Sunday, June 19, 2011

Managers or Leads?

Da Boss is pushing to have the testing group re-formed as a formal group all reporting to one person, and he doesn't want that person to be a lead. (It's complicated. We used to be a separate testing group with a lead, then we got split up and housed with the developers and reported to the development lead for our group - except that a lot of the things that need to be coordinated for us just didn't happen because no-one had that time allocated, and well... it got messy. So having been integrated with development and reporting to dev leads who haven't got a clue what to do with a tester, Da Boss now wants us to de-integrate but stay co-located.)

I'm all for the idea of the testing group as a separate concern, while staying co-located with the developers. We work closely with all the software development team, and conversation tends to happen a lot more easily when you're in the same room. What I'm not so sure about is the manager vs lead question.

Da Boss's view is that - understandably - he doesn't want to see a good tester lose half their time to administrative stuff. At the same time, you can't do that administrative stuff if you don't understand QA and testing. Then there's the psychological factor. Someone who's a "manager", however minor, is one of "them" and not in the trenches, where a lead is still one of "us". I've never seen anyone manage to get past that particular psychological factor. Just being a manager is enough to put a distance between you and the rest of the team - and a manager for a team of 5 soon to be 6 maybe 7 if we can fill that last vacancy seems a bit excessive. Plus the company's always been pretty flat in the admin structure, with only 2-3 levels of hierarchy.

All of which sets me wondering whether it's better to for teams to have leads who juggle administrative and technical duty, or managers who focus on the administrative. I don't know the answer - and I don't know if there is an answer.

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