How to Plan the Perfect 'T' Party

  • time laughing as we do exchanging status information in our staff meetings.

Filling Positions
With the ideal job defined, the hostess has competitive positions to offer. The focus now changes to what applicants offer in return. Technical competence and solid credentials are only the basics. Just what will separate the ideal applicant from the rest of the pack?

  • Diversity: A well-run party needs different kinds of workers: waitstaff, caterers, and musicians, to name a few. For my 'T' Party, the characteristics I look for in an ideal applicant change with each new position. I do not need clones of my current staff; I need complementary skills. My testing department has much diversity: males and females; those with Computer Science degrees and those without; backgrounds in Quality Assurance, Technical Support, Marketing, Testing, and Development. This breadth of perspective enhances the group's ability to perform.
  • Attitude: Testing is a support function. I seek individuals who have the subtlety and self-confidence to serve in a support role without becoming doormats.
  • Real People: I look for real people with real lives. I value individuals who can channel their creative energies into nontechnical outlets. I have found that they return to the office with the freshness and focus that complex technologies demand. I don't need geeks, gurus, or golden children.

Keep 'Em Happy
A hostess cannot afford to have the staff leave before the party ends. Neither can a testing manager, whose job is not over once the applicant says yes. Retention is a critical problem in any career field. The testing manager must keep testers saying yes every day. What motivates them to stay? What can I as a manager do to keep 'em happy?

  • Be Trustworthy. My staff must trust me to take good care of them. I am committed to providing for their well-being. As manager, I find myself serving them in three major ways.
  • Organizer: When their professional and personal lives fit smoothly together, employees can bring a higher level of concentration to their duties. I want to promote the idea that this job is part of a daily continuum. Therefore, I try to organize their work environment and schedules with as much flexibility as corporate policies allow.
  • Coach: I function as a combination of guide and critic. I help to define their objectives and priorities. Because I am also a tester, I can provide technical assistance and constructive feedback.
  • Protector: I am fiercely protective of my staff. They can count on me to stand by them and back them up.
  • Minimize Stress. The Perfect Job would have minimal stress. I consider it part of my job to reduce, deflect, or absorb external sources of stress. My staff is not held accountable for anything that they do not control, including The Code!

Testers: The Hired Help
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't manage him to drink." Anonymous

While planning the perfect 'T' Party, the hostess must resist the urge to plot out each and every detail. Instead, when surrounded by capable people, she should encourage her staff to function as a team of co-hosts. If the employees view themselves as part of a cohesive unit, they will look within their team for advice, assistance, understanding, and support.

As a manager, I encourage an informal support network among the testing staff. Key to this relationship is the ability to regard each other with a cooperative and noncompetitive spirit. Of course, I cannot make staff members like anyone else. But I have found a couple of ways to maximize the likelihood that they will respect and rely

About the author

AgileConnection is a TechWell community.

Through conferences, training, consulting, and online resources, TechWell helps you develop and deliver great software every day.