Blog: Testing and Management Efficiency

To a naïve manager who doesn’t understand testing very well, the visible manifestation of testing is a tester, sitting in front of a computer, banging on keys to operate a product, comparing output with a predicted result, and marking “pass” or “fail” on a spreadsheet.

Therefore, thinks the manager: one way to make testing dramatically more efficient and effective is to automate the testing. Substitute the human tester for a program on the same computer. Have the program bang on virtual keys to manipulate products and tools. Then algorithmically compare program output to a predicted result; and then mark “pass” or “fail” on an algorithmically generated report. (It doesn’t really help that many testers, managed by such managers, may believe in the same idea.)

To a naïve tester who doesn’t understand management very well, the visible manifestation of management is a manager, sitting in front of a computer, receiving messages from employees, banging on keys to scroll through documents and write a memo, checking the memo for spelling and grammar, attaching it to a message in Microsoft Outlook, and pressing “Send”.

Therefore, thinks the tester: one way to make management dramatically more efficient and effective is to automate the management. Install optical character recognition and voice recognition software onto the manager’s computer. Have a program feed problems, requests, and supporting documents into a spreadsheet full of business rules. Next, apply those rules, and feed the output into a memo-generating template that includes the words “approved” or “rejected”. Then have the program run the memo through a spelling and grammar checker, attach the memo to an Outlook message, and press Send. (In reality, even the most naive tester doesn’t believe that would lead to good management.)

Moral: some physical, visible, mechanical behaviours are included in each job, but is not the important part of either one. Both jobs require studying a situation, wrestling with uncertainty, comprehending business value (and threats to it), observing processes, analyzing risk, making decisions, performing actions, and interpreting outcomes.

Tools can help enormously with all of those activities, but for testing and management alike, fixation on visible behaviours misses the point. Obsession with mechanizing the visible things risks displacing the real work.

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3 responses to “Testing and Management Efficiency”

  1. John Wilson says:

    Just wish I’d thought of automation that way. I will now! It makes the point very succinctly.

    Michael replies: Thank you for the kind words. Please feel free to spread the post… and the point!

  2. Len Haasbroek says:

    This one sounds more like a case of the Peter Principle at work.

  3. Frank says:

    Right on the point what to replace with automation, which rarely people ponder about before diving into coding.

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