Book Review: Managing the Test People
I chose this title from the list of review items with trepidation expecting to find a technological beast. To my surprise the cover showed the pixelated image of a conductor and the only beast I found inside the covers was the metaphorical image of Judy McKay's team.
In the preface the author suggests that the book provides 'practical advice for the novice and affirmation for the expert'. In my view it does much more than that. Whilst using examples from the field of software quality assurance, the author manages to cover a vast range of topics which could be a useful reference tool for all those facing everyday management challenges in any environment. Judy McKay makes the point that being a successful manager requires 'resourcefulness, common sense, confidence and humility'.
New managers must step lightly. They have only two weeks to make a good impression and it is not only about bringing bagels on Friday. Judy shows you how to rent loyalty before you can earn it and how to ensure that your team is well regarded in the organisation even when its job is to find faults with others' work, as quality assurance often requires. All managers should be aware that they are only as good as their teams and this demands skills in choosing the team members, allocating tasks to fit with abilities, managing workflows and asking the right questions.
From tips on how to read 500 résumés and covering letters in eight hours, to choosing the right interview questions to ensure fit with the organisational culture; from avoiding legal challenges by unsuccessful applicants to finding the necessary skills, there is something that will help busy managers in all the steps from hiring the best to dismissing those the organisation no longer needs without losing sleep.
Management skills are often diminished by being described as common sense. This book does not argue otherwise but shows how much thoughtfulness, sensitivity and people-awareness management needs in the technological as well as any other field. Some of the advice is aimed specifically at those working in software engineering and there are industry-specific examples of job descriptions and reward systems; some advice is general and full of humour, but all the hints are tested and helpful.
Judy McKay does not expect individuals to have perfect skills but teams must have perfect skills mix and she gives a lot of advice on how to ensure this through matching jobs to people, developing your staff and allocating projects. Thoughtful feedback is essential too and all managers who intend to deliver non-constructive criticism of their employees should do so only in front of their dog.
Managing the Test People is full of intelligent observation, passion and a good sense of the ridiculous situations we sometimes find ourselves in at work. But most of all this is a book written by somebody who has a sense of perspective and who has the humility to ask herself daily, 'Would I like to work for me?'. An informative, easy read, a diary of a manager you would wish you worked for.