Test managers often feel that while somebody might be in control of schedules or resources, they certainly are not. An experienced test manager shares ways to develop and use professional influence to help the test group.
Many of us have worked in test groups in which we felt as if we didn't have enough time, hardware, or staff to do the work. In those situations, it's hard to escape the feeling that while somebody might be in control, we are certainly not. As a test manager, you don't have to work this way. There are other, more effective, ways to develop and use your influence within your organization to help your test group--and project--succeed.
Influence is not about control, nor is it about taking away other people's choices. Influence is about coming to a mutually valuable decision about a problem-redirecting your organization's power and focus. As a test manager, you may want to influence others in the organization when:
- Your management wants to release a product you know is full of defects, and you're sure the customers will be disappointed with the release
- Other managers ask you to give up equipment your test group needs to do their jobs, or you can't get the equipment you need
- Schedule slips shorten your test schedule, and your only alternative seems to be to test less
- Your budget isn't large enough to hire the people you need
These are examples of tactical problems in obtaining specific objectives. You can also exercise influence more broadly-strategically-to change how the organization perceives itself, or to change how it does business.
As test managers, we can be valuable agents of change. We have a different perspective on these problems than other managers in our organizations because of our
role in planning and measuring testing to obtain and share information about the product under test. If testers, as James Bach says, "hold the flashlight," then test managers figure out at least some of the places to shine that flashlight, and how long to spend flashing-a specific form of risk management. Because we illuminate risk from a different perspective than anyone else on the project, we often have a unique approach to problem solving.
We can influence other people to see our perspective and agree to it, or to come up with an even better solution to our problem.
What Is Influence?
A dictionary definition of influence is:
"The act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command"
"The power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or
intangible ways: sway."
To sway people, you get them to change what they're doing. Sometimes you give them something they want-their WIIFM (What's In It For Me). Sometimes, you get them to reconsider their WIIFM, to enlarge their wants to include more of the organization. To be truly influential, first you must become fully aware of your problem context-the setting or environment where the problem exists, including all those who might be affected by it. Once you've surmised the problem context, you can decide how to influence the other person. (You might even change your perspective, based on your understanding of the problem context.)
Consider how you can provide value, and finally, what your "influencee" wants. Then, you can choose how to provide that value and what to ask for in return. This value exchange is the essence of influence.
Note that I'm not talking about a strictly monetary exchange. Sometimes you loan your credibility to some proj-ect your influencee wants to succeed. Sometimes you give your time to some other group, or perform some other service to the organization. Sometimes you get a budget increase to give more value to the organization. View your problem within the context of your organization, so you can see what
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