It's not only engineers that need to deal with S/N (Signal to Noise Ratio).
Test Managers have to deal with lots of noise, manage projects, deal with stakeholders, identify potential future risks, maintain test environments, hire testers, and meetings, meetings & meetings. And traditionally, when you sign up for the test manager role, you agree to that. Test Managers deal with the noise so testers can get on with their job – testing.
But is this really what is required? Did the reporting, the stats, the work allocation, the test strategy, and did I mention the meetings? It's all STUFF. There's always STUFF to do as a test manager. So if we don't have STUFF to do, we go out and look for STUFF. We roll our eyes at all the STUFF we have to do, but secretly we like it. It makes us feel important and keeps us busy.
Recently, I did a peer review with my team. I asked them to review my work anonymously. One question I asked them was, "what should I start doing more of?".
The resounding signal was loud and clear. My team wanted me to increase the amount of coaching and training within the team.
So I stopped doing STUFF. I dropped optional meetings, distributed recruitment, and worried less about planning for 'the future'.
Instead, I test and encourage other testers to pair with me as I do. Or encourage them to invite me over to test with them.
That way, I'm sharing my knowledge and expertise.
It's been hard to let go of the high-level STUFF, but in some ways, these management-type activities are performed by most managers. However, very few people can train and coach testers.
How's your S/N ratio going?