Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mixed messages - learning to live with it

I was working with a brilliant tester, and she looked puzzled. "I don't really understand what you want. Can't you just make up your mind?", she exclaimed. She added details: "Last week, you wanted me to pay attention to not generating too many bug reports the developers would reject. This week, you want me to address bugs with developers that they wouldn't consider bugs with their current understanding."

I could see she was frustrated and hoping for a clear guidance. But I did not have it any more than she did. But I started to see her point. She was looking for a recipe to excel in the work she was doing. I did not believe there was a recipe you could follow, but there were all sorts of triggers to consider for trying out something different - experiment intentionally and see how the dynamics changed.

What we could get out of the discussion about what we were discussing, she could only add one piece to her understanding: things would never be completely clear, they would be changing as either one of us would learn and she could just do whatever she believed was right. It was her work, her choice.

As software professionals (and testers in particular), we get mixed messages and conflicting requirements. We work around them the best we can. Outsourcing clarify from a "manager" is one of the worst practices I can imagine for someone doing thinking work.

Take in conflicting information. And make your own choices. And remember: it's ok that not all your choices are right. Unlearning is sometimes more important than learning something in the first place.

"It depends on a context" is sometimes a comfort word we result in, when we feel there's a rationale that we can't express clearly. Right now I prefer to think of my lack of knowledge and experience in so many things that future yet holds as part of this context. We do things we believe are right and responsible. And we own both our successes and failures.