Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not My Job

I'm a QA Lead. My job description involves things like hiring and maintaining a team of testers to meet the company needs, acting as an information source for the team that determines whether and how to ship releases, providing estimates for test work involved in everything from new features to performance improvements to new hardware platforms, etc.

I have several QA engineers working with me. Their job descriptions include performing exploratory tests, analyzing the output of automated nightly test runs, creating tools and utilities to generate data and analyze logs, etc.

That leaves a vast array of things that are not our job.

My first question is, "who cares?". We work in a small company. We're here because we want to do exciting and interesting things. We're not here to make fiefdoms. And that means that job definitions are a bit incomplete. If it needs to be done, and you know how to do it, then it's your job. Congratulations!

I don't have a lot of patience with people who declare that something is not their job.  If you have the time to make that statement, then you have the time to say something more helpful, like, "I'll do it" or "I don't know how to do that. Hey, Fred, can you help?".

So quit telling people what isn't your job, and start saying and doing something useful.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Catherine...

    I largely agree with this post, and I've lived the experience of pitching in. Not only can it be worthwhile to pick up the ball, not only when we do know how to do something, but even when we don't. Even if we don't handle it perfectly, we can at least learn and get some traction on the problem.

    For me, there is one extremely important exception to the heuristic "Don't say 'it's not my job.'" I don't want to take on the job of managing the project—of making high-level decisions that are management's responsibility. That's part of being context-driven. I'm here to provide services that advance management's values, not that impose my own (and I often need a reminder of that).

    It's a bit of a tightrope, because at the same time I want to preserve sufficient autonomy that I can advance management's values in the best way that I know how, and I want to remain consistent with my higher values. There's sometimes an interesting or challenging dynamic there.

    Maybe the way to think about it comes from Jerry Weinberg, who I'll paraphrase as saying "Offer help, but don't inflict it."

    I enjoy reading your blog. Excellent work.


    ---Michael B.