Whom shall i serve?
A song, a hymn, or a reminder as to who our customers are? Who do we serve and why is that important?
During KWST#2 (June 2012, Wellington, New Zealand), the discussion about whom we serve came up.
Mostly, the answers tended to support the obvious conclusion (to me at least) that whom we serve could be:-
The project manager
The test manager
The test team
The project team
And these are all valid customers/people/organisations/groups that we give service to in some way. But there is one other element that sometimes we don’t consider…
Whom shall I serve? I think first and foremost it is ourselves. We are responsible for our own work, for our own ethics, our output, our own learning, our own interactions with others, our own interactions with other testers and our own interactions with the software testing community.
Sometimes we take a high degree of responsibility for one or some of these things and sometimes we don’t. What may be important is that we come to understand that we also serve ourselves and by seeing ourselves as a customer (if you will) then it allows us to appreciate who we are as a tester, what we can deliver, what skills we have and what we stand for.
Too often I have seen testers wilt in the face of criticism (and scrutiny for that matter) from management attempting to justify testing or test artifacts or activities. Knowing what we stand for gives us a moral ground to argue from. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that everything will be *perfect* because we are conscious of our position but at least we know our tipping point.
So how do you deal when reaching your tipping point?
Well, that does depend but some of the ways that I have used have been:-
- Educate those that may be pushing you towards your tipping point – (in my experience, it is typically a manager)
- Listen to those pushing you to your tipping point - (it is possible that we don’t understand their context)
- Use your influence and credibility to help educate
- Employ a stealth approach – (one project I was on, the project wanted test cases (with expected and actual results) and use what they saw as structured testing. While we spent time giving them what they wanted, the majority of the issues during test execution came, not from the test cases, but from an undeclared exploratory approach. OUR plan of attack became give the customer what they wanted, educate them along the way and use good exploratory testing to find valuable information *quickly*. The test cases in this instance were our checks, the exploratory test charters, our tests. The stealth here was from discerning the clients context,employing what became a blended approach and not necessarily letting management know that this is what was happening.)
- Leave - (this is most likely the extreme option but sometimes it is more beneficial to/for you to leave a project/employer/organisation than having to adhere to rules that may not make sense. I have done this, it was a challenge but I’m glad I did it.)
So, whom do we serve? Ourselves first (it’s not as selfish as it may seem) and then those mentioned above. Putting ourselves first means that we are taking responsibility for the quality of our own work which means in turn, we are better placed to serve our customers.