Whom shall I serve?

Tweet - Mike Talks
Tweet – Mike Talks – KWST#2 – June 2012

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:-

Our employer(s)
The project manager
The developers
The business
The test manager
The test team
The project team
Our family

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…

Ourselves

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.

KWST#2 – Day 2 – some thoughts

Day 2 had  a different (positive) vibe and in part I think it was due to the solid first time experience reports by Katrina Edgar, Mike Ward and Mike Talks. All three gave reports that really highlighted some of the ethical challenges we face as testers in our day-to-day world.

Some of the thoughts as tweeted on day 2 were…

  • Testing based on rituals is NOT testing – [the blind adherence to a test tool or process or syllabus is NOT testing. Testing is a brain engaged activity]
  • Testers are there to report the truth, not the convenient truth – [Testing is about presenting the facts as they stand and not manipulating them to suit an agenda (for an example of the *truth* being misused see http://www.theaustralian.com.au/australian-it/states-health-payroll-change-was-adopted-untested/story-e6frgakx-1225888223958]
  • If challenging, is your reputation strong enough to withstand any ethical fall out?
  • As a tester have to look through the eyes of the people who matter. Those with whom we have a contract.

During discussion, the topic of agency came up and the point of who do we serve as testers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_agency )? This discussion brought a renewed energy into the room with Geoff Horne leading this. The question that was asked was…

Who do we serve?

Geoff stated…

We are engaged by an individual, and by the organisation behind the individual

Which is true to a point and from the perspective of the engagement between tester and *client*. However, I see the question from the perspective of the tester which is…

I serve myself first before any institution, as I’m responsible for my own ethics

In other words, as a tester, I am responsible for the ethics I hold and I carry. I am responsible for making sure that my house is in order first before the needs of the organisation are considered. At this point, the extension of what I consider ethical is extended to who I serve literally (or in Geoff’s case, from the perspective of the engagement) which are the people I work for/with and the organisation at large.  The discussion of agency and other ethics topics can be summed up quite nicely by a tweet by @NZTestSheep (aka Mike Talks)..

The great thing about an event like #KWST2 is how it challenges our models and maps, and we’re still processing it days afterwards

Learnings:

KWST takes a lot of organising and it is the detail that count such as…

  • A good venue (space, lighting etc)
  • Internet connection ( VERY helpful)
  • Appropriate twitter tag
  • The RIGHT people to invite [This year revealed some really good thinkers and it will be exciting to be working with them at future KWST conferences]
  • It can spawn off-shoots (like David Greenlee’s OZWST)
  • Facilitation is king – it takes practice, a firm hand and the ability to know when to let the conversation flow
  • Preparation before hand FROM everyone (and reminding everyone know that they are potential *speakers*)

Thank you for all those that attended KWST (see http://hellotestworld.com/ and http://martialtester.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/kwst2-what-a-ride/ and http://martialtester.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/kwst2-happy-snaps/ )

Thank you James Bach for your time in helping build a credible, professional, thinking community of testers down under and thank you software Education for your support in hosting KWST#2!

***EDIT: Much thanks must also go to Oliver Erlewein, Richard Robinson and Aaron Hodder for their drive and passion in prompting thinking, engaged testing especially here in Wellington, New Zealand. ***

Countdown – one week to KWST!

Just over one week to go until KWST – a thought leadership peer CONFERence like no other downunder. For those that may want to follow the twitter feedback, the #tag is #KWST2.

The theme is Ethical Challenges for Testers and the conference starts 15/16 June 2012.

There will be 20 test leaders from throughout New Zealand and Australia and really promises to be a special event – so stay posted!

Much thanks for this conference must go to James Bach for his time and willingness to help found KWST and for Software Education for bringing James out to New Zealand and for providing a place for software testing thought leadership to grow!