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Job Hunt, Management Theory, Project Management, Test Management

Test Management: The job description should already be written

Recently a curious soul put out an open question to the general LinkedIn test manager community at large about whether they, as test managers, or some one else writes job descriptions for openings about to be posted publicly or internally.  As with most internet questions posted under the false guise of anonymity, there was more than likely an ulterior motive.  Since we can assume there is one, let’s just move on as its probably something as banal as they’re miffed about a job they accepted having little to nothing to do with the posted description to which they applied.  I can answer that concern with a simple statement, no one does the job listed on the description for which they applied.  Even the person hired as a ditch digger will more than likely be someday soon asked to dig a trench, a drain, or a trough.  The medieval poetry master’s candidate then has three choices: they can shrug their shoulders and think about rondelles while they dig; they can walk off the job because they’re a union certified ditch digger and if the company wanted a trench they should have hired some one from the local 147 branch of International Trench Excavators; or they can dig the hole and complain loudly to anyone with no actual authority to fire them about the injustice of it all.

Guess which one the people complaining about job descriptions usually fall into?

Of course there could be an actual issue here, which is a failure to match up stated expectations with the actual work some one performs on a daily basis.  The issue of work mismatch is a lot more common than you would think.  You can easily check on whether you suffer from it by doing a simple test.  Do you know if you’re doing a good job or meeting the expectations of your boss without needing to go ask them?  If you didn’t need to think about the answer to this question, you’re either a cocky bastard or you are working in a position with clearly defined expectations and success criteria relevant to your daily work.  In either case you’re lucky because either you can spend your time focusing on actually doing work with a clear idea of how to advance (if you should want) or you’ll probably do well in life anyway if you can back it up because cocky bastards usually do if they can.

For the rest of us, a lack of understanding usually indicates we’re working at a position where our expectations and success criteria are either ill defined, subjective, conflicting, or completely at odds with our actual work.  There are several reasons for this but the most common I’ve seen is revulsion at the thought of doing “busy work.”  Most people at most companies consider things like role definitions and such to be odious tasks best left to others with no actual work to perform.  Real workers are seen as too valuable to waste their time on bureaucratic nonsense that will soon be outdated soon in any matter.  The trouble is this hurts companies in two ways.  First it hurts morale because workers don’t have a clear idea of what they are expected to be doing, how to judge their own performance, and what steps they need to take in order to get that raise, promotion, or bonus.  Second it hurts recruitment because each job opening is then treated as a special snowflake to be treated as an individual miracle or they’re treated as identical cookies cut from the same form with a few differences in toppings for decoration.

As an example, without a clearly defined set of expectations for a role the hiring manager, recruiter, and agent are all forced to guess what is now the difference between a senior development engineer and just a regular development engineer.  Taking it even further, perhaps there are no senior development positions even though your needs cover a wide range of experiences and skill sets.

I know your company is different.  You’re showing the world what a ragtag group of misfits can accomplish without all those titles and rules, man.  Our founders call themselves “Head Necromonger” and “Chief Gelfling” respectively.  I would then submit that come time to hand out bonuses or stock options or whatever you want to call it, there are going to be people who wonder why one gelfling received a larger share of stock than the gelfling working across the cubicle wall.  The recruiter you hire will also undoubtedly wonder what the hell a “necromonger” is and which Monster group should they post the opening into.  Is it computer software or hardware or is it a religious thing and should therefore go into nonprofits?

If you spend the time to accurately document the roles and their expectations within your organization, you will find your workload as a manager eased more than you can now comprehend.  Performance reviews then become a fun activity where you can work positively with some one to advance their careers or shore up weaknesses preventing them from getting the recognition.  Conflict management within the team becomes so much easier since most of these issues fall into the “not my problem” category.  But most of all, when you finally get the okay to hire that new team member you’ve been following the director into the bathroom to lobby for … you’ll actually have most of  a really good job description completed.  Just grab the role description and add the fun bits about specific skills or needs and run it through HR to make sure nothing you don’t want public will get out.

And then its done and you can then turn your attention to sorting through the 500 resumes on your desk because it turns out there really is a job called “necromonger” in Utah and the primary employer for that industry just announced a staff reduction of 30%.

Good luck, my little gelflings.


About cowboytesting

Hi. My name is Curtis S, and I'm a tester.


One thought on “Test Management: The job description should already be written

  1. Job descriptions are easy to manage if the ground work is in place. Doing performance appraisals 3 times per year are also better than having one only just before increase time, since nobody can remember what happened 9 months ago. You then have people super friendly and hard working the 2 months just before increase time!


    Posted by Survivor | August 4, 2010, 12:13 pm

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