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STARWEST 2012: What keeps you from being an awesome test manager?

By Jennifer Lent

In her keynote address “Becoming a Kick-*** Test Manager” at STARWEST 2012, Johanna Rothman of the Rothman Consulting Group asked the audience: “What prevents you from being an awesome test manager?” She offered on-the-spot advice on how to deal with each situation.

Problem: Meetings. Laughter ensued and lots of hands went up when Rothman asked the audience who else had problems with meetings. Rothman’s solution to the dreaded meeting problem? “If the meeting has no agenda, you don’t have to go.” But you can’t just not show up, she said. “That wouldn’t be awesome.” Give 24-hour notice if you plan not to attend. And if you decide to go, make sure the meeting has action items associated with it before you accept the invitation. “If there aren’t any action items, what is the point of the meeting in the first place?” she wondered.

Problem: Resources are in short supply. When you don’t have enough testers to staff current projects, you have to prioritize. The key thing here is to staff only active projects. The worst thing you can do assign a tester to more than one project. Testers who multi-task don’t get anything done. The best way to convey this test project info to interested parties is to depict it graphically – essentially you’re showing them a picture of project portfolio. Here’s what we are doing now. Here are the projects that haven’t been staffed yet.

Problem: They keep telling me to hurry up and wait. Hurry-up-and-wait syndrome occurs when the business has a hard time understanding what exactly you are releasing, said Rothman. “Even when they decide what the priority is, they still have trouble deciding.” The only way to fix this is to release more often. You can do one-week iterations, or take the Kanban approach and release really small stories every one to two days, she said. “This is challenging, but just keep doing it; keep pumping out really small chunks of work.”

For more STARWEST conference coverage, see:

Agile leadership: Start supporting, stop ‘Dilbert-izing’

Mobile device testing: Placing testers in the field, not just the lab

Bid old test rules goodbye: New mind-set needed to test mobile apps

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