When your stats are telling the Test Manager a glorious lie…Jump Ship

Last night I was told an incredible tragic story. With kind permission of my friend I will summarise it here. I will also apologise now, for my version will not be as funny as the original. It was tragic, but told with great enthusiasm and with

My friend, a senior tester in a large organisation, was asked to explain manual testing (and justify the need for it) to the Test Manager. Yep. You read that right. The Test Manager was asking a Senior Tester to explain testing.

In essence the Test Manager was probing for reasons to keep (or not keep) the test team. It looks like budget cuts and other financial pressures were demanding a drop in head count. After a rather good description of why testing is important and why skilled individuals are needed the Test Manager got hung up on the idea of Test Cases. It turns out the Test Manager couldn’t detach testing from the Test Case or the tests container to be more precise.

It seems obvious to me that this Test Manager believed testing was nothing more than a Test Case. The person running the Test Case needed no other skills than maybe a little domain knowledge and the ability to operate a mouse. It’s a common view held by many in and out of the testing world. It’s a view that irritates and mocks me but none-the-less it’s a view that exists, rightly or wrongly. (That rhymed by the way. By accident)

After my friend explained testing to the Test Manager he was pleased. And rightly so. He’d done a good job. His explanation would have won awards from the Plain English Society.

He explained the human critical thinking side to testing. The experience a tester can bring. The levels if investigation a tester will go to, to root out a bug. The awareness levels a tester has. The unique thinking a tester can bring to the table. He’d expertly described Exploratory Testing (by paraphrasing a few testing gurus)

He’d not forgotten to mention the ability to make judgement calls in the face of changing priorities and commercial pressures. He’d woven in a nice little thread on being able to look past the facts and see the truth (I’m doing a blog post on this soon…). He’s waxed lyrical about testing early through automated tests leaving highly skilled testers to explore and feedback. He’d mentioned how testers approached software development from a unique angle.

His outline of why testing is important and why human testers are needed was award winning. He’d Incorporated testing in to the delivery of good software and without an ounce of “Gold Plating”, “Blinging” or “Bigging Up”. I gave him a standing ovation.

Apparently after this mini training session the The Test Manager sat back in his swivel chair (James Bond Villain style) and laughed “muhahahahahahahah I admire your arrogance” <– Note – this bit is actually true.

The Test Manager, it seems, didn’t share the same view. He was still hooked on Test Cases being the testing. “Get some seniors to write the tests and juniors to execute” was what he said. “We can cut costs even further by automating everything”.

This whole incident happened about 3 months ago. Since then they’ve got rid of some good senior testers and brought in juniors to do the manual work. It seems they are continuing the extraction of human thinking by going down the QTP automation route too. The Test Manager appears to still believe that the actual test case is the test. That the actual automation test is the test. And now these “tests” are being run by juniors or machines his testing world is sweet.

My friend doesn’t share the Test Managers enthusiasm. He’s already seen a decline in quality as the Seniors are being stretched and the juniors don’t have the same people skills and experience to work closely with the rest of the development team. Things are slipping despite the code coverage and the number of tests executed stats going through the roof. The stats are telling the Test Manager a glorious lie. But he seems happy with this. He hasn’t a clue to be fair.

My friend is not at all happy with this hence him handing in his notice a few weeks back. In fact, it could well be the beginning of the end of this company’s quality output as two other seniors have jumped ship leaving just three seniors. These other three hate it too. Sinking ship anyone?

Anyway. I guess the moral of this story is “If you have a Test Manager who doesn’t know anything about testing, has an evil laugh and your stats are telling a different story to reality then jump ship. Jump ship fast. Or push everyone else over board”

Image from the cool galleries of : http://www.flickr.com/photos/wili/

5 thoughts to “When your stats are telling the Test Manager a glorious lie…Jump Ship”

  1. If only this was a one-off story that no other tester could relate to…

  2. So, is it that the Test Manager *could* understand, if he wanted to, but doesn’t care, because the incentives in his environment mean that just having “good” stats is all he needs? Or is it that he actually will suffer the consequences at some point, but he just hasn’t realised that yet?

  3. @phil – indeed. It’s sad. sad. sad.@testerab – In this situation the Test Manager simply didn’t understand. The metrics are a side effect of not understanding what good testing is all about. Metrics are produced off the back of test cases. So metrics become the measure of success. And once hooked on metric as a simple way to measure testing success then it’s easy to ignore, tune out or block anything different.I think many do understand but choose to ignore. I genuinely believe many don’t understand too. And this is sad also. :(Thanks to all for commenting

  4. Has your friend tried to go over the head of that test manager? Just because you have one rotten apple doesn’t mean that the whole company needs to suffer. And as you pointed out, suffer they will.With notice in one hand going and the whistle blowing policy of the company in the other approaching a Director of the company repeating his explanation about testing might be a good way to a) loose his job b) get the person who is labeled test manager out of the way before he does more damage c) get a promotion or his job (OK, you can dream).

  5. Hi Thomas,I asked the same thing but it seems the whole organisation is rife with “jobs for the boys” hence the Test manager not knowing anything about testing. they flew below the radar for a few weeks but this didn’t work. the people above the Test manager are only concerned with metrics only too, whether this is why the Test Manager was; I can’t be sure.It seems the whole reporting structure is based on glorious lies using metrics as the key measurement. The devs are in the same place apparently with number of defects found in their code the key measurement of competence!Thanks for commentingRob..

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