I met a test manager recently who was excited about starting a new position as a QA manager: “I really want to make a difference in the company, so I’m going to be the quality manager and set up all the processes for everyone to follow.” Uh oh. I asked if they were planning to hire a project manager. Yes, she said, they were. I suggested that if she really wanted to set things up for success, she should be the project manager.
The project managers set the stage for the availability of people to perform the practices the QA folks demand/request. (I’m speaking here of true quality assurance or quality management, not the test function that has the name of QA.) The quality group is a staff group and can only request that people use their processes. The project manager will define the processes necessary for the project and demand people follow them. And if the project manager doesn’t see any value in the QA-suggested processes, the project manager won’t follow them. If you’ve ever worked on a project where there wasn’t time for peer review or nightly builds and smoke tests, you’ve worked on a project where the project manager didn’t see the value of two of the easiest ways to prevent defects, or at least, detect them early.
I think this QA manager was willing to become a project manager. I don’t believe that QA managers should be able to dictate to the project teams what the project teams should do. I believe QA Managers should have to live in a project before they can tell people what to do.
Project managers define the process (lifecycle, practices, etc.) for their projects. If you’re in quality and you really want to make a difference, stop writing procedures and manage some projects. You’ll feel the pressures on the project managers and maybe you can figure out how to make a difference.