Your baby is ugly! – said No Software Tester ever!
Your baby is ugly! It is the conversation nobody wants to have so, instead, we react as all people do - ‘’oh how beautiful’’, ‘’he has your eyes’’ etc.  Why do we do this? Is it because we are avoiding conflict? Don’t want to hurt the parents? Is it because we want to tell the other person what they want to hear?


 

In testing, I regularly see examples of this occurring. Ok, maybe not to the point where we are telling people their babies are ugly but bear with me…

Do any of the following ring any bells?

  • ‘’We are on target’’ = We are 3 weeks behind but I will drive my team into the ground to make it because I don’t want to fight
  • ‘’We have had a few code quality issues’’ =  I think the dev team were under the impression unit testing is a myth akin to unicorns
  • ‘’We were late starting’’ = The release team were in Mexico drinking mojito’s and sunning themselves
  • ‘’We have had environmental difficulties’’  = Lack of investment in our test environments now means my iPhone has more grunt

Why do we do this?
Why do we dance around the real message? Is it because we are avoiding conflict or is it because, ultimately, we do not want to be the team which is seen to be failing? I am by no means saying that testing is innocent. We are not perfect, far from it! I am, however, saying that as a career, we are in a line of work where everything is based on fact. We have scope, requirements, technical designs, steps to run and expected results. Everything we do from preparation through to completion is quantifiable and reportable. This does have a side effect, in that this abundance of metrics within the testing lifecycle does mean that we are noticeable and in some companies testing can be the first element of the SDLC which can be tracked fully.

So why do I reference the ugly baby?
Well, if we are basing our conversations as we should, on fact, why are we afraid to have that conversation with our stakeholders? Why do we hide behind sugar coated words? One reason I have seen claimed repeatedly, is that elements of our stakeholders have no idea what testing is there for. Testing is a bottle neck to them which sucks up resource and seems to slow the progress of change to production. Whose fault is this? Is it the fault of the stakeholder? That can’t be it. You cannot blame somebody for not knowing what we do if they have never been told. I don’t know the atomic make up of palladium, does that make me an idiot? No, I hate to say it, but it is our fault! Ok, so maybe we’re not fully responsible.. however, it is part of our job to ensure that we educate our stakeholders in what we provide and the advantage we give them. We need to tell them what our place is within the SDLC, what we are stopping from happening and what will/might happen if we are not engaged properly.

If we are doing our job correctly nothing is hidden and sometimes, just sometimes, we are in the awesome position of a stakeholder requesting that testing is fully engaged!

So, back to the ugly baby!
If our stakeholders understand why we exist and what we do, we should never be afraid to go forward with the hard conversation. The only bible quote I can ever remember is - John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. The truth is a powerful thing and it allows everyone to work together to recover a situation. People will surprise you! If a clear conversation is being had, you will likely get help from areas that you might not think of, from a developer which can help you build a stub to a business manager who can supply you with SME’s. Testing is part of the SDLC and whether we like it or not, we sometimes need help. If we as testers are afraid to give the actual position of our progress and ask for help we can only blame ourselves.

I hope that the ongoing march of Agile and the swift adoption of DevOps in our industry will result in the “your baby is ugly” conversations becoming a thing of the past. Through closer collaboration and understanding of each others roles we can prevent the issue rather than react to it and that has got to be a good thing for all of us?

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