QA Management: All Bark and No Bite?


Mike Talks shares with us the unlikely story of how his pet German Shepherd inadvertently became his team's QA manager. Talks explains how his German Shepherd was able to gather people together and have them talk to each other, similiar to what a QA manager does—keeping people on task, handing out assignments, and following up with team members.

Five months ago, my commute to work involved a daily train ride to Wellington, New Zealand. Once I arrived to my workplace, I would encounter the inevitable curveballs that my team’s waterfall project would throw us, always mindful of our target release date.

A lot has changed since then. We’re now agile and there are still curveballs, but instead of my team members feeling that those curveballs have the power to completely derail the project, they feel like they are only disruptions, at worse. And my commute? My journey to work now involves carpooling with Max, a new co-worker and manager, who has helped my members team more than we could have imagined.

Going agile wasn’t easy for us; anyone who says it is should probably take a lie detector test. One major impediment to our agile transition was due to physical space. Although we were all on one floor, we weren’t co-located. This led us to two key problems: a lack of team identity, and having no good place to hold meetings.

Let’s start with the meetings. To be frank, we were finding it difficult, with such a dispersed group, to collect everyone even for our standup meeting that we held at 10:30 each morning. For example, even though the meeting could be added to one’s calendar, some people were encouraged to turn off their email, which led to an inevitable result: they didn’t see the event notification. Additionally, we tried using a Harpo Marx horn, which I suggested, to call attention to the standup. Not only did this annoy the non-agilists on the floor, many team members wore noise-cancelling headphones, so wasn’t very effective. 

Once we heard that there was a joke going around concerning us delivering software to our customers in a clown car, we ditched the horn almost immediately.

Hiring Max
Although thanks to Max, things have gotten better, I have to admit it’s not perfect. Sometimes, we hear from our developers statements like “Max is probably the best manager I’ve ever had.” There’s a lot of things you could say about Max that you’d hear about many managers, with the phrase “bark worse than his bite” being a common description. However, there’s some odd descriptions as well; when was the last time you worked for a manager who appreciated being tickled on his tummy? On second thought, maybe you shouldn’t answer that one.

This is probably a good time to include a picture of Max, which might explain a little.


Figure 1. My Co-Worker and Manager, Max

Max has a work history as impressive as any adult. He’s seven-years old and was destined at birth to become trained as a New Zealand police dog. Instead, he ended up working at New Zealand’s customs and immigration department, where he specialized in detecting contraband, especially narcotics.

Max came into our lives through my son'ss overwhelming desire to have a dog, and a German Shepherd no less. We found out about Max through a friend, employed by a local Alsatian rescue-and-housing section, who told us about a retired customs-and-immigration dog up for rehoming. While obtaining Max required commitment, including spending time with his handler to learn his commands and how to control him, it was worth it.

User Comments

Greg Paskal's picture

Mike, great article and I really enjoyed learning about Max. You've giving me something to think about today regarding bringing a team together.

All the best,

April 2, 2014 - 8:51am
Linda Rising's picture

I love this story! There is research behind your observation that dogs in the workplace help us work more effectively. Many companies allow employees to bring dogs to work. Of course, if there are folks who are allergic or if the dog is not well-behaved, that's different, but otherwise, it's a wonderful idea. Now, to see some research on cats and birds and hamsters and...

Thanks for sharing!

April 6, 2014 - 10:21am

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