Determining Titles

If you manage people, at some point, you’re going to deal with titles and job descriptions. Here are my perceptions about the constraints on titles:

  • Make sure the titles for developers, testers, writers, anyone who performs project construction are parallel. That is, don’t have junior testers unless you also have junior developers.
  • Make sure the titles are politically correct. People have to be able to work in the organization, and your title scheme has to help people do their jobs. I’m particularly allergic to people who perform management work being called “leads.” Leads are not managers. Managers may lead in the sense of leadership, but if people are supervising other people’s work, they’re managers. Make them managers.

I wrote What Does Your Title Say about Your Job? when I was particularly frustrated with testing titles. I had just completed a consulting engagement to unmire a project. The root cause was misalignment between job expectations and job deliverables.

When you’re generating titles, first think about each person specifically, instead of your group in toto. You’ll find that people who you thought were working at the same level are not. Now, think about who each person works with, and at what level that person works. Then think about the essential technical and non-technical skills, using the four dimensions of technical skill. In a job description, I then add the non-essential non-technical and technical skills.

Perform the job analysis for each person in your group and see where they land. (In my tutorial next week at Star West, I’m testing an assessment tool I’ve used to see if it’s useful for other people too. If it is, I’ll post it here.) Now test where each person lands against your gut. If your gut and your data agree about where you’ve placed people, your job analysis and description are correct. If they disagree, you haven’t complete the job analysis. Go back and figure out what you’re missing.Once the book is published, I’ll ask the publisher if I can post the job analysis template. (Right now, the answer is no, I already asked.)

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