The Challenge of Change

Is your organization becoming Agile?  Is your organization merging or outsourcing?  Are you wondering how, where or even if you will fit?  Are you feeling a loss of control over your work life?  If there is only one guarantee in the world of information technology, or in any work environment, it is change.  Let’s face it; life itself is a series of changes.

So how do we deal with change?  We can take the “ostrich approach”, burying our heads in the sand, pretending that it isn’t happening, or we can face it and embrace it.  We all know and accept that change is hard.  But have we ever thought about why change is so hard?  A colleague of mine expressed it very well yesterday when he said it’s the fear of the unknown.  What you don’t know, you can’t control. 

So the question becomes how do we deal with uncertainty?  We can start by examining our mindset or our attitudes and habits toward to succeeding when there is uncertainty.  In her book “Mindset The New Psychology of Success”, Carol Dweck, PhD. defines two mindsets, fixed and growth.  Those who have a fixed mindset feel that their success or lack thereof, is a result of basic personality traits that cannot be changed.  Those who have a growth mindset believe that success is the result of hard work and see failure as an opportunity to learn.    The good news here is that mindsets can be changed.  Therefore we can start to deal with change and uncertainty by evaluating our mindset and changing our approach toward it.

We can begin by taking control of what we can control.   For example, if your organization becomes Agile, why not learn everything you possibly can about Agile development.  In the process you have a great chance of discovering where and how you will fit.  If your organization is downsizing, merging or outsoucing, yes, you may get laid off and yes, you have absolutely no control over whether or not that happens.  However, you can update your resume, start networking in your field, test the waters by applying and interviewing for positions in your field.  And in doing those things, you will feel a sense of control.  I know; I did it.

In Spencer Johnson, M.D., 1990’s book “Who Moved My Cheese?,” it was Haw who adopted the growth mindset. He followed the example of the mice, Sniff and Scurry, who saw change coming and took early action. He put on his running shoes and headed into the maze to find new sources of cheese.  Hem remained in the fixed mindset.

We can alleviate the fear of the unknown.  First we must willingly embrace the growth mindset, approach change as an opportunity to learn.  Second, we must be willing take the actions necessary to control what we can control within the change.  As “Humorista” Christine Cashen puts in “The Good Stuff Quipes and Tips on Life, Love, Work and Happiness,” we need to “BOOGIE” or Be Outstanding Or Get Involved Elsewhere.”

When you find yourself standing at the edge of a cliff looking into the water below, you may not have the choice to jump or not, but you sure can be ready, willing and able to swim!

AGILE…Methodology or Mindset?

Agile is a mindset; it is an established set of attitudes and habits about how to succeed at getting work done.  Wow, what a concept!  At a recent Agile New England meeting, Ahmed Sidky, PH.D applied the mindset research of Carol Dweck PH.D to agile transformations.   He defines the “Agile Mindset” as a growth mindset; an approach to managing uncertainty by learning as much as possible in the most efficient way possible.

As organizations adopt agile, they may begin by doing agile, following the practices as in Shu.  They may move on to Ha and break the rules, beginning to adapt agile methodologies and practices to their own needs.  However, Dr. Sidky argues that true agile exists in Ri.  An organization only becomes agile when it collectively internalizes the mindset, the four agile values and twelve guiding principles and then chooses the right the practices and methodologies that meet the needs of the individual situations. 

I think the “agile mindset” has lots of practical applications in many areas of software development.  Whether or not an organization is attempting an “agile transformation”, encouraging an agile mindset can only improve the software development process, no matter what methodology and tool set is used.  For example, if we encourage developers to ask for feedback early from testers and business analysts, we begin to build a culture of collaboration.  When we encourage testers to perform exploratory testing and to submit what they see as bugs even though these observations are not strictly deviations from specifications, we are encouraging continuous learning. 

When an organization builds an “agile mindset”, it has developed a foundation for commitment not only for an agile transformation but also for other types of organizational change, whether these changes involve reorganizations, geographically distributed teams or even mergers and acquisitions. 

Just as agile development practices have dramatically improved the speed and quality of software development, I think the “agile mindset” has the potential make the same dramatic impact on organizational change management.

Join Me at QA&TEST 2013

I’m going to SPAIN!!!! I was just accepted as a speaker at QA&TEST 2013 in Bilbao, Spain on October 29, 30 and 31. I’m really excited to be part of this conference! The purpose of the conference is to showcase the latest quality assurance technological innovations and best practices; its aim is to give the attendees a lead in global competition. With the wide variety of tracks and impressive line-up of speakers, I’m sure the conference will meet and even exceed its goal.

This conference is for everyone including directors, project managers and all types of test professionals. There’s a great mix of technical and management tracks which means all the attendees will learn lots of valuable information. With technical tracks such as Test Automation, Testing Mobile Devices and Applications and Verification and Validation, and management tracks including QA Management and Test Team Organization and Testing, there is really something for everyone.

The speaker line-up is an exceptional mix of practitioners and thought leaders from many industries including banking, insurance, aeronautics and medical systems and academia. I’m really looking forward to seeing Carol Oliver’s presentation on using oracles in high volume testing. Carol is a Computer Science PhD student of Dr. Cem Kaner at the Florida Institute of Technology.

Bilbao is such an exciting location with the Guggenheim Museum and lots of scenic coastal areas and beaches nearby. It’s no wonder that the beginning of The World Is Not Enough was filmed here. Although I don’t think I’ll get to meet James Bond, I can’t wait to go. I hope to see you there.

My Smartphone Goes Hands-Free

I’ve become so used to my new device that I’m making and receiving calls on the road. Oops..that’s a no no! Don’t worry, at least I don’t text and drive; I couldn’t if I so desired as I’m still mastering the thumb movement. Perhaps it is taking a while to become a fast texter since I don’t play video games? Never mind, I’m digressing.

Anyway since I’ve started talking and driving, I decided that it is time to enter the brave new world of hands free devices, and I’m now the proud owner of a fine new Plantronics Voyager Legend. It boasts of features such as smart call routing, precision audio, voice commands and caller announce, but for me, the most important feature is that it’s hands free! But what does “hands free” actually mean? It means that I can talk and drive with both hands on the wheel, of course. Yippee!

The first time I try it out is in the house and of course everything works perfectly. Doesn’t everything always work perfectly in test? Now it’s time to try it in the car. Much to my surprise, the hands free turns out not to be completely hands free. Since I have carefully set up all my contacts with their home and mobile phone numbers, the hands free offers me a choice of numbers for each contact. Much to my chagrin, I have to manually, using my finger, tap the number I wish to call. Now I’m not blaming the hands free device, it’s a user error or more accurately, a user design error.

Not to be deterred from becoming complete hands free, I create separate contacts for all of the numbers that I will call from the car. So now that I’m completely hands free, I find that not only can I talk with both hands on the wheel, but also, I now have the opportunity to experience the joy and frustration of speech recognition technology. I confidently make my initial call, responding to the device’s “What would you like to do?” with “Call Peter”. And instead of seamlessly being connected to Peter, I am offered the entire listing of pizza restaurants in my contacts, and yes there are many. It was still morning, but what the heck, I ordered a pizza.

So as much as there is a learning curve to swiping and tapping and texting, apparently there is also an art to hands free speaking. I’ll let you know when I master it. For now, I’ve implemented a workaround. Since Peter sounds so much like pizza, I changed Peter’s name to Andy. And if Andy answers, I’ll be very surprised since Andy is Peter’s cat. I wonder how the hands free would interpret a “meow”.

Belgium Testing Days Retrospective

Last week, I had the honor of being a speaker at Belgium Testing Days in Brussels, Belgium. It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended; the energy and interactions among the presenters and attendees was incredibly powerful and inspiring. The theme of the conference, “Breaking down the wall to boost up the business” is so relevant, especially since it is our role as testers to deliver information that organizations may not want to hear and like the late Rodney Dangerfield, we just don’t get no respect.

Not so at this conference! The keynote speakers including Lee Copeland, Jerry Durant, Peter Morgan and Susan Windsor all shared ways of breaking down walls in various ways. Lee talked about how to use metrics to deliver the appropriate message. He stressed measuring accomplishment rather than effort and not measuring anything that you aren’t going to do something about. Jerry Durant challenged us to consider how culture affects outsourced test projects and showed us how to provide the right kind of oversight to make offshore testing a success.
The track sessions were just as awesome. In his “Value Synch” presentation, Rob Sabourin showed us how to break down walls by being in tune with what important to our stakeholders. Quality is not only conformance to requirements, but also sustainability of purpose; it has to be valuable to the users. And what the users and stakeholders value can change. As quality professionals, we must be attuned to those value changes and be “in snych”. Jean-Paul Varwijk gave us a framework to focus our testing with his “7 W Questions of Testing” and Doug Hoffman showed us how to plan our testing based on 9 or rather 13 Oracles. Oracles are principles by which we evaluate whether or not the software is behaving reasonably. Astrid Larsen used the perspectives of the “Desparate Housewives” to explain the role of the test manager in each phase of the product development lifecycle.

Huib Shoots showed us the importance of understanding how we think in “What Testing Can Learn from the Social Sciences”. By examining the mistakes people make and why they make them, we can avoid mistakes and be better testers. Peter Varhol and I talked about how to evangelize quality and get commitment to quality in quality-averse organizations. We went on to discuss how to create quality with little time, money and resources, important because when quality-averse organization commit, they usually don’t commit much.

It has been said that people don’t remember what you said, but how you made them feel and this sums up the crowning achievement of this conference. Mieke Gevers, Nadine Raes and their team did so much to make us feel welcome and appreciated. As value and appreciation are the keys to breaking down all ways, they, themselves, achieved the goal of the conference.

My New Android Phone is Everything, Except Maybe a Phone

Now that I’ve figured out how to swipe and tap, I’m dancing my way through emails and applications. I’ve downloaded my nook, added some songs and, overall, having lots of fun with my new device. I’ve even figured out how to make a call and it’s a process. Turn on the device, swipe to unlock, tap the phone receiver button, tap the contact list, scroll down to find the contact, and click the phone icon. Oh my, that’s six steps! I guess I could tap in the number, if I can remember it, but only eliminates a couple of steps and increases the frustration when my finger accidentally taps the wrong number.

Better still, now that I’ve figured out what the icon for a missed call…whaaaat, I missed a call???? I didn’t know it rang! Oh nooooo!!! What if it was a guy asking me out? I impatiently tap the log icon and yes, it was he. Did he leave a message? Where, oh where is the voicemail icon???? Of course, it isn’t on the call log. I finally find the voicemail button which has no distinctive marking at all and frantically hit, pound, and then finally tap the icon.

Uh the phone is making a strange noise, rather like it’s drowning. I finally figure out that is actually ringing. Now, how do I answer it? Tap, no doesn’t work, swipe??? As I exasperatedly try out all my new dance moves, the call goes down for the last time and drowns. Quickly, I tap the log, only to find out it was my would-have-been date. I attack the elusive voicemail button yet again and find only his original message. So now I am dateless and it’s all my new phone’s fault!!!!

My new smartphone can do everything I can imagine wanting it to do….except handle calls! What’s wrong with this picture? I’m now the proud owner of a brand new device, but I wouldn’t call it a phone.

The Android Diaries, Part 3

1/1/2013   It’s a new year and a brave new world among the androids.   As I start to play, otherwise known as exploratory test my new phone, I discover that it’s like dancing.  I must learn a whole new series of movements.  When I turn the phone on, it says “Swipe to Unlock”.   So what’s a “swipe”?  So I go on the web and locate the definition of swipe.  Here’s Merriam Webester’s definition:   Definition of SWIPE. 1: a strong sweeping blow <a swipe of a paw> 2: a sharp often critical remark <took a parting swipe at management>.   Ok, so now what do I do…attempt to hit it with my “paw” or make a nasty remark at it?    After a few attempts, I find that an android “swipe” is rather like a doing a waltz with one’s finger.  I would define it as a glide.   However it is defined, so be it.  Now that I’ve mastered the “swipe”,  it’s time to learn to tap.   Hmmm, I wonder if my old tap shoes are still in the attic?

The Android Diaries, Part 2

12/31/2012   Having thoroughly researched both the iPhone and Galaxy S iii, and learned that the only real difference is size; screen of the Galaxy S ii is larger.  Since my arms won’t grow any longer and I don’t always wear my glasses, I even more confidently return to the store to purchase my Galaxy S iii.  Now the most important choice…color.  Of course, I want a white one that must be brought in from a store 40 minutes away.  When it finally arrives, the geek must transfer most of my contacts from old phone manually since the old phone is so outdated.  Then he shows me how to download music and I’m off to join the android world.

The Android Diaries, Part 1

12/30/2012  Having made  my new year’s resolution to become more technical,  even though it is not yet the new year, I decide to start early with the purchase of my new smart phone.  As I confidently head out to the AT&T store, I’m contemplating Apple vs Android.  At the store, I listen in as the phone geek behind the counter shows an older couple how to use a smart phone and shows them differences between the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S iii.   After hearing some of the pros and cons of both, the couple decides on an iPhone.  I ask if I can download tunes on the Galaxy and the answer is not from my iPod but there are 6000 free songs available online.  Can I download the books from my Nook?  The answer is yes.  And seeing the line of customers behind me become longer and more impatient, I leave the store and return home to research both smartphones on the internet.