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I am the development tools and infra guy for a small company

When I joined the company was about 10 people and since then we have grown to about 400 people.

I share friendly relationship with the founders and single digit employee IDs and have gained their trust over the past few years where I built a lot of their build and release tooling and basic unit test infra.

In the past year we realized that the QA in our company was essentially working non stop and on Saturdays to get stuff done. This was because they had neglected to automate a lot of stuff and don't have proper tooling.

So one of the co-founders, with whom I share a very close and personal friendship, asked me to take the learnings and processes we had developed coming with developer unit test tooling and tools in general and take it to the QA team to ease their burden a little.

But the top level managers in QA are very very resistant to incorporating change and I have a hunch they have instructed the lower level managers to either do lip service and blow me off or push back hard against the suggestions I have.

Once I noticed 6 QA Engineers manually testing 10000 test cases on a Saturday and I insisted they automate it using a test harness I had written and today that component of testing is running smooth. On Monday their manager was furious that he had to view a harness report file instead of a hand formatted excel sheet and asked them to revert to the old tests.

I explained the situation to the co-founder who basically said everyone has to do what I said and automation is the way to go.

My problem is now everyone in the QA team looks at me as some sort of rank-puller and I have a feeling they aren't doing what I said for the right reasons and I feel a little guilty forcing employees to do something they don't believe has a benefit. Also how do I communicate the fact that the managers in the QA team are basically enforcing some bizarre practices without throwing them under the bus?

How do I avoid alienating them?

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    I insisted they use my tools after confirming they did not have any other automation tools in mind. I have no preference for tools I wrote. The alternative they had in mind was to spend the entirety of Saturday sitting at work manually testing the test cases, asking them to spend their entire Saturday at work seemed wrong to me. And the engineers said their lives were easier because they automated. Should I have pitched it in another way? I will accept all guidance in this regard
    – user87777
    Nov 3 '20 at 19:46
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    Do the testers get paid overtime for working on a Saturday? Nov 3 '20 at 20:53
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    @user87777 - if there is some kind of compensation involved, that could certainly be a barrier to streamlining their processes. Nov 3 '20 at 20:56
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    @user87777 did you ask them? Nov 3 '20 at 21:42
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    I did, when I helped them write the automation the engineers were quite unhappy about having to show up.
    – user87777
    Nov 3 '20 at 21:51
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How do I avoid alienating them?

You work with them. You first gain their confidence and trust, then you suggest changes that will help them and explain to them the benefits to be gained. You propose pilot projects so that they can experience the benefits for themselves. You act like a consultant rather than a dictator. You try to put yourself in their position and understand how you would feel.

  • You don't bypass their managers.
  • You don't insist.
  • You don't force.
  • You don't throw their managers under the bus.
  • You don't act like a rank-puller.
  • You don't tell them "everyone has to do whatever I say".
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    i hadn't considered it this way, this is quite eye opening :)
    – user87777
    Nov 3 '20 at 20:18
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    The first step of developing a new system to ease burdens is to ask the people you are going to help what they need eased.
    – IT Alex
    Nov 3 '20 at 21:19
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    How can you work with the managers if they are insistent on working against you? Without a solution to that this process seems useless.
    – BrtH
    Nov 4 '20 at 13:35
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I insisted they automate it using a test harness I had written and today that component of testing is running smooth. On Monday their manager was furious that he had to view a harness report file

This reads like you went and changed a team's process without any consultation or agreement with their manager. I hope you understand why that's pretty bad.

My problem is now everyone in the QA team looks at me as some sort of rank-puller

Honestly, that's because you are, at least by proxy.

How do I avoid alienating them?

Work with them, not against them. Get their buy-in to changes, don't just come and do stuff because it's how you/the co-founder think it should be done even if you're right.

And for what it's worth, your co-founder is being pretty awful here in that he's massively undermining his managers by parachuting you in without their agreement. Tell him to talk directly to the people rather than using you to do his work for him in improving his organisation.

One last point: stop presenting this as that you're "consulting" for this team. You're telling them what to do, that's not consultation.

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    It isn't his fault, he basically trusted me to get the job done. But is my fault. This is good advice. I will reflect on this :)
    – user87777
    Nov 3 '20 at 20:18
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    Yeah, I'm reading his post and thinking. "Broccoli is good for you, but I wouldn't want it forced down my throat" Nov 3 '20 at 21:55
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TLDR

"A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still"

You made the cardinal mistake of forcing ideas on people without selling them first. This is typical of IT people who are so impressed by their own ideas, they forget that they have to sell them.

Let's break this down by what you said

I share friendly relationship with the founders and single digit employee IDs and have gained their trust over the past few years where I built a lot of their build and release tooling and basic unit test infra.

You've demonstrated your value to the owners.

In the past year we realized that the QA in our company was essentially working non stop and on Saturdays to get stuff done.

You've identified a problem GOOD THING

This was because they had neglected to automate a lot of stuff and don't have proper tooling.

You've assigned blame, BAD THING

This is the point where you started to go off the rails. Nobody neglects to automate anything. In all likelihood, they were drowning under the workload and didn't have the TIME. You see, you went in with the wrong attitude.

So one of the co-founders, with whom I share a very close and personal friendship, asked me to take the learnings and processes we had developed coming with developer unit test tooling and tools in general and take it to the QA team to ease their burden a little.

Reread that, and see what you did wrong

"Ease their burden" does not mean dictate how things have to be and ignore their management. Anyone who has been in the workforce for more than 10 minutes knows about at least one bad idea that was forced on them.

But the top level managers in QA are very very resistant to incorporating change and I have a hunch they have instructed the lower level managers to either do lip service and blow me off or push back hard against the suggestions I have.

What have you done to overcome their objections/fears?

Also, why are you assuming bad faith action. Again, you're going in as an enemy instead of a friend.

Once I noticed 6 QA Engineers manually testing 10000 test cases on a Saturday and I insisted they automate it using a test harness I had written and today that component of testing is running smooth. On Monday their manager was furious that he had to view a harness report file instead of a hand formatted excel sheet and asked them to revert to the old tests.

So, you swung your weight around, circumvented their manager entirely, and then demanded they do things your way The manager was rightfully peeved that you kept him out of the loop entirely. That's a huge insult to the man.

I explained the situation to the co-founder who basically said everyone has to do what I said and automation is the way to go.

**You have the power, but zero respect right now. That is not a position you want to be in, as you have realized.

My problem is now everyone in the QA team looks at me as some sort of rank-puller

You are

I have a feeling they aren't doing what I said for the right reasons

They are not

I feel a little guilty forcing employees to do something they don't believe has a benefit.

You should

Also how do I communicate the fact that the managers in the QA team are basically enforcing some bizarre practices without throwing them under the bus?

YOU DON'T

Start by eating a bit of crow. Go down and apologize to the people.

Tell them that you shouldn't have insisted, and that you certainly shouldn't have pulled rank over their manager. Before you proceed, you need to mend some fences here.

GOING FORWARD

  • Dramatize your ideas, sell them to the people who are going to implement them.
  • Ask for feedback
  • Be prepared for questions
  • Have answers
  • Ask the team for improvement ideas
  • Engage the managers, get their input
  • SELL THE BENEFITS

People HATE to be forced to change, and will push back HARD if you do.

Your basic strategy here should be to get to know the team, including the managers, and talk to them, ask them why they think their old way was better. See if you can get ideas from them. Make them PART of the process, that way you are seen as an ally instead of an invader. Ask them what would make their lives easier, and then present your ideas to them as the way to make things go more smoothly.

Remember, getting the process done is only half the job, the other half is getting them to embrace it.

As you were charged to to "take it to the QA team to ease their burden a little." You've taken it to the team, but you haven't eased their burdon.

If they insist that their old way is better, then do a side-by-side run and let people pick sides. the side that finishes first, gets lunch on you or something like that.

Don't make this hard for them, let them embrace it, and be a friend to them, not an enemy

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  • Thanks, these are some very valid points. Also I had other reasons to assume the bad faith action, but that notwithstanding, your points are still very valid. :)
    – user87777
    Nov 4 '20 at 20:47
  • @user87777 Never assume bad faith, even if it is probably the case. Reason being it bleeds through and sours the relationship. If you assume good faith, and proceed from that point, if there is good faith, then you haven's soured it. If there is, in fact, bad faith, and you're the good guy, they'll look very very bad, and makes it easier to remove the troublemakers. Nov 4 '20 at 22:07

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