Imagine That Things Can Be Different

One of the key skills of a knowledge worker – and testing people are knowledge workers – is to imagine that things can be different. I have written previously how to recruit for curiosity – and contributed to the book of “21st-century skills for testers“. But apparently I have missed to highlight the key skill of imagining that things can be different.

Imagination Different System Behavior

A tester is someone who shows you that if you put a bottle o top tilt the trash can at 5 degrees, press on the left side, and then trigger the lid release then it is possible to launch the bottle through the kitchen window and by the way that is a plausible use case...
“A tester is” by Jeff Lucas 2012

First of all imagination helps us to explore and discover the unknown. It’s key to the testers mindset, not to be limited to the specifications and codified knowledge, but to use imagination and implicit knowledge to imagine the unexpected. Testers, to me, are anyone performing the act. Be it developers, technical application specialists, infrastructure and cloud operators and business subject matter experts. It’s the activity – not necessarily the profession.

Imagine Different Delivery Contexts

Yet there are people in the profession who seems not to be able to imagine that companies and teams works in different ways. That there are delivery teams that do not have testers and that there exists IT projects that are not about developing bespoke web software for the consumer market. I have worked with teams that have been maintaining the same system for 25 years – without any testers and with a team application maintenance engineers who have learned intricate business contexts. It’s all about the culture.

Leadership cultures matters – and it seems to me that I have experienced working with organisations in all four quadrants – while still being in Denmark.

Imagining Different Organizational Behavior

Recently I have been working with a organization that works in a totally different way that I have been used to. Every document and delivery needs to go through an extensive peer review. I have a test plan with an accompanying 20+ review sheet. While I’m used to effective collaborative reviews, this is way more over the fence than cooperation. Jit Go has an excellent piece on the various ways of collaboration.

It reminds me of the Westrum organizational model mentioned in Accelerate, that I looked into in: Shoot, Neglect or Train? Be aware that while the organizations might see themselves as Generative – the underlying culture might be worse. Remember morale is what happens when no-one is looking.

Screenshot from Accelerate by Forsgren

Use models to understand and spot the differences – it’s a key skill to imagine that things can be different.

9 thoughts on “Imagine That Things Can Be Different

  1. Thanks for posting Jesper. I particularly liked the point you made that a key skill is imagining that things can be different. I think this is a great way to reframe situations especially ones that might not be so great. Which can sometimes lead to a downward spiral of everything is terrible. So always trying to imagine things differently can help with finding an alternative way to look at things and hopefully find the best in situations. While this doesn’t change the reality of what is happening it can help you be more resilient to what is going on and hopefully find a more positive way through.


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