Testing Hybrid; Moving at all levels

From where I am standing, maneuvering the land of Quality requires an individual that has the ability to adapt to any given situation. You should be able to deal with the fallout left behind by a complicated old world and have the ability to master the complex swirl of events around you in the new world.

When Alexander the Great was confronted with the knot tied by King Gordius, Alexander knew what to do. He accepted the challenge without hesitation, and the complexity of the knot did not discourage him. He drew his sword and cut right through the knot with a single stroke, thereby ensuring that he would rule Asia. Many before him had tried and failed; their mistake was to think that the knot was complicated and needed to be untied. Only Alexander saw that a simple action would move through the complexity to allow him to reach a higher goal. Untying your own Gordian knots require nothing more than common sense….

As a Consultant, I coach and facilitate the process of building & improving enterprise testing capabilities around the globe.  I have seen lots of good intentions fail, not because of bad will or lack of knowledge, but typically because we created a world that is filled with both complicated and complex processes.  Too often we think that it is too simple to apply common sense in order to untie them. So we fail.

As Citizens in the land of testing we need to be able to handle both the complicated and the complex and be able to create coherence that to others will look like common sense. Easy peasy, right?

No, not really.

Leadership in Test Management is a challenge. As a community we are mostly looked upon, by the outside world, as geeks trying to break the system or to be hunting for defects. We talk a strange language and are typically concerned and not the most positive bunch of the project team. We are often put in a corner and forgotten about only to be involve too late in the game….

Another perspective could be that our objective is to be ensuring that changes implemented are fit for purpose and that everything works as intended once implemented into the Business Blue print. However this perspective requires a slightly different approach. Take a look at the list below; where do you think that you spend most time?[1]

The Manager; The Leader;
administers Innovates
is a copy is an original
maintains Develops
focuses on systems and structure focuses on people
relies on control inspires trust
has a short-range view has a long-range perspective
asks how and when leader asks what and why
has his or her eye always on the bottom line has his or her eye is on the horizon
imitates Originates
accepts the status quo challenges it
classic good soldier is his or her own person
does things right does the right thing

I bet you that you spend most of your time being the Test manager and very little time being the leader…

Once there was a time when the task of the manager and that of the leader could be separated. Times are changing and we now know that the task at hand is much more complex and we can’t really be one or the other. We have to embrace both roles and, with a preference towards being the leader. And it is your responsibility that this happens, you need to rise to the challenge and start leading.

I know that this is difficult because that there isn’t enough time set aside for the Test Manager to also being the leader. Or is there?

Nowadays value comes from the knowledge of people, and workers are no longer identical cogs in an machine, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose. Do you do that?

And managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but also to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results. How well do you do this?

The late management guru Peter Drucker was among the first to identify the emergence of the “knowledge worker,” and the differences that would guide in the way business was organized.

With the rise of the knowledge worker, “one does not ‘manage’ people, the task is to lead people. And the goal is to make strengths and knowledge of every individual productive.”

To add to the complexity you are also required to have the ability to communicate in a distributed environment with language barriers and cultural differences based on different value systems. Shaking your head in India means yes and no in most other countries. Addressing someone by their first name in Germany is not comme il faut but okay at all levels in a Scandinavian organization. An American who continually repeats your name to a person from Scandinavia could be perceived as being told off for being wrong.

Cultural diversity creates new dynamics in teams and organizations. This has been confirmed by several studies. Other studies shows that that diversity in organizations also impacts bottom line in a positive manner. Unfortunately, statistics also says that it can take up to 17 weeks before a multi-cultural team will begin working efficiently due to cultural differences. This is especially true if the cooperation is primarily virtual.

17 weeks to become a truly effective working team…

Most projects team don’t even have that long to deliver that requested change!

Due to the lack of time and resources we are focused on management skills and ignoring leadership skills.

We know that what we are dealing with is complex but we treat it as being complicated

Back to the polished floors of the divine halls where the executive team resides, how do we make them see the value of the UA team early engagement in the change they want to introduce into the estate infrastructure?

We start communicating common sense, we start talking money; cost against failed operation, not number of defects! We need to talk leadership-speak, put up signposts for them to look to. We, you and I, we need to talk their kind of language, not nerd or geek language.

Do you dare to be like Alexander the Great, take and demonstrate leadership by applying common sense to you test management skills? Start to focus on what is required by the business for the business and stop making it complicated. I can assure you that there are huge values and loads of money to be saved.

Welcome to My Talking Stick. Together we will explore what it really means to be a true testing hybrid. A few mind blowing and life changing things might also be explored.

[1] Warren Bennis book “On Becoming a Leader