Monday, May 16, 2016

Explore a world without roles

I find that there might be a connection of the loud "role of a tester" discussion and messages like this that make us realize we are not as irreplaceable as we'd like to think.
It is very much same as the discussion I had after my session at AATC with one participant. High-level managers are looking at their organizations quality-related problems and coming to the conclusion that the highest priority change is to fix the source of badness, and testers as sin-eaters (a phrase I picked up from Jesse Alford) are part of a problem.

The tester-profession, on the other hand, has been trying to figure out value and role, to a point where it feels like rallying a campaign that has long ago lost it's focus and gotten lost on talking about role, not the problem we're trying to solve with a role.

I believe that in the greater scale of things, removing entire testing departments is good. One of the reasons I think this is good that looking at the ISTQB number of 500 000 testers, I've already seen my fair share of testers who just provide no value. There's also a fair share that do provide value, but there's more of testing value that developers can deliver than testers seem to give them credit for.

Removing the department of testing in the first phase wakes up the developers. They find ways. They will improve. I find it is often easy to become better than what you were with the separation with weak testers and weak collaboration.

But also, it gives the room for the new kind of testing to emerge. There will be things that the teams feel challenged with. And they will find people with exploratory testing mindset to fill in some of those gaps. They might want, primarily, that people with the mindset will also be able to code. Some get what they want and end up never using the programming ability to directly.

I'm growing tired of the focus on the tester profession as sub-optimization we're selling. I see the real-life problems with sub-optimizing testing, focusing on testing metrics over great products.

So I just want to explore this further: could there be other questions and approaches that would serve us better in creating the perfect world of software, where the special skills and abilities could come together than sticking to roles? 

4 comments:

  1. "High-level managers are looking at their organizations quality-related problems and coming to the conclusion that the highest priority change is to fix the source of badness, and testers as sin-eaters (a phrase I picked up from Jesse Alford) are part of a problem."

    High-level managers who have probably never tested. They're too busy with their MBAs, trying to find ways to cut staffing costs. I doubt it has anything to do with software quality. Follow the money.

    "I believe that in the greater scale of things, removing entire testing departments is good. "

    Why? Where is the proof?

    "I've already seen my fair share of testers who just provide no value. There's also a fair share that do provide value, but there's more of testing value that developers can deliver than testers seem to give them credit for."

    How many developers have I seen over the years who do nothing but create lousy code and defects? And still, they are able to keep their jobs as long as they show up for 8 hours a day.

    "Removing the department of testing in the first phase wakes up the developers. They find ways. They will improve. I find it is often easy to become better than what you were with the separation with weak testers and weak collaboration."

    Where is the proof that removing a testing department wakes up developers? Where are the studies?

    "But also, it gives the room for the new kind of testing to emerge. There will be things that the teams feel challenged with. And they will find people with exploratory testing mindset to fill in some of those gaps. They might want, primarily, that people with the mindset will also be able to code. Some get what they want and end up never using the programming ability to directly."

    Development managers hate exploratory testing. They don't understand it. All they want are cookie cutter coders and "automaters", preferably "off shore" in a very cheap country. They have an immense disdain for testers, just like they have an immense disdain for technical writers, and business analysts. And they largely have an immense disdain for end users. They are, largely, myopic narcissists.

    "could there be other questions and approaches that would serve us better in creating the perfect world of software, where the special skills and abilities could come together than sticking to roles?"

    You need to rethink the whole base of your argument here.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry your experiences of managers and their ideas and intentions are so much more negative than mine. After I learned that everyone does good things from their perspective, I've struggled less.

      Remember, I'm a test department of one. Actually, not a test department at all. And I'm seeing very much success in my scale with developers being really good at testing.

      I too have, over the years, seen devs who do nothing but create lousy code and defects. And I've seen them be worse when there's testers around. And I've seen them not improve with or without testers. I've been part of firing people, both testers and developers. But I believe, from experience, that majority of developers I've worked with are bad only for environmental conditions. And that's what I'm seeing in my current job: brilliance, when environmental conditions are addressed.

      I don't try to prove this. I don't need to rely on research. I don't need to be responsible of a common theory, I have every right to report on just my experiences. I welcome a researcher to see what we're doing. But wait: having been a researcher I know they only come if we pay part of their costs. Research is heavily biased on problems, not working teams. Why would I want to pay their fees if I had nothing their research results should change?

      If your managers hate exploratory testing, I'm sorry. Mine don't. Mine volunteer to mob with me on testing, and are part of our paired sessions even more regularly.

      Imagine a better world, and you might find you have one.

      On rethinking the argument: I think it might not be something I need to do.

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  2. I think we need to move away from roles in general, not just the tester role. Skills and competencies trump roles.

    I'm on a test team, but we work more as part of the delivery teams. As a test team, certainly we discuss quality and testing issues, and think of experiments to chip away at problems. However we are more likely to address quality and testing issues as the cross-functional delivery team.

    We are only 3 testers on a team with over 20 programmers, so there's no way we can test each and every story that gets delivered. One main value we add is holding on to the "big picture" and representing the customer perspective when the team is discussing designs, when we have "three amigos" meetings, in iteration planning meetings. Another is exploratory testing at the feature level.

    However we see one of our biggest jobs is helping the programmers improve their own exploratory testing skills and do a better job of TDD and BDD by better understanding what the customer wants and capturing that in tests that guide coding.

    I've seen that "sin-eating" over and over. Knowing they have good testers does make a lot of developers lazy. We have to keep working as a whole team to deliver the value and quality customers and our company need.

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  3. Hi Maaret,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I maintain that the future of testing is about skills and collecting skills and not about titles or collecting titles.

    The more skills we can bring to a team or organisation, the more value we can provide. This also means other skills outside testing.

    So to stay valuable and relevant, start collecting skills!! Titles are a false economy.

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