What’s coffee got to do with it!

For many years I have watched people using testing as a stepping-stone, either on their way into a career in IT or as the last stop before leaving the company. I have literally heard people say that once you are in testing you might just as well go looking for a new job.

I have listened to managers complain about the level of quality they get from testers and test managers, quality in terms of competences and that it is a huge problem that they move into and then out, not staying in testing.

Testers and test managers complaining about not receiving adequate training and having to do their job based on “on the job training”. No wonder they want to move on, seeing that everyone else in the organisation is getting proper training.

Why is it that we think that people who work in testing don’t need training, don’t need a career path, and don’t need to get paid a proper salary for their effort…..

When I say we I mean you, me and our management and the business that we work for. We are all in it together and have to take responsibility together and individually for our testing career.

I preach testing, I do!

I preach because I love what I am doing. And I take pride in it J

In my preaching, I try to level set the expectations by reflecting on very simple questions, who put man on the moon?

The answers that I get are many and vary but very seldom do I get the answer that I am looking for, simply because nobody considers it as being a valid answer.

Testers put the man on the moon, I know you are properly LOL, but the truth is that it was not the engineers, they built the rocket that took man to the moon.

The project manager, managed the built process the rocket, and it was not the developers either, they build the software that would monitor the engine.

It was not the business, they defined the requirements and the sponsor provided the money for the build of the whole thing.

The testers on the other hand made sure that it all worked according to the specifications and the rocket could bring man to the moon and back, If it hadn’t been for the tester finding all the defects that was developed form start to finish we would not be able to put a man on the moon.

Think about it, would you get on a plane if you knew that it hadn’t been tested?

So why is it that we don’t think of testing as a career path worth going down, but merely as a stepping stone?

One reason could be that a Project Manager on average is paid 45% more than a Test manager!

The Business Analyst is paid 35% more than the Test Analyst!

And the developer is paid 60% more than the Tester!

We all want to earn good money so that we can take care of ourselves and our loved ones, very few of us are philanthropists….

Howard Behar, former president at Starbucks says “it is not about the coffee, it is about the people, and the importance of putting people first. It is about the role that we all play in creating the culture of a company, which bring it to life and sustain its development and direction”[1].

As the quote says; it is about people; you and me, our managers, customers, and stakeholders. In essence about human beings and the role we play. The role we play suggests that I am part of a bigger picture and that I have to play it actively to have influence!

What has been a central building block in Starbucks is the Green Apron Book that serves as a guideline for all people that work in the company on what they can do, not what they must or can’t do.

The book contains information that matter to them about their mission and kind of company they were creating. The principles in the book are brewed into the way they work, make decisions, confront problems, care about another, persevere, and create opportunities for the future. Bottom-line they are markers that set your course in the turbulent sea of business, commerce, and life.

Not every principal will have the same impact or be equally challenging for you to remember or practice. But they can all be translated into how we “be” in testing. How we stay and make our effort matter. How we as a community show up and demonstrate to others that we matter. We can use the principles as a guiding force in leading ourselves and leading others, but also for others to understand who we are and what we do and why.

Know who you are: wear one hat; your success is related to your clarity and honesty about who you are and who you are not, where you want to go and how you are going to get there.  This may sound bold headed but I am not a tester and nor will I ever be one; I am not a Test Manager either. I am a Test leader passionate about leading others and facilitate the build of world class testing capabilities trough values based equally important to the individual and the organisation.

Know why you’re here: Do it because it’s right, not because it is right for your resume; the path to success comes from doing things for the right reasons. You are not able to succeed if you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish and without everyone aligned to the goal. Look for purpose and passion in yourself and the people you lead. If they are not there, do something.

I chose to be in testing because we put man on the moon, and I would like for others to understand the importance of that perspective and the impact that it can have. But I am also here to instill pride in others on why they are here, to help them understand their importance to the trade of testing. I like to see small changes spread like ripples in water impacting the world around me.

If you are on your way to someplace else then you are not in the right place and you should leave, stop wasting others time. For a long time I got up every morning and went to work despite the fact that I hated what I was doing. I was a pain in the Royal B.. to everyone around me, I was wasting their time…..

People are not “assets” they are human beings who have the capacity to achieve results beyond what is thought possible. We need to get rid of rules, real and imagined, and encourage independent thinking of others and ourselves. The person who sweeps the floor should choose the broom !

When I am introduced to rules that don’t make sense to me, I feel disempowered if every last action is dictated to me, I feel robbed of my dignity and soul, I assume that you can relate to this.

When everything is driven by rules people stop trusting themselves and they stop being creative and think outside the box[2]. They start overseeing missed requirements and oblivious defects. They stop asking questions that would clarify any ambiguity that they might see. The investment that was supposed to bring an increase in revenue is failing.

Instead of writing manuals that lock people into dehumanizing behaviour, we should focus on outcomes we want and the reasons behind them show that we care!

Caring is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength, and cannot be faked. Without trust and caring we will never know what could have been possible. Without freedom from fear, we cannot dream, and we cannot reach our potential.

Know how the members of your team are doing, learn about their values let them know how you are doing and what challenges you are facing, both private and professional. There is real truth in the axiom that states: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  However stay at arms length if you want to remain in the dark receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth. If you don’t develop meaningful relationships with people you’ll never know what’s really on their mind until it’s too late to do anything about it. And valuable time may have been lost. Trust me if you care your team will go through fire for you to achieve what you planned to do.

Listen, even to what isn’t said an amazing result will follow. You will know why the passion is missing from your team and you will learn solutions to problems that have been sitting there waiting to be picked.

It is so easy to just carry on and not listen to what is being said, especially if we never meet people in person. The global way of working today is presenting a number of challenges. We work remote we are self-managed and we assume that someone being silent on the conference call is agreeing with us.

I have seen how it works, people are on the calls multitasking and it is actually expected that they be able to do this. They do not care and they do not listen.

Next time you are on a conference call or in a meeting, try to focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways. When you focus on contributing rather than receiving you will have accomplished the goal. Even though this may seem counter-intuitive, focusing on the other party’s needs, you will learn more than you ever would by only focusing on your agenda. And the stuff that fall between the cracks will be less, simply because they get caught before they are dropped and become a problem.

Be accountable: only the truth sounds like the truth; No secrets, no lies of omission, no hedging and dodging. Take responsibility and say what needs to be said, with care and respect.

The sentence above almost says it all and yet I come across people everyday that do the exact opposite. The word truth may mean different things to different people, depending on their value system. I am not telling a lie but is it the truth?

A man was in the car with his three young children and his indulging aunt right before dinnertime. The aunt turned around in the car and gave each of the children a piece of chocolate and “don’t tell your mom.” The man pulled the car over, turned around and said, “ You can have the chocolate, but don’t let it spoil your appetite. And never, ever be afraid to tell you mother anything”

If we leave the truth behind it is mostly because of fear. Fear of not doing the right thing, of being rejected but also of being reprimanded by our manager.

For many years I was controlled by fear of rejection and one time I told a lie to get a job. It was eating me and finally I told my manager about the lie, I knew that I might lose my job but I had to tell him to be able to sleep. I wasn’t fired, he was disappointed but I was given a new start and trust me I never let him down again.

Ray Kroch, founder of McDonald’s once said, “ turn you fear into faith” not that I am religious but there is a lot of truth in that too.

The key is to find the sweet spot of passion, purpose, and persistence. “It is all about the people” it is not an idea it is an action. Feel, do, think. Find the balance, but act and make your effort matter. Use the principles to guide you during the hardest times. If the challenge is too big, if you find yourself stuck, take smaller bites. Become a valid and trusted partner in the process that is values for telling the truth and being honest.

Practice leadership: The big noise and the still, small voice; Leading can be the noisy “I am here” kind of thing. But don’t ever forget that leaders are just ordinary human beings. Don’t let the noise crowd out the truth. Listen to your still, small voice. Let quiet be you guide

Say Yes, the most powerful word in the world; Say yes and enjoy all that you are doing, and help others to do the same.

Go find your hat and start wearing it with pride

Stop being on the way to somewhere else.

Make people matter by offering them a career path, a salary that is reflecting their importance to the organisation and its success.

Make testing matter….

[1] It’s Not about the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks, Portfolio (27 Dec 2007), ISBN13 978-1591841920

[2] Leadership and self-deception, The Arbinger Institute