It’s more mainstream to have a hidden disability – as the Sunflower program is an example of. It’s no longer something you are institutionalized or put away for. It’s something people live with – some with considerable impacts others with less impact. And some people where it changes from day to day. Neurodiverse people have been here all along – when you look for it.
One of my favorite articles is Wired covered in 2001: The Geek Syndrome. 22 years ago. It’s especially prevalent in math, engineering, and computer science fields. Back then I met a company that had never had “someone like me”. But I’m sure they had their share as they recruited primarily among computer science master’s degrees. They could figure out support for the physically disabled – but never understood the neurodiverse. I learned to be very careful in disclosing my traits – even as a white male cis and highly educated person. I wonder what the experience would have been for a less privileged. Luckily things are generally improving. Recently I heard that the local computer science master’s program is updating its pedagogical approach to fit the students’ neurodivergence. Finally! Those fields have had neurodivergent people for at least the last 30 years.
disabilities can be permanent, temporary, or situational, and many times, they are not even visible
I read recently that the autism diagnosis criteria are when neurotypical struggle and are under stress. To me, the diagnosis is mostly an evaluation of behavior. Any person can struggle with social cues, executive functioning, etc. especially when a person is stressed. Similar to the Microsoft accessibility chart (quoted above) a disability can be permanent or temporary. To some, it’s an identity, and to others a trait. We are people. I was officially diagnosed around 10 years ago when my oldest got his and the youngest was heading for one too. I had had the traits since childhood – and I have been here all along. I have found the strength and inspiration to be more open about it from Rosie, Kris, Katrine, Thomas, and Rachel. Thank you 🙏🌻
If something as seemingly simple as ordering a chocolate car can be an absurd people problem, no wonder complex IT projects can be a calamity.
Once upon a time, there was a professional chocolate shop. It was an actual chocolate shop, full of products for many needs, and a staffed counter, where you could go and order. One fine day a customer arrived and asked if the shop could create a chocolate car. The shop chocolatier said: “Come by tomorrow and I will have it for you”.
The next day the customer arrived and was given a demo of the product: “Here is your chocolate car”. “Ah, very nice chocolate car. But please could the wheels turn.”The shop chocolatier a little annoyingly said: “Come by tomorrow and I will have it for you”.
The next day the customer arrived and was given a demo of the product: “Here is your chocolate car, see the wheels turn”. “Ah, very nice chocolate car. But please could the doors open.” The shop chocolatier annoyingly said: “Come by tomorrow and I will have it for you”.
The next day the customer arrived and was given a demo of the product: “Here is your chocolate car, see the wheels turn, see the doors open”. “Ah, very nice chocolate car. But please could it have a sunroof.” The shop chocolatier a little more annoyingly said: “Come by tomorrow and I will have it for you”.
The next day the customer arrived and was given a demo of the product: “Here is your chocolate car, see the wheels turn, see the doors open, see the sunroof”. Just as the shop chocolatier was going to get even more annoyed, the customer said: “thank you, no more updates”. Baffled the shop owner forgot all about steering, ABS, and passenger seats, and asked: “How would you like it packaged”. And the customer said “ah! No need, I’ll eat it right away” And so he did. The End.
Despite all the product demos and product development, the customer consumed the product in a heart beat – or probably two.
The Morale, as There is Always a Morale
The origin of this story is a two person sketch from my local youth work[link in Danish] in the tradition of Abbott and Costello’s “Who is on first base” – so it’s probably from the 1960’es. The sketch is usually acted with elaborate gesturing building up to the absurd punchline on the final day.
I was reminded about it recently – in a project where external reviewers kept coming back for more. More requests for bells and whistles that where not originally stated. While we did share the test approach initially, the feedback from the customer is coming towards the end of the project delivery.
All the extra effort seems absurd in contrast to communicating goals and collaborating up front. While each party might be trustworthy, it only takes one of them to extend trust and improve the relationship significantly. Extending trust would obviously defuse the absurdity of the exchange, and there would be no sketch. And we need the sketch to provide the backdrop to the morale:
As a customer state your end goal clearly, don’t be a push-over
As a development team, stop and ask. If it’s outside your usual range it’s ok to say no.
If something as simple as ordering a chocolate car can be an absurd people problem, no wonder complex IT projects can be a calamity.
A “testing mindset” of inquiry applies when you are a principal tester or even a senior advisor in testing. Asking open questions and approaching a challenge with exploration proves better than command and control. People are people – be mindful of where they are.
Currently, I’m involved in an extensive change program for a company. It’s not your usual agile feature factory but more about the technology stack needed to run a 3000 people company (payment, finances, etc). While testing professionals could be onboarded – their learning curve would not scale – not even being equipped with all the heuristics and testing vocabulary in the world. As it is a one-off, automation wouldn’t scale either.
Fortunately, most applications have a system owner (or product owner, or manager in charge) and usually a team around maintaining the application. To some degree, we could frame these teams as stream-aligned teams. The experts in testing the applications are the superuser – hence they do the testing.
One such team is the XYZ team anchored by a VP-level manager. A colleague and I had been trying to communicate with them to align on the testing needed but had met reluctance. They would not have time to help us. We discussed the matter and realized that we needed to approach them differently. Since the change program was such a fundamental shift for the team, they had already considered the implications. They were already testing and thinking about the impact. We just had to trust them – and build on what they already had instead of imposing specific ways of working.
Without requiring them to earn it first, tell everyone who works for you that you #trust them implicitly. From that point forward, just ask them to never give you reason to withhold it. (In my experience, most won’t).
Communicating curiosity can be a little thing like “Remind me, how does XYZ work” or simply “sitting on your hands” during meetings that you would previously fill with questions and requests. The tables of the great program test lead are turning, it’s about being an enabling function for others to succeed. Similar to the freedom you should give your growing up kids – it’s about leadership.
In these days of virtual meetings, the very structures of formal meetings are under change. It’s definitely forged by extensive work-from-home and working with people not in the same locations. It challenges the people that are used to having everything in documents and actions/assignments tracked as part of a “Minutes of Meetings” document. They seem to mistake the absence of document artifacts with no structure. But if you look closer you will see that even a circus is a choreographed act.
The Agenda is always the Current State of Affairs
A key observation from the agile and collaborative way of working is the principle of making work visible. Put tasks and assignments on a shared board for the team. The tool is not so important, as long as it reasonably supports the kanban/scrum-board mechanics. You can use Trello, Podio, Miro, Azure DevOps, or Jira – whatever is available to you in your organization.
Among the benefits of a shared digital board is that it additionally supports the team with the ability to work on items asynchronously, independent of timezones, working hours, and locations. The state of affairs is whatever state the board depicts – so make sure it’s always as truthful as it can be. It takes practice for the team members to learn to update the board outside of the meeting. But this small step is really key in making the meetings more effective and reducing the time to information.
The status board challenges the fact that an agenda can be locked prior to a meeting. All items are moving pieces – so the agenda can only be “look at the board“. If someone is working on something – put it on the board. This also helps if a team member runs off to join a circus – or is temporarily away from this very circus.
Boards help to streamline getting things done. Items might not be perfect – but the focus is on getting them done. “Stop starting – Start stopping” is a recurring mantra. Secondly using a board and agile backlogs and work limits help to prioritize the work according to the team’s availability and speed of delivery. Bottlenecks and overloaded staff can be more easily identified.
Recurring touchpoints, though, are still needed for the team, but the latest status of the work items is no longer at the end of a Minutes of Meetings document.
Recorded Minutes of Meetings
Originally, the MoM (Minutes of Meetings) documents hold the decision items and action items after every meeting. As discussed a shared task board can replace much of the MoM. Is Alice joining Bob on a task? Did Charles agree to deliver X by Friday? All of those actions can be activities on the task board, as long as it’s added during the meeting. A meeting notetaker could do this during the meeting on the board, and not focus on writing down every minute. Adding ideas to the board’s “to-do” column is also a powerful way to remember things for the future.
A strong trend I see in the use of virtual meeting platforms is a default recording of most meetings. You have to get used to it, also privacy vise. Be careful in political organizations – the spoken word is now recorded. Among the benefits of recorded meetings is that everyone can rewind into the meetings and that previous meeting content is available for new team members. This goes especially well for content that is more “show and tell” than status calls.
My preferred leadership style is to set direction, provide what I have of relevant information, and follow up indirectly via the board. I don’t need to meet for a status message that can be read from the board. But I will use the information on the board to reflect on where we are and where we’re supposed to be heading.
Reframe meetings as Collaborative Conversations
When I set up a meeting in someone’s calendar, it’s not always with the intention to have the formal mechanics of a Capital-M Meeting. The scheduling in the calendar is a way to respect people’s time and to make sure key participants can be available at the same time. It’s out of the same respect for people’s variety of availability that meetings need to be effective.
I rarely invoke the formalities of a Meeting. When we (small-m) meet it’s to collaborate and interact and discover serendipity. Sometimes it seems that the name “meeting” is taken literally as a formal structure, while to me it’s more like a placeholder for collaborative conversations.
It may look like a circus – but that is on purpose. There is a choreography behind it all.
The key metric for any knowledge work – IT deliveries and testing in particular – is more than Mean Time to Repair (MTTR). While fixing fast matters – timing is everything.Timing in getting information to the people who needs it to make decisions.It’s no use if you can turn the ship around on a plate now, if you needed it yesterday.Key elements in calculating time to information is how far away the information is and how evolved the information is.
While I have previously talked about writing down expectations and alignments – I would much prefer a more lean and up-to-date approach to test plan documents. Looking at what we know now, an separate test is more of a sign of missing trust between parties than a collaborative value add for the business needs.
Do you ever feel guilty for not meeting the standards set by others in the Software Testing community? You’re in the right place then.
In this episode I talk to Dave (@theguiltytester). We discuss traditions, open questions and how to work within contracts which are specifically requesting traditional test practices based on large numbers of test cases.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) can perhaps solve some testing challenges, but not all testing. The testing vs. checking debateand all the shift-left of checking, have revealed that some of testing is about critical thinking and some…