A Test Manager's Output: What Is That?

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Summary:

Are you a project manager or test manager who feels like you're in constant motion? While your team works on products, your week is likely filled with meetings, conference calls, email, analysis, and consultation. But when your efforts have more to do with team performance and avoiding disasters than a tangible product, how can you measure what you've done in a concrete way?

At a recent testing conference, I met a number of incredibly busy test managers. They were taking conference calls, sending and receiving email, and still trying to attend sessions at the conference.

One of the reasons managers are so busy is that some of them don't know whether they've gotten anything done. They're all crazy-busy, but most of them feel as if they've accomplished nothing. When your efforts have more to do with team performance and avoiding disasters than a tangible product, how can you measure what you've done in a concrete way?

If you are a test manager, here are some ways to measure what you've done:

  1. How many people have you unwedged or unblocked this week? Sometimes our staff may not realize they are stuck trying to solve problems. If you are able to recognize that someone is stuck and point them in a more useful direction, then you've accomplished valuable work.
  2. How many of your staff were able to get more work done this week, based on what you said? Managers leverage the work other people do. When you
    facilitate other people's work, then you're doing management work. If you discussed test plans or your staff's choices about which tests to implement, then you've helped people leverage their work.
  3. How much strategic work did you do this week? Managers set the strategy for their groups, and then put the tactics in place to make it happen. Maybe you're working on improving your test capability with a new test lab, or arranging ongoing education for your testers. Maybe you're working on decreasing time to market by changing how you plan your projects, or how the developers and testers work together. Strategic goals are long-term goals, so you'd expect to make only a little progress on strategic work each week. But the effort you invest and the progress you make certainly count.
  4. How many crises did you prevent? Every time you solve a problem and prevent a disaster or crisis, you've allowed your technical staff to go forward. For example, if you realized early enough in the project that the developers and testers were working toward different goals, and you started developing release criteria, you've averted plenty of problems and a potential ship crisis.
  5. How many meetings were you able to cancel? Unfortunately, too many of us work in meeting-happy organizations. A meeting that doesn't include the following characteristics is not likely to help your project or your team move forward:
  • It starts on time
  • It ends on time or early
  • You can leave the meeting if you're not needed
  • Action items come out of the meeting
  • The meeting has an agenda and minutes

If you are able to cancel meetings that don't actually help move a project forward, then you've done wonderful management work. Look for these opportunities and take advantage of them when you see them.

These are just five ways to measure your managerial output. You may want to create a short checklist that you review each week to keep track of your efforts. Any work you do that helps your staff and the long-term health of your organization is good, tangible work. Count it.

About the author

Johanna Rothman's picture Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” helps organizational leaders see problems and risks in their product development. She helps them recognize potential “gotchas,” seize opportunities, and remove impediments. Johanna was the Agile 2009 conference chair. She is the technical editor for Agile Connection and the author of these books:

  • Manage Your Job Search
  • Hiring Geeks That Fit
  • Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects
  • The 2008 Jolt Productivity award-winning Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management
  • Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management
  • Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People

Johanna is working on a book about agile program management. She writes columns for Stickyminds.com and projectmanagementcom and blogs on her website, jrothman.com, as well on createadaptablelife.com.

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