Wednesday, December 14, 2016

All people are decision makers

I was testing a new implementation to an old feature, and as a new person, figuring out what of the old is intentional and what is new. On many of the questions I would ask I got told "it has always been this way, and it's ok". I chose not to fight - I made an active decision not to care.

The reason I could decide not to care is that I know there will be more chances of addressing that particular detail. I knew that soon, I will rally together a group of "real users" to learn with on if things I think are relevant are indeed relevant. And changing it then and changing it now are really not that big of a difference. The users seeing a problem (and feeling they got heard) may just be more valuable than users never seeing that problem.

I make decisions all the time. I decide on what I test and what I don't test. I decide on what I learn in detail, and where gut feeling or plain ignorance is sufficient. I decide what information to fight for and when. I decide how hard I will fight.

There's an expression in the testing community that really ticks me off but I most often just try to dismiss it:
Testers are not decision-makers but information providers.
All people are decision-makers. But very few of us make big decisions alone. The big decisions (like a release after a two-year project) depend on the small decisions prior done well enough.

I'm a tester and I regularly and habitually make decisions on releases. Those decisions tends to be small in scale, because since agile, the world has changed. Should the testing community reassess more of the shared learnings from time before agile?



  1. I wonder where that expression, literally as you wrote it, came from. I hear a slightly different version, and I agree with it.

    1. @Newton - I think it came from a tweet about a workshops I ran yesterday, but it appears Maaret has responded to the tweet out of context. Context should probably have been clarified first before the post...

      In the workshop were talking about testers being gatekeepers of the product being released. A tester implied that they were the ultimate decision maker of whether the product should be released or not... That he had ultimate power over what software is live. I said this statement as the key stakeholder on that project is actually the decision maker.

      In other contexts I'd agree with Maaret that everyone makes decisions. It's obvious that we all make decisions every day. And regarding releases we should be advising and offering our opinions and we can even influence other peoples decisions too. And someone might delegate the power of making decisions about releases to us, but we shouldn't assume that power just because we are testers.

    2. It comes from a continuous discussion around testers not making decisions, in particular about releases. I disagree. Testers make release decisions either intentionally or accidentally and either together with others than alone. I choose intentional and together over accidental and alone.

  2. As with most expressions, there is a whole heap of context that is missing. When I read that statement I think about the BIG decisions that you call out, as I believe it is a 'given' that everyone makes decisions, all the time.

    A problem that I see all too often is people taking a small expression like that literally. I think we're smarter than that.

    1. A big decision is a collection of small decisions. The context is in the ability to split that. We miss contexts all the time, like saying that testers don't make release decisions. I do, and I am a tester.

  3. Hey All,

    I think, ultimately we are focusing on one important thing which is "Assessing and deciding on, to release or not to release a product with the perceived quality to the Customer, while that perceived quality has some problems from tester's perspective". Right?

    I believe and experienced that, practically, both perspectives (Decision making and information providing) are necessary and related, either in agile or non-agile projects. Because, While, decision making gives you confidence; understanding others decision (may be different than yours even when based on your information) will help you in understanding your biases and may be theirs as well.

    I don't work on Agile teams but yes, I think I begin to understand what agility is. Responding and collaboration are interesting characteristics for agility. Maaret's case study (I call it case study), when I find (& duly evaluated) an anomaly and someone says, 'It has always been that way', then it is his / her problem arose from some level of 'Ignorance' or 'Resistance'. Why should I trust this statement? I have enough information with me to persuade and educating him / her on 'ignorance’ (of a certain level) which caused her to understand a bug as a feature or vice versa.

    My first response would be to advocate a risk and its adverse impacts, If I have evaluated a significant (or potential) risk for customer satisfaction, org's reputation, support cost etc. when a feature is not working the way it is supposed to or it was kind of a "Sleeping Bug". I can make a decision to fight and I will fight for a right cause only after analysing how that fight would help in addressing or mitigate significant risks to and (may be) wining opponent’s respect as well?

    I, should also make a decision to provide this information to key stakeholders (powerful and influential). Then approach towards an ‘understanding' of their perspective on how they make a decision and judge if that is persuasive and helps me in learning something new about the project, its context? In my view, such fights and decision making and even information providing activities are fundamentally evolutionary in nature when they are done with good intentions and careful actions. They help in building trust; over the time; in tester’s integrity, competency and capabilities.

    What do you think?