What Is It You Want from Management?


It's easy to be frustrated by lack of executive management support for QA. Often it's difficult to get the backing we need to really operate effectively. But somewhere beyond cynicism lies a world of possibilities, and exploring them can help you articulate your needs. What would you ask for if you could?

I read, hear, and agree that executive management support for QA is absolutely necessary-and difficult, if not impossible, to get. This seems to be a mystery many of us deal with not just once, but over and over. Can you imagine anything different happening?

Excuses, Excuses!
If you're like me, you're very good at making up stories about why your executives don't support QA:

  • They're expected to care about quality, so they set up a QA group and think they've taken care of it.
  • They think that by chartering a QA group, they've done their part.
  • They're just going through the motions on quality.
  • They care about quality, but they care more about schedule and cost.
  • They're just too busy to support QA.
  • They DON'T really care about quality but they have to pretend they do.
  • They are so far removed from the real work, they don't even know what goes on at the worker level.
  • They just don't get it!
  • In the end, they are ignorant at best and dishonest at worst.

I've found my own stories don't make me feel any better. Often I fall into raw cynicism and outright blame.

But how much exploring have I done beyond the stories and cynicism? What is it I really want from those executives at the nosebleed level of the company?


Okay. So I want backing? But what is backing? The dictionary says that backing means "aid or support of any kind." But what kind do I want? The dictionary also says that backing means "that which forms the back of or is placed at or attached to the back of anything to support, strengthen or protect it." That sounds good. But what is the "anything" in my (your) case?

What, Specifically, Do I Want?
Perhaps if I could articulate more specifically what I mean when I ask for backing, I'd increase my chances of getting the kind I want. Do I want the executive to establish a quality policy, reward certain behaviors, give us more time or resources, participate in quality decisions, etc.? Any one of these things could constitute backing, yet each requires very different actions and support.

And by the way, who is backing whom? Why would an executive want to back QA? Or for that matter, why would an executive want to back me and my ideas about QA? And am I willing to back this executive's definition of and need for quality?Imagine
If you're willing, conduct the following mental experiment privately, just for yourself. (If you find you can't even imagine this experiment at all, this may provide you with some new insights, as well.)

Imagine you could meet with the executive of your choice. Who would you choose?

Now imagine that you have just been given an hour of this executive's precious time to talk about whatever you choose. Envision what you would do with this time. Let yourself pursue what you've always dreamed of asking, hearing, learning, and telling this executive. Seriously explore what you would do.

  • Would you ask the executive how she/he defines quality? Does this executive think that your product currently meets this definition?
  • Would you seek to understand what is really important to him/her?
  • Can you imagine discussing together how quality relates to what's important to this executive?
  • Would you offer to do anything to address what's important to this executive? What might you offer?

Now really think about this one…

  • What, specifically, would you ask this executive to do to support quality?
  • What, specifically, would you ask him/her to do for you or your group or your project?
  • Would you ask for an ongoing conversation with this executive about quality?

Giving Voice to Your Imaginings
Now that you've privately experimented, can you imagine using the results of this experiment publicly with your group or key team members? Maybe it would be interesting to see how others would play out that imagined conversation. You may even find yourself having that conversation with your executive.

I wonder what we can learn from our experiments? If you're willing, please share your imaginings as Reader Comments following this column. If this seems too risky, silly, or a waste of time to you, then it probably is. But you might learn that others have the same wild and crazy imaginings that you have. Maybe some have even played out their imaginings and will share what worked and didn't work.

I look forward to reading your ideas. Maybe backing each other here on StickyMinds will help us get and give more solid executive backing.

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