Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spinning Plates – The Test Manager's Stage Show

I've been a test manager about 6 months now all told ...  As a senior tester I used to scoff at what my old test manager got up to – but now I know!

If someone asked me what it's most like, to me it would be spinning plates …



We know the stage show.  Someone sets about 6 plates spinning, and keeps rushing between them to give them an extra bit of momentum to keep spinning and not fall off.

And that's pretty much what I do – our company has a whole host of projects in the pipeline.  I look at the future load for the next few months, and get involved in early meetings about them, review business requirements (if they exist), write the original master test plan, work out how much effort it should require to test, and try and organise test resources so we've got someone to do the actual testing.  And maybe a bit of sleight of hand to keep two projects from getting to testing at the same time ...



It means getting involved in a lot of projects.  Our department is part of customer delivery, and a lot of projects as you can imagine come through us for testing.  I always need to have a trick up your sleeve in case something comes late so we're not busting the budget.  Have a rabbit in the hat, just in case I need extra resource because time's running out.



As a rough rule of thumb (and don't tell my project managers) I always plan for myself to do pure test management … so when things get tight, I can go “all hands on the pump” and magic almost an entire tester out of thin air for 30(ish) hours a week.  Of course that can only be a short term band-aid, and on some projects that's not enough.

But all of the above can become tiring!

In Agile it's said you become much less effective if you're always task switching during the day.  Something like 20% they estimate.

Yesterday I kept track, and I worked on 5 projects during the period of the day.  Ouch!

Although joking about it on Twitter this morning I am starting to show some signs of fatigue.  Getting bits mixed up between projects, when someone asks me a question there's so much I am working on, it takes me a while to straighten it all out mentally.

At the beginning of the year after being “on the bench” (not working on site and doing desk based training) – I was sharp, eager.  Now come October, with an unforgiving workload, we're just getting by week to week.  All the promise of trying to improve processes in March has been whittled down to “just get it out the door” - and not by management, but by me.  The delays that are part of any testers lament have forced us into a level of technical testing debt, and we're having trouble getting things out to time because we're so close to delivery dates.

And I know I've talked about it before in this blog – but no-one wants to be the one to tell the business owner their delivery dates are unachievable, especially when everyone else is saying there's no problem.

I know people should have the courage to, but everyone quite rightly wants to give it their best shot at achieving it first.

So right now, I'm realising we're in a kind of testing deathmarch.  There are things we need still to get out this year.  But we have a freeze from late November onwards – I'm hoping we'll be able to catch up on ourselves a bit then, and hopefully set up 2012 for a bit of an easier year.

Otherwise I'm sure we're all headed somewhere in a very large basket ...

2 comments:

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