A reader writes:
I need advice on discussing work quality with my manager, but it’s our department’s collective work quality that I have a problem with. After 20+ years as a software engineer in a large variety of industries and companies, I am now an IT business analyst on a team that does back-end software, not client facing. I am very familiar with the business concept that quality only has to be good enough, not gold-plated, so that’s not my issue. My issue is that my team has a very immature sense of what constitutes “good enough.” They use excuses for putting out poor quality: it’s not client-facing so doesn’t have to be pretty, everybody here has a technical background so it doesn’t have to be easy to use, etc.
Over the year and a half that I’ve worked here, I’ve watched very carefully for indications of what the other departments think of us and our work. Everybody is diplomatic, but I clearly see that they think we’re “THAT team” — the team that’s hard to work with, that doesn’t document our systems, etc. So I’m pretty sure my feelings about our work are justified — we could do better! And as the person who gathers requirements and interfaces between my developers, the quality assurance folks, and the business folks, I feel this also reflects very poorly on me professionally. I’m very embarrassed by our software.
How do I convince my manager that we need to improve? I know I need to couch it in terms of how we could be better and be as positive as possible. I’ve tried, but he keeps using those poor excuses. I’ve tried using my work to improve things surreptitiously, for example by writing better documentation, but feel thwarted in that, too. They design the software for their own convenience, users be damned.
How do I discuss this with my manager without making him defensive? So far, our 1-1 sessions have been entirely him coaching me on how to be a good business analyst as if I was fresh out of school.
You can read my answer to this question over at the FastTrack blog by Intuit QuickBase today.