Meetings, Managers vs. Productive Employees

A thoughtful rant about how meetings affect managers differently than programmers, et al.:

 There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.

Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

That can hold true for QA, too.

Worse, that block of time might have looked good when the meeting was scheduled, but slipping development timelines now impose that meeting in the four hour block on a Thursday afternoon between being ready for test and the time the client expects to review the Web site in a test environment.  We’re not talking beta, here, bubs, they expect it to be feature complete and ready.  Instead, I’m supposed to sit in a four hour seminar on succession planning?  How about I talk about secession planning, wherein we in QA form our own nation-state, huh?  And we’re marching on the kitchen at 19:00.

Sorry, got off topic there.  But as a hands-on manager, I’ve struggled myself with meetings and the trappings of executivedom.  Hey, let’s have a meeting here and a meeting there; meanwhile, the actual production of the things we’re paid for go off the rails because all the decisionmakers are in the fishbowl conference room, not deciding and not contributing.

Sorry, got off topic again.  You know what else can blow something up?  Because we in QA don’t have the creative genius aura that allows us to metaphorically close our doors and get deep into work.  People are always popping by with questions or comments or whatnot.  Project managers want updates on things you haven’t gotten yet.  Designers have questions about how to spell the client’s product name.  And so on.  Meanwhile, you’re trying very careful to remain focused on a methodical assault on a Web site or application, and every time you’re called to avert your eyes from the screen, you need a couple of seconds to step out of the testing mode and into “social” interaction and then a couple seconds back to where you were and what you were doing.

I do my best testing alone, in a darkened room, with limited interruption.  That way, I can give the site or application my undivided attention and can see the small things that are wrong.  I hate being called out of that for meetings, communication, or other less productive activities when I’m under deadline.

Ah, this rambled.  Perhaps I’d better mount another assault on the coffeepot.

(Link seen on Outside the Beltway.)

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