Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Forgetting what Normal Looks Like

Today I reached 2 years at my current job that I still very much love. There's been mild changes to what I do by changing my title from "Lead Quality Engineer" to "Senior Manager", that shows up mostly in whole team volunteering more easily to do testing tasks and enable testability without me asking any differently than before. There are a few reasons why I love my job that I can easily point to:
  • We have team ownership of building a better product. No product owner thinks for us, but some business people, sales people and customers think with us. From an idea to implementation and release, we've seen timeframes in days which is very unusual. 
  • It's never too early or too late to test. Choosing a theme to give feedback on, we can work on that theme. With the power in us as a team, the tester in me can make a difference.
  • We can do "crazy" stuff. Like kick out a product owner. Like not use Jira when everyone else worships it. Like pair and mob. Like take time for learning. Like have a manager who closes eyes to push the stupid approve button that is supposed to mean something other than "I acknowledge you as a responsible smart individual who can think for themselves". Like get the business managers to not book a meeting but walk in the room to say hi and do magic with us. Like pull work, instead of being pushed anything. 
  • We are not alone, not stuck and generally people are just lovely even if there is always room for making us flow better together.
Living a life on the edge of "crazy" to some is fascinating when people don't all have the same past experiences. In particular, in last months we have had new people join who have brought in their past experiences from very different kinds of ways of working: with daily meetings, detailed Jira tickets, thinking for the developer, etc. 

I've been experimenting with finding a better, more fun way so long that I start forgetting what normal looks like. Today I found some appreciation for it. 

At almost two years in the job, I finally started a "Jira cleanup" about two weeks ago. I edited our team query to define what belonged to us: anything marked for the team, and anything marked for any of us that belonged in the team. All of a sudden for those few who had cared for the list based on their past experiences, realized that the list was much more significant that they had realized. About 120 items. We called for an old rule: all other work will wait until we are below 50. We didn't get to it though. Some people cleaned some of things up. Others were busy working on other things. 

Instead of one on one clearing of the personal lists, we called a workshop to share the pain of cleaning the lists. I had no idea what I might be learning with the workshop. 

I learned that half of the people had not used Jira beyond the "look at this individual ticket" use case. Seeing what was on the whole team list - a new experience. Seeing that you can drag-and-drop stuff like post-its - a new experience.  Marking a case into a state or assigning it to a person - a new experience. 

Even with the Jira avoidance I advocate for (fix and forget immediately, track themes on a physical whiteboard) I had not come to understand that I might have missed sharing a basic set of skills for a group of people coming to us from elsewhere, with other expectations of what it would mean.

A healthy lesson of remembering that what is obvious to me may not be such to others. And that building complex things on lessons that are not shared might make less sense to those with less experimentation experiences under their belt.