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How Testers Can Make Organizations More Successful


Tester should go beyond their testing discipline and go into the organization. By asking questions they can start a movement that increases product quality and helps organizations to become more successful as Mike Sutton explained in his closing keynote at the Agile Testing Day Netherlands 2015 about test beyond quality – beyond software.

Every business is searching said Sutton. They are looking to find a product-market fit, more revenue, etc. Start-ups are searching for a repeatable business model, when they find it then they can become a business. Ultimately all that businesses want is to survive and thrive.

The searches that businesses do are complex. Things are uncertain and risky. Every step that you take may be wrong said Sutton. It is a complex search that requires all of our skills and passion to succeed. A hierarchy would probably not be the best solution to have everybody in the company searching. Leadership can support search, for instance with leaders that use situational leadership to facilitate the searching and help people to develop searching skills.

Most business decisions are guesses, some are educated guesses. Things are too uncertain to know for sure. You need a mindset and skills to test assumptions. Testers typically have these skills said Sutton.

According to Sutton "agile teams are a place to cultivate behaviors and cultures for a new reality". Agile teams are a solution to deal with risk and uncertainty. But many agile teams today are given just enough to produce, but not enough to thrive. They try to deliver software with a regular cadence. The team is organized, but the rest of the organization is in chaos. There are firefighters, old boys networks, politics and people fighting each others.

Sutton suggests that agile teams possess skills and behaviors that can help the rest of the organization recognize and effectively respond to the challenge of searching. Furthermore he suggests, that testing especially needs to go beyond software and go into the organization to help with the search to make the organization successful. Testers seem ideally equipped to do this, because they have the love for exploration and want to collaborate with people. They have an intrinsic desire to make things better. These are the essential "soft" skills that complement their "hard" skills of discovering what to test, design experiments, monitoring and checking.

In many organization the sense of powerless is huge. Sutton stated that forgiveness beats permission, testers should assume that they are invited and allowed to do things.

Sutton suggests that to start, testers should understand what they are able to bring to the search and continue by simply asking questions around value, flow, quality and joy. Like "what value do we deliver as an organization", "what happens if we …", "do we know how good something needs to be". As testers you don’t need to have all answers, the questions will help to find them.

Since you will hit some resistance Sutton suggest to not do it alone, but get colleagues to join you. This is what makes it a movement. Together you can celebrate your successes, reflect and improve. Testers and agile teams can increase product quality and make organizations more successful, if they make the choice to go beyond software, said Sutton.

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