This post focuses on describing some of the challenges I've come across when managing the testing group, or in my case, getting aid from the developers to aid in testing. Being the only one with the title "Tester" in the company, we are still improving our processes and sometimes end up delivering faster than thought. In my humble 1 year and 4 months of working, I have come to realise more and more the importance of working as a team for one common goal, the mindset when approaching any task, and understanding the processes by being part of the process than delegating. Understand that these are only 3 ways to improve your testing group - these should act as a guide to improve your own test process, as I've spoken to a few testers in other companies, no 2 companies have the same style of testing.
Remove negativity - Mediocrity is a self-fulfilling prophecy
Research suggests that how people perceive reality is influenced by their motives, emotions, and expectations. The self-fulfilling prophecy is one of the main drivers and is defined as when one person causes his or her own belief (positively or negatively) about something to become true. Rosenthal found that one reason disadvantaged students may perform poorly in school is because that is what their teachers expect of them. This can also become a larget problem through a process of accumulation, like a domino effect, one person's negativity it will spread.
Negativity is not isolated. Tony Schwartz, CEO of The Energy Project and Harvard Busness Review Blogger shared how unhealthy contagion spread quickly through his company after hiring a new executive. He states "Soon after settling in, he began (the new executive) to share his concerns with me, and at first, I appreciated his input". Schwartz continues by saying that the new executive told him that people were taking advantage of him and did not appreciate what they had at the company and encouraged Schwartz to be tougher. This resulted in Schwartz beginning to feel more anxious and suspicious - this resulted in the productive culture and happy atmosphere to seep away.
Schwartz eventually realised, through conversations with other employees, the toxicity was created and spread by one person and that one person got fired. It is important to know that, Schwartz himself did not even recognise what was happening until the damage was done.
This was a strong reminder to everyone that negativity can have a significant impact on the emotional state of the people that work for the company and the overall work environment. Have a look at this page to avoid catching bad emotions.
In testing, if you eliminate creativity by dehuminizing your process, making your staff feel as if they are cogs in a machine, evaluate your staff using numbers that don't reflect their creativity and personal judgement THEN don't expect them to speak up on matters of principle, design tests to find critical bugs, and don't work happily through the night when that project that will clinch a client to sign, and finally, don't expect them to stay for much longer.
Treat your team as executives
Peter Drucker, dubbed the father of management theory, knows a thing or two on productivity in the workplace. In one of his books, The Effective Executive, he states that an executive is anyone who manages the value of her own time and affects the ability of the organisation to perform. This means that everyone in the company is an executive, a failure in the development team may result in a client not being able to sign because of a feature that's not been released or the release of a critical bug that ultimately puts the business down.
The Executive Tester
Testers are executives. When you've told them to test a certain part using the test plan you have laid out for them, don't supervise them as though they are factory workers and don't spend your time trying to make them work the way you want them to work. Accept and manage around the fact that each individual has different strengths, interests, perspectives, and weakensses
Evaluating your executives
First and foremost, bug counts are worthless. They do not measure the effectiveness of your team. They are demotivating and allow you to think that you know more than you actually know. When you are evaluating something, or looking at a situation, get into the socratic mindset of "The only thing I know is that I know one thing; that I know nothing"
Here are some suggestions that you can do to appraise the work of your testing executives:
- Read their bug Reports
- Read their Test Documentation
- Collect comments from stakeholders who interact with them
The information you get from this will give you a richer picture of the work your staff and the situation of the project. Some things can not be measured by numbers. Imagine giving your tester a scorecard and rating them on each of the bullet points (don't forget to add more). This scorecard would show a pattern of strengths and weaknesses of the process as a whole. With this information, you'll be able to come up with a plan to improve the process rather than shrugging away responsibility by giving it to someone else.
To understand what’s happening, test with your testers
Working in a startup as the only tester, I've heard time and time again that "A good manager delegates". I agree with the concept as I understand that I simply do not have enough time to test everything to achieve deadlines. Also, with the countless numbers of testing possibilities, you will have to figure out how to prioritise the tests you do.
What is your goal?
One cloudy day in London a whileback, I was told to give my test plan to a developer and not test at all. These words have fallen on deaf ears, I wanted to actively participate in the process. A few hours later, I had a catch up with the developer that is testing, asking him how his day is going and how's he finding the testing. The developer mentioned how he would not be able to run through all the test cases in time for the deadline if it was just him. I immediately jumped on the case and aided him in sharing the workload - we found minor bugs along the way, released on time, and most importantly worked as a team.
The Light in The Dark
In my previous post, I talk about the tester being the light in the dark. When we have a goal in mind, we need to set objectives. As humanly possible, we try to account for multiple scenarios that might come our way, It is impossible to think that there will be no trouble ahead. The tester's role is to find information along the way so the team can make better decisions to reach that goal
Find Issues quickly, resolve issues quickly
One of our core missions, finding bugs that are important quickly. It is your job as the tester to inform the stakeholders that threatens the value of the product and the release. Test the core functionality works before looking at the new function. Test the items of higher-impact rather than testing items of lower impact. Whatever you find, let the team know about it.