Falsely Responsible

Newbie testers often believe they can actually stop their product from shipping. Product teams often foster this belief by forcing their testers to sign off on their product before shipping it. Can you imagine the result if we decided to exercise our alleged power and elected to not sign off?

CEO: Why haven't we shipped yet?
Test Manager: Michael hasn't signed off on the build yet. He feels it needs more testing, that it still has bugs lurking in it. He says it will take him at least two more weeks before he will know whether he will be able to sign off, and when he will be able to do so.
CEO: I'm gonna sign Michael off!

There are so many things wrong with this picture!

  • Why are we testers supposed to sign off on the product when no one else has to do so?
  • Why does management pretend to give us testers authority we do not really have?
  • We do we testers let ourselves be put in this untenable position of false authority?
  • Why aren't we testers paid commensurately to our alleged power and responsibility?

The first I have never understood. The second, it seems to me, occurs when management cannot make a decision - at least not until someone else makes one for them to overrule! The third I find to be that we do not know better, or we do know better and are afraid to do anything about it. The fourth I believe ties back to the second: while management is happy to pretend to give us this authority, they aren't about to even pretend to give us commensurate remuneration, let alone actually give it to us!

If you are in this situation, you have at least the following options:

  • Exercise your purported rights and see what happens.
  • Refuse to exercise this responsibility and see what happens.
  • Join a different team, one that understands how to treat and use their testers.
  • Stay put and attempt to educate your management that making this type of decision is their job, and that your job is only to provide them with the information they need to make it.

If you are in this situation, what are you doing to get yourself out of it? If you ever have been in this situation, how do you get yourself out of it? Let me know: michael dot j dot hunter at microsoft dot com.