New testing programs can appear to be needy. Acquiring technology, hiring team members, and building new processes are not just costly—they’re disruptive. And in the early stages, before a series of big wins have been achieved or trustworthy data has been reported, it can be difficult to build support for the endeavor—especially in the face of mounting costs and effort. Gaining support from an executive or someone else high in management chain is essential for obtaining the “air cover” necessary to grow and develop.
For most testing managers, this will require a certain degree of “managing up”—especially at first. There are a lot of interpretations of the concept of managing up but put most practically, it’s the process of consciously working for the mutual benefit of yourself, your team, and your boss. But to ensure your efforts come off as sincere, it’s important to keep the following five guidelines in mind:
1. Align goals, motivations, and perspectives
Perhaps the most important step in this process is aligning the testing team goals with those of upper-management sponsors. One important consideration in prioritizing test ideas for example, is the business need, group need, and potential impact on the organization. Though this shouldn’t take priority over all other factors, it’s important to, at the very least, ensure the testing roadmap contributes directly to a manager or sponsor goal.
2. Communicate appropriately
Crafting an excellent message that can break expand beyond simple reporting and tell the story of testing is critical. But so too is determining which means of communication is most effective. If the testing program’s executive sponsor tends to read a lot, a lengthy written summary and analysis may be the best approach. For those that love email, a note or regular series of messages may be more effective. If the sponsor prefers talking, setting up a regular meeting is probably best. The important thing is to tailor the communication channel to the audience or individual.
3. Remain transparent and consistent
A new program has the burden of building trust—and somewhat counter intuitively, this means acknowledging problems and reporting mistakes. These errors are inevitable when attempting something new and having a record of them will add context to eventual wins, helping to keep future expectations realistic. As part of this, consistency—providing reports and updates on the same day, at the same interval, for example—also helps build trust and keep testing top of mind.
4. Provide solutions, not problems
Too often, the only communications that move up the management ladder are reports of successes or failures. Even worse are persistent requests for more resources. Instead, try to target organizational or sponsor needs and offer solutions. Testing is particularly well suited for this, since it’s capable of identifying and solving major problems. This requires greater awareness of the business, market, and overall environment. It also demands an ability to anticipate needs before they become obvious.
5. Build a partnership
Ultimately, the goal of “managing up” is to change the context of your relationship with upper-level managers, directors, and executives. Instead of reinforcing a superior-subordinate relationship, it’s important instead to work in partnership—even if that means taking a role of a “junior partner.” It’s the difference between thinking “I wish my boss would do this thing for me” and instead contributing to a share goal on mutually recognized terms.
Executive support for a new testing program provides critical room to try and fail, experiment and refine. Gaining this support when it doesn’t already exist, however, can be a huge challenge. By aligning goals with a key upper-level manager, communicating effectively, sharing success and failures transparently, working to provide solutions, and building a mutually beneficial partnership, it’s possible to gain the support that is essential for program growth.