Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Onboarding and Not Getting Mau Mau'd

Yesterday was day one at SocialText, and it's safe to say that the experience could be summed up by envisioning drinking from a fire hose. In no particular order, my day consisted of:

- getting the details ironed out to get me into the numerous public and private git repositories.
- getting email and machine access ironed out.
- meeting the development and testing teams and getting a feel for what we need to be doing.
- attending the first stand-up and learning the priorities.
- seeing one piece flow enacted in a Kanban system.
- looking at the testing framework and seeing what holds it all together.
- learning how we create and modify tests (that are actually defined in our wiki product).
- getting a feel from my team what has come before, what we need to deal with now, and where we'll be going from here.
- learning the creative rules for how to effectively park in the business district of Palo Alto, and how to use the daily changing parking hangers.
- a lot of HR specific on-boarding details.

- and an interesting reading assignment; read Tom Wolfe's short story "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers".

Say what?

Yeah, I thought that was an interesting title, and our Quality Director had a point to it.

In the original story, which takes place in the late 60's in San Francisco, the Flak Catchers are the municipal government (aka "the man") and they are trying to deal with a number of outreach programs towards those in the community that are decidedly not "the man". The story shows, often farcically, how the various groups seeking to utilize the programs used confrontation to  work the system, to get their initiatives and priorities covered, sometimes at expense to other groups, who likewise used the same tactics to get what *they* wanted.

In addition to using confrontation as a tool, they also found ways to game the system. The net result? The Flak Catchers ran around dealing with every "Mau Mau" pushed on them. The overall effect was to create a system that made the situation worse for everyone.

As testers, we are used to being in the role of bearing bad news, as well as trying to deliver good quality. In lesser hands, this has the potential of being pushed, cajoled, metaphorically bribed to "let others get what they need". In short, testers get Mau Mau'd all the time! The point being driven home to me was simple... there's a difference between collaboration and working effectively with the various teams, and getting Mau Mau'd. We want to encourage the former. We will very much do all we can to prevent the latter! As a former Lone Tester who often didn’t have the benefit of a leader willing to make that kind of pledge, I consider this to be awesome, and I hope that more testing teams will consider doing the same.

Oh, and for those wondering, I took the train home, ate dinner, and went straight to bed! This, I think, stands in as one of my most exhausting first days on the job ever, in all of the best ways. Let's see what day two has in store for me :).


Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

This is your long lost brother, Tom Larsen. How are you? We're still hanging out here in Idaho. I hope you and your family are doing well. We sure miss the Crystal Springs ward. What's your email address? I want to give you a quick update on something.


Michael Larsen said...

Hey Tom. Good to hear from you :).

My email is in my profile listing, but feel free to use mkltesthead at gmail dot com.