dun dun dun — the start of a new build.

Think of the project manager and the tech lead as the coaches of a sports team. The project manager is the head coach leading the charge — ensuring plays are followed, points are scored, and there is no foul play. The tech lead is the assistant coach — providing backup and ancillary support wherever needed, ensuring that the selected plays are in the best interest of the team and the end goal: the product build.

If you are like me, a seasoned project manager, the role of tech lead didn’t resonate — and I mean really resonate — until I understood they know all the things I do not. The tech lead specializes in the minutia of tech jargon and dependencies critical to the build’s success that might make other heads swirl. A tech lead should also be well versed in all team members’ individual skill sets and know when to pivot or how to maximize those skill sets throughout the course of the project.

The relationship between the project manager and the tech lead needs to remain nimble and communicative. Think back to that new cadence of meetings I noted earlier, and consider a 1-to-1 with your tech lead as one of your most critical meetings. The coaches have to be in sync to most effectively articulate new plays to the team and be able to support them as they execute. The communication has to be consistent and each party needs to show follow-through in order to build trust. It’s a very yin-yang kind of kinship that, when really developed, can lend itself positively to the success of the team, which inherently fosters the success of the build. Think of all teams that delivered their heart and soul during a championship win or playoff run. It all came down to trust.

This trust allows either party to play defense on behalf of the team in their own way. Project managers can flex time and budget to account for technical dependencies a tech lead has flagged that pose risk. This allows for more informed decisions to be made earlier on, sometimes unbeknownst to the client, but always in their best interest. This fluidity keeps the ball from dropping. Both the project manager and the tech lead know when to take lead on the other’s behalf and when to hang back.

My top five tips for creating synergy

  1. Set a dedicated time to regroup 1-to-1 to discuss the progress and status of the engagement. This is intended to create a safe space, info share, and transfer knowledge.
  2. Be patient with one another and make sure you both understand any situations that arise and what possible outcomes are. You both have your skills and expertise. Shed light where needed and come to a shared understanding.
  3. Come to consensus on next steps before discussing with the client so there is alignment and you can support one another. This alignment shows your team and the client consistency.
  4. Lean into relying on one another and learn how to be each other’s partner in crime!
  5. Create a genuine relationship. Be honest and communicate openly.

TL;DR: Cultivate a relationship with your tech leads. The synergy is worth the time and effort. Your next project will thank you!