Cooking Your Own Dog Food

An old expression in IT goes something along the lines of eating your own dog food, which means you use the very software you write every day.  Also, it goes to show that people who use that expression tend to think of their own work as grinding horsemeat and mixing in the right amount of ash to meet the minimum standards.  However, Joel Spolsky explains in his Inc. column for December that, as a manager, you need to be able to do more than report cost/benefit analyses and calculate ROI in 3000 words or more:

Anyway, on my first day of work for the sergeant major, I didn’t know what to expect. I was sure it was going to be horrible, a suspicion that seemed to be confirmed when he took me to the officers’ bathroom and told me I would be responsible for keeping it clean. And then he said something I didn’t anticipate.

“Here’s how you clean a toilet,” he said.

And he got down on his knees in front of the porcelain bowl — in his pressed-starched-spotless dress uniform — and scrubbed it with his bare hands until it shined.

To a 19-year-old assigned to clean toilets, which is almost by definition the worst possible job in the world, the sight of this high-ranking, 38-year-old, manicured, pampered disciplinary officer cleaning a toilet was a shock. And it completely reset my attitude. If he can clean a toilet, I can clean a toilet, I thought. There’s nothing wrong with cleaning toilets. My loyalty and inspiration from that moment on were unflagging. Now that’s leadership.

To be a good QA manager, you need to be able to actually perform software quality assurance tasks as well as or better than your underlings.  You should probably be one of the team’s star players, able to teach and inspire and lead by example.

A lot of QA management without this capability is right now sucking wind through puckered lips, but it’s true.  Come crunch time, you have to be able to get in there and contribute to what your team is doing with a late deliverable and a looming deadline.  Walking around with a checklist on a clipboard and you’re only making things worse.

Although you could walk around, like Spolsky, with a power tool.  That sort of energizes/terrifies people.

Bonus defect!  The automatic pager on Inc.com content management system fails.  Go to page two of the article and click either prev or 1 links to go back to the first page, get a free 404 error.

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