As Halloween wrapped up last evening I was inundated with the good ‘ole Trick or Treat carol kids sing at the door. You know the one… “Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet, Give Me Something Good to Eat!”. There are likely several variations on that theme.
All the chanting got me thinking, tricks and treats are not limited to Halloween. In fact I believe there are numerous examples of both within our software testing community.
There are fantastic examples of treats. For me these include folks who are passionate about the progress and global understanding of software testing. They are focused on making positive contributions to the craft in concert with their own continual learning. They focus on testing as a service and enhancing their methods in order to provide a greater service. They have an appreciation for context and the need for adaptability. They understand the relativity of quality and value for their customers. They value and respect the creativity and individuality of their peers. They are able to articulate what they stand for and welcome the opportunity to debate and discuss their perspectives.
Unfortunately, there are far too many folks who through their actions and behaviors appear to be tricks. For me these include folks who are promoting the standardization of our craft and limiting the global understanding of software testing to be non-sapient and mundane. They seem to believe that through the definition of more standards and “best practices”, that we can simplify and eliminate the problems of software quality. They appear to have a limited or non-existent understanding of context or adaptability. They seem to be able to quantify and qualify both quality and value; irrespective of customers or context. They show limited value or respect for individuality; emphasizing the value of certification and cloning of testers. They appear to have limited ability to articulate what they stand for and even less willingness to debate their position.
Unfortunately the tricks of the software testing community do not only appear one night of the year or in crazy costumes. Perhaps even more frustrating, it is going to take more than turning off the porch light to make them go away.
Yesterday I came across an article and was reminded again how difficult adaptation can be for some folks. In this instance, a test manager was struggling to fit his traditional testing approaches into an agile framework. Now skipping the debate on how or what should be adapted in this particular scenario, what I find interesting is how securely folks hold to their old, comfortable ways.
Consider the transition you make every time you join a new team, a new project, a new organization. The context of this new situation can be dramatically different than your past experiences. How does that influence your actions, behaviors and methods? Many of us begin by implementing our seemingly “tried and true” methods. While this is certainly a reasonable starting point, the frightening part is what often happens next.
For some folks, the effectiveness of their methods in the context of their new situation is seemingly irrelevant. It is as though they have blinders on, racing ahead with little or no awareness to their relationship with or impact on their surroundings (aka system; see Jerry Weinberg’s Book An Introduction to General Systems Thinking). It is a case of forcing a round peg into a square hole, or perhaps a less extreme version is a round peg into an oval shaped hole. Either way the effectiveness is reduced and the person is still forging ahead.
Awareness is an important factor in reducing these circumstances. This is true for both our new situations and those we are in currently. There needs to be an awareness to the effectiveness of our methods, the value we are providing, and a willingness to adapt. Sometimes the circumstances are such that there are serious flaws in the system we are working within. Even in these cases, forging ahead with methods you believe to be “right” will not be effective or perceived as valuable if there isn’t alignment with the rest of the system.
Over the years I have learned to welcome these opportunities to put aside the methods I know, and to stretch and grow. It is easy to be complacent and believe you have the game all figured out. The real challenge is maintaining the passion and commitment to continuously learn and adapt.
More posts to come on the topic of Value; its subjectivity, assessing your value and increasing your value. This is a topic I am passionate about and believe you should be too.