The Marcus Test: 12 Steps to Better Tech Leadership

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@marcusMarcus Blankenship

I help coders become skilled managers and leaders

In the year 2000, Joel Spolsky wrote The Joel Test, 12 questions to quickly measure a software team. Each question can have a simple yes/no answer, and it takes about 3 minutes to use. The Joel Test has been used to help programmers evaluate their own team, as well as teams they were interviewing at.

Today I propose The Marcus Test, a simple test to guage technical leadership. You can use it to measure your own team, or to measure a team you’re considering joining.

The Marcus Test

  1. Do you have consistent 1:1 meetings?
  2. Do programming managers code less than 20% of the time?
  3. Are the people who supervise programmers determining their team’s salary?
  4. Are bugs, technical debt and refactoring tracked and openly discussed?
  5. Are mistakes expected, and experiments encouraged, to allow the team to learn?
  6. Does management view refactoring as an important part of the process?
  7. Are ideas accepted from anyone, not just from “appointed experts”?
  8. Does the team re-estimate work regularly?
  9. Does the team influence hiring decisions?
  10. Are poor performers dealt with effectively?
  11. Can developers interact with users/customers?
  12. Is the QA team integrated with developers?

Each question is a simple YES/NO question. Score a point for each YES.

Like the Joel Test, scoring 12 is perfect, and 11 is tolerable. But 10 or below and you’ve got problems.

Disagree? Did I miss something? Leave a comment below.


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