I Thought You Give Us the Goals

“I thought you give us the goals.” That was the reaction when I asked our QA engineers: Where do you think QA should be at the end of the year?

What made me pause for a second is what I'm reading all over the leadership literature: I'm responsible for setting direction.

And still, out of an intuition I answered:

“Nope. I want you guys to think about this. You know where the journey is going for engageSPARK, what big challenges we face over the year, for example increased load on the product, increasing dev output. You're the QA specialists, you should have an idea of what skills, processes and tools you'll need to develop during the year.”

Still, the question whether I was responsible for setting goals stuck in my mind for the last couple of days.

I think I've a grasp on the issue now: Leaders are responsible for direction, but that does not mean, they need to think through the goals by themselves. In my opinion, leaders should consider as much input as they can.

For me, this means that our QA engineers are the specialists on the topic. If I'd not pick their brains about the strategy, I'm leaving the most specific brainpower unused.

There's other arguments, too: If you set a goal for yourself, out of your own convictions of necessity, you're much more motivated to follow them through.

Finally, the challenge of thinking through the long-term needs of their QA group, our QA engineers will be growing immensely. In the long run, they'll be able to head a QA department in a different company, because that's the kind of thinking they'll be used to.

This does not mean, I don't give any guidance or let them run off in a direction that does not help engageSPARK. My responsibility is to make sure that they don't.

But instead of telling them what to do this year, I provide them with the context that they may be missing. And for me, the best way to do this is to ask questions. For example:

  • How can you involve the developers more strongly?
  • What moves us towards continuous delivery?
  • How can we expand Cebu's QA community?
  • Assume the developer count will double: How does QA need to change to handle that?
  • What am I missing so that you have a successful 2017?

This way, I hope, we'll end up with clear goals that move us forward into the best direction.

What are my responsibilities as CTO? I suspect this question will keep popping up, especially since the answers will change over time. But I won't just declare goals for my team without them contributing.

In other words: Don't delegate the thinking to me. We need all our minds to succeed.