Friday, 25 June 2010

Testers are the bearers of Bad News

I read an interesting blog by James Christine yesterday (24-06-2010) ( in which organizations which promote a positive/good news culture could be doing themselves harm by trying to encourage people not to report any bad news and how dangerous this is. I loved the alternative take on this and it got me thinking about a blog post I intended to do about how testers are perceived as the bearers of bad news and how we could change this perception. The article by James has spurred me to put the blog together.

I have an amateur interest in psychology and human behaviour and as such I am fascinated by reading articles in which as a person we can learn to adjust our outward persona to help benefit ourselves and those around us. For example Beth Lane wrote an interesting article on perception checking:

From such a small article I learnt a lot about myself and how others may perceive me. I use many methods to ensure I can communicate with others to the best of my ability. I apply this to my job as a software tester (note homage to Michael Bolton here not a QA -

I try to have a good working relationship with software engineers/developers/programmers (still struggling with what these highly talented people want to be known as) since most of the time I go and speak to them it is to say something is not working or it has crashed.

I had an eureka moment one day and took a step back to see why the relationship between the testing team and the software development teams were fragile and highly strained. I put myself in the shoes of the development team and how they perceived the testing team I asked the team how they felt about the testers and the responses I received all seemed to have a common ground.

‘I get a feeling of here we go again whenever a testers phones or comes to see me’

‘I dread it when a tester comes to see me’

‘They are always complaining that something does not work’

‘They only phone me when something goes wrong’

It got me wondering about how as testers we could improve this critical relationship and form a much better relationship. I thought that if everyday the same people are visiting/phoning me and giving me bad news I would soon develop a negative perception of those people.

So what can be done to change this?

I decided to try something a little different – someone once said from small acorns mighty oaks grow. I decided that instead of phoning or visiting the software development team when I had a problem I found the time to go and visit and ask how their weekend was or how the family is or what they thought of such and such in the news just a general chit-chat. One important thing I made sure I never did was to start to talk about general things and then say ‘Oh by the way … such and such does not work’ I cannot emphasize enough NOT to do this. My reasoning behind this was to build up a relationship and stop the feeling of dread when I turned up that something was wrong again.

The effect of this was amazing, the development team soon started to say hey have you seen this we are working on and start to talk with a passion about what they were working on. From a testing viewpoint this is valuable knowledge gathering. The attitude of the development team changed, when I did contact the team with a problem or something was wrong they would listen, emphasize and take a real interest in the problem rather than just dismiss it. The relationship between the teams improved tremendously.

So to conclude as a tester you do not need to always be the bearer of bad news to the development team. Take an interest in them as a person, take an interest in their lives and what they enjoy, take the time to learn about the people you work with. The benefits could be outstanding.

A word of caution on this – it has to be genuine – you really do need to be interested when you are talking to people about their personal lives. Otherwise you will come across as being cynical and shallow. If this happens then I am afraid you will cause an even bigger resentment and maybe even hatred of you.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Training in India

I recently ran an exploratory testing workshop in India and I thought I would blog about this experience.

There are many differing views about Indian software development teams, some which are unfounded and some that are characteristics of the working style of Indian teams.

From my experience of working with many different teams around the world the statement above can really be applied to any team no matter where they are in the world how people interact and their style of working is dependent on their culture and way of working.

The workshop I was running had a lot of interaction and required engagement from those attending otherwise it is hard to gauge if the audience understands what you are trying to deliver. I was worried due to what I had been informed about the culture within India that there would be little if any engagement and everyone would agree with what I was saying, even if what I was saying was wrong. (I like to set little traps in my presentations and say things which anyone in testing will know is stupid and start a debate.)

I remembered an article that Jon Bach had written about his viewpoint on working with Indian testers and how he ended up making an apology. ( This article was KEY in how I ended up presenting the workshop to the teams in India.

So taking on board the lessons Jon had learnt I started to change my presentation a little to become more personal more about who I was rather than what I was trying to deliver.

I changed the start of the presentation and included a lot of personal information about myself including photos which I had of my family. When I started to run the workshop I explained that this was just an approach, a possible way of working I was not going to say to anyone attending that this is how you MUST do things and if you disagree with anything I am saying then please let me know. I then spent the next 20-30 minutes explaining about myself and my family. I think that this part was the key element – the need to reach out to the India team on a personal level, family in India culture is very important (Joint Family). I talked about our daughter and granddaughter coming to live with us when her husband was away for six months with the army and lots more. I then asked people attending to talk about themselves and their families. Suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed it become more relaxed and people appeared more receptive.

Can this one little change make such a difference?

So I begin delivering the workshop and found the engagement and interaction of those attending to be amongst the best I have come across whilst I have been delivering this workshop. There was passion, interaction, thoughtful questions and in some cases surprising answers. In my opinion it was one the best workshops I have ever been involved with.

Was I just lucky?

If I had not changed the start of the presentation would I have still ended up with the same reaction and interaction?

I cannot really say since I have no comparison – this was a one chance to deliver to a team in India, I was on a tight schedule, so it was important to get it right.

I really must say a big thank you to Jon Bach, since without reading about his experience I think I would have blindly gone and presented and not got the response I required nor would anyone have really learnt anything.

So the tip for anyone working or dealing with teams from India is to make sure you can engage with them on a personal level , open up and let people know who you really are.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The story of organizing a charity event.


I think I may have been a little remiss over the past couple of month by not updating my blog as much as I should be. I see posts by other great bloggers appearing every week or two but mine appear about once a month. I thought I would take time away from testing issues and blog the reason why I have not been as actively involved in the testing community as I would like to have been. This is a subject close to my heart and some may read and feel it is a little self indulgent however the cause IMO is more than worthwhile.

On Saturday 5th of June 2010 my wife and I organized in conjunction with the Amateur Poker Players League Europe (APPLE)

a poker tournament at the Prince of Wales Pub, Bishopstoke, Eastleigh to raise money for the Help for Heroes Charity.

Apart from running the main poker tournament we had a pool tournament, a raffle and various other fun events. The support of local business was outstanding and overwhelming they could not do enough to help and given the current economic climate it was extremely humbling It was a different story with the large companies who I shall not name here who were not interested at all so when you think you need to pop out to get a pint of milk or buy something try to think of your local community businesses first rather than the big uninterested corporations.

The reasoning behind this is that our son-in-law (Lance Corporal Matthew Wellington) who is in the Royal Engineers returned from his tour of Afghanistan. His role with the Royal Engineers is with the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal,) which as you can imagine is a highly dangerous and stressful job. He has a daughter who is now 2 years old and unfortunately has only seen her daddy for about 1 year of her life since this is Matthews’s second six month tour of Afghanistan within two years.

He has done his duty whilst the family at home, apart from the natural worry, felt helpless, so organized this day to help provide something back to those who are serving and the unfortunate ones who return injured. During his current tour he had to go through the trauma of losing some colleagues and a few who came back suffering from horrific injuries.

So you can imagine my wife Tracy and I had lots to organize and do, which took our minds away from the worry of our son-in-law whilst he was on tour, dreading watching the news and of hearing another member of the armed forces had been injured or killed. It has been a very stressful time and to be able to do something good has helped a great deal. At the end of the day the final amount we raised for this cause was over £1500.00 not bad for a single day event.

Part of this blog is to raise awareness of Help for Heroes and all that they do. They are not politically motivated and are doing a wonderful job and ensuring members of the UK armed forces are rehabilitated in an environment suitable for such heroes. SO if nothing else after reading this blog please visit the Help for Heroes website and maybe just maybe make a small donation.