Stop the Bad MBOs

Fight the Good Fight Against Abusive "Management by Objectives"

have all decreed that managers shall use MBOs as part of the yearly performance review process. Don't worry, our resolution is not to stop using MBOs, it's to stop using bad MBOs.

Having written objectives that worked for testers and test teams before, I've discovered a few helpful practices:

  • Identify how the test team provides valuable services to the
    organization. What role does each employee play in providing those
  • Use the SMART mnemonic to remind you to create objectives that are:

Specific in terms of the quantification to be measured;
Measurable, including the way in which the measurement  will happen;
Attainable by the employee;
Realistic with respect to the team, organization, and current project context;
Time-boxed in the sense that those objectives should  appen in a set period of time.

  • Consider what incentives you're giving employees in each objective. Will the objective point the employee in the direction of serving the customer better?
  • Ask yourself what signals you're giving with each objective. Are you directing employees toward what's most important?
  • Specify the objective, but leave the means of achieving it to the individual. You don't want to be a micromanager, do you?

In spite of the problems that can arise with management by objectives, it's true that many managers use this technique successfully. Those managers have learned to apply the tips-and to avoid falling into the traps-I discussed above. So, let's start a new trend together: No more bad MBOs!

About the author

Rex Black's picture Rex Black

Rex Black is President and Principal Consultant of RBCS, Inc., a consultancy that provides testing experts worldwide, serving clients such as Bank One, Cisco, Hitachi, IMG, and Schlumberger in consulting, training, and hands-on implementation. He has written Managing the Testing ProcessCritical Testing Processes, and numerous articles, along with presenting papers and keynote speeches at international conferences.

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