Lessons From Car Salesmen

Back in 1940, Chevrolet released a management training video called “Hired.”  You can view the second half at the beginning of the “Manos: The Hands of Fate” episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, or you can watch the entire video over that the Internet Archive.  If you are having problems getting your testers to perform, stop what you are doing and watch this video.  If you can’t watch it, I’ll sum up the points here with the terminology properly changed.

1. Hire observant testers, and then see that they are well trained on not only the platforms that they are going to be working on, but also on other platforms.  Knowledge of platform strengths and weaknesses can help an observant testers hypothesize where errors will be located.  Also have them test your competitor’s games.  Find the errors that they made and let slip through so you won’t have the same problems in your games.

2. Be sure that your testers have all of the equipment and testing tools that they need, and that they know how to use those tools.  Every platform has a wide array of testing tools available.  Your PC testers need to know how to use Process Explorer and Process Monitor at a minimum.  Both Microsoft and Sony provide a large range of testing tools for their platforms, although the documentation leaves a lot to be desired.  Learn them yourself and then train your testers on their use.

3. Help them plan their work to make the most effective use of their time.  As a lead, you should know about the architecture of the program and should be able to help them ensure that not only are they testing the entire feature, but that they are minimizing their efforts at retesting portions that have already been tested either by themselves or others during that test pass.  As a manager, you should be able to pick up on patterns in how a tester works that could be inefficient or scattershot and help them improve their testing abilities.

4. Stay in close touch with every tester.  Know what each one is doing.  Work with them.  Because testing is such a high turnover profession, we have very little in the realm of legacy knowledge.  Work with them not only to pass on the knowledge that you have, but to harvest the knowledge that they have gleaned themselves so that if they leave you can pass it on to the next generation of tester.

5. Keep up their enthusiasm.  Encourage every tester every day.  Very few jobs are harder on the psyche than being the bearer of bad news.  Not only that, but testers work long hours for little pay and often have little chance of career advancement or permanence.  It’s hard to keep them motivated, but recognizing accomplishments can go a long way.  Calling out when someone tracks down a difficult severity 1 bug, noticing when someone passes a major bug milestone on a project, celebrating team bug milestones, all of these are simple, effective ways of maintaining morale in a department that isn’t usually known for it.

But please, if you want to keep their morale up, don’t show them “Manos: The Hands of Fate.”


  • As a long time QA person, and newly dubbed QA Manager this is very helpful! Each one of those points are a great, and when all are used together it would make for a skilled and motivated team that could garner some respect instead of disdain.

    At GDC this year, a Test Manager from MS named Anibal Sousa did a talk about skills, goals, motivation and how this pertains to becoming a better tester/running a better team. It was interesting (and motivating) to see the skill set of a good tester broken down from the generic to very specific.

    His docs are here: http://cid-8a0f8143ec26a4ff.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/Public/GDC2008

    P.S. – Thanks for the tool links, those are new ones to me. Have any tools that you know of for debugging Flash content?

  • Making a note here because I:
    Love this post and the video, which is surprisingly good to this day. The take-aways you mentioned are absolutely true, I wish more of the “poison testers” from the follow-up article could be helped with the mentoring.
    Also, I edited the title from “care” to “car”, since i assume that is what was intended, or I missed the point and I’ll change it back later.

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