The wasted time

No, I am not talking about the time wasted before we told our beloved ones that “I love you”. Nor I am talking about the time wasted in picking the wrong route in your career and then correcting it later.

And yes, I am talking about the wasted time at workplace.

This is a vast subject and there have been enough studies on it which claim that 34% of respondents waste daily 30 minutes or so and the top reasons range from too many meetings to a bad boss. And though many believe that wasting people’s time is an ultimate sin that management can never afford yet we seldom take actions about it or even talk about it.

time-is-ticking

(the photo is taken from here: http://amostbeautifulrubyred-herestoanewme.blogspot.com/ )

This space being dedicated to the software testers and making their lives better, I did a small survey with few of my colleagues. My question was very simple:

“What is the average time you actually spend on testing out of your 8 hours daily work?”

The answers I got tells me that the time is approximately 5 hours which means that about 37% of time is “wasted” in terms of that Tester is busy with a “work” other than actual testing. The conversation also pointed out that the major culprits for this time wastage are testing related stuff including preparing test environments, generating test data, updating (useless) lengthy test documents and so on.

There has been separate discussion on this topic and they are also worth reading.

This sounded alarming to me and I thought to take it to a wider forum and do a survey on “wasted time in software testing”. Can you please help me by spending just 2 minutes of your precious time?

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/J6YZX3N

Let’s work together to bring this time back to Testers so that they test more and discover more!

15 thoughts on “The wasted time

  1. ‘Utilization’ of knowledge workers is a difficult concept. We are tempted to apply the same principles as we apply to manual labor (e.g. a person working a shift on factory floor). There is a correlation between the number of hours worker per day and productivity, but they are not proportional. A Knowledge Worker is a different breed. He mostly works in his head and cannot strictly follow the 9-5 regimen. We have to appreciate this distinction and treat knowledge workers differently. The worst thing we can do, in my opinion, is to ensure that the 8 hour workday for a Knowledge Worker is properly ‘utilized’. While he may be working 8 hours apparently, but his productivity may be hit as his style and flexibility of creative working is compromised and intervened.

    While keeping the above framework and distinctions in mind, it certainly is of interest and importance to ensure that the Knowledge Worker knows how to be efficient in addition to being effective. He should not waste time and his manager should even be more careful not to waste his. Distractions should be minimized, repeatable tasks should be automated or delegated and unnecessary work be eliminated. This becomes fundamentally a question of organizational culture first, and then individual Knowledge Worker’s habits. Unfortunately, the organizational culture trumps the individual’s habits, and can even make his habits worse by long exposure to bad cultural traits.

    The crux is that we have to first distinguish the Knowledge Worker from others, ensure that we are not too fixated on the model of ‘utilization’ or “Return of Investment per Hour”, provide the necessary environment and culture to reduce time wasters and finally train the worker to have better habits. Its a comprehensive and collective effort, not a linear approach.

    Ather Imran
    http://thinkingspirits.com

    • Thanks Ather for your thoughts. I am in total agreement on how to utilize work of Knowledge Worker and you know that :)

      The thought behind this post is the inherent nature of software testing job. Where a ‘Knowledge Tester’ is forced to do things that are of clerical nature and does not require much of brain power. These are the time that I consider wasted time and I would like a Knowledge Tester to apply his knowledge during testing. I think the data collection in number of hours is causing confusions but that is just needed to get some sense. The idea is the same that we need to move away things and build an environment for these Knowledge testers blossom.

      • Agreed! The clerical or overhead items are a problem for all knowledge workers, but I know its more for testers as such activities for a tester can potentially be more time-consuming (e.g., setting up VM, installations, ensuring that the right test environment exists). Its important for everyone, but specially the managers and executives, to ask the questions: “Is a knowledge tester required to carry out a particular task or can it be automated, delegated or eliminated?”. This may not generate all the answers but at-least put those who matter in the right perspective and mindset. I also agree that the time accounting needs to be done, as it provides some measurement (“You cannot improve what you cannot measure” and “Any measure is better than not measuring at all”). We just need to be mindful that its not treated as simple accounting or a directly proportional relationship by default (e.g. a tester working 8 hours on Monday should be able to get more quality work done than a tester working 7 hours).

  2. checkout the pomodoro technique and see how we can be productive ourselves with just some simple steps, show it to your friends so they can be productive too. :)

  3. Be careful. Time spent on other activities is not necessarily wasted. It might be wasted. The key, as I see it, is to watch how time is being spent; to decide whether it’s being wasted or not; and to adjust accordingly.

    • Thanks Micheal for your comment! I am now seeing this effort not as “wasted time in software testing”, rather “break up of time in software testing”.

  4. I agree, @Ather did put it very well in his comment.

    @Majd there will always be “kachra” work for you “elites”, so suck it up. :)

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