What Do You Manage?

[article]
Summary:

You're a test manager. But do you manage only the testing? A frustrated test manager recently said, "With my SQA hat, I want to focus on finding defects and discovering risk in the product. With my support hat, I want to solve problems. With my tech pubs hat, I'm trying to get the documentation written. But last week, everyone needed my help at once. I'm only one person—how the heck do I do all that?" Well, maybe you shouldn't have to.

You're a test manager. Do you manage only the testing? Do you also manage support, documentation, and maybe computer labs? I meet a lot of test managers, and testing is only one of the things they manage.

At a recent workshop, Mike said, "With my SQA hat, I want to focus on finding defects and discovering risk in the product. With my support hat, I want to solve problems. With my tech pubs hat, I'm trying to get the documentation written. Last week, I felt really torn. My test group was having trouble quantifying risk and wanted some time with me. The doc group had discovered the installation scripts didn't work the way they were supposed to, and needed help from the developers and the testers. Our largest customer was having terrible problems, and I was trying to solve all these problems at one time. I'm only one person?how the heck do I do all that??"

I see several problems with test managers managing more than one function, at the first-line manager level. These other functions are not complementary to testing. Let's look at the objectives of these other functions:

Function

Primary Objective

Testing

Discover information about the product in development and report on those problems

Support

Discover solutions to problems reported about the product already released

Documentation

Discover information about the product in development and write descriptive information for potential users

System Administration

Monitor the state of the network and the machines (fix problems where necessary)

Release Engineering

Monitor development's progress and make builds

Quality Engineering

Discover information about the product in development and report on those problems; monitor product development activities and work with development to find solutions to those problems

So, why are all these first-line test managers managing work other than testing? My cynical response is that the senior managers don't understand the objectives of testing. The senior managers are looking at the number of people in the test group, not the actions of the test group, and basing their organizational decisions on that. Mike's VP in the above example said, "You only have four people in testing, only three people in support, and only two writers. Surely you can manage nine people. The development manger is managing ten people."

If your organization is based on the number of people in the test group instead of what the test group does, talk to your management. Explain the objectives of your group, and why it makes sense for you to be dedicated to testing. Explain the difference between testing and other non-software-development work. Explain what you could do if you were devoted to testing all the time. And don't forget to explain that it's harder to manage several functions rather than only one function.

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.

AgileConnection is one of the growing communities of the TechWell network.

Featuring fresh, insightful stories, TechWell.com is the place to go for what is happening in software development and delivery.  Join the conversation now!

Upcoming Events

May 04
May 04
May 04
Jun 01