Thursday, August 15, 2013

Embrace Quality As a Lifestyle: 99 Ways Workshop #58

Greek Kore
Polychromed marble 
Chios, c. 510 BCE
The Software Testing Club recently put out an eBook called "99 Things You Can Do to Become a Better Tester". Some of them are really general and vague. Some of them are remarkably specific.

My goal for the next few weeks is to take the "99 Things" book and see if I can put my own personal spin on each of them, and make a personal workshop out of each of the suggestions.

Suggestion #58: Embrace quality as a lifestyle, not only during work hours. - Georgia Motoc

As software testers, we are often the bearers of bad news. We're the ones who point out that something isn't working the way it should, isn't spelled correctly, looks strange, or otherwise doesn't match what we want to have out in the wild. As was pointed out to me a number of years ago "parents really don't appreciate when a person tells them their baby is ugly… even if it is 100% true!"

Yes, we're nit picky. Yes, we have a finely tuned attention to detail. Yes, it's our job to make sure things are up to snuff. All of that is important, but it makes for a lopsided relationship with the world. What if we could do the exact opposite? Fact of the matter is… we can, and we should, every chance we get.

Workshop #58: Take the time to appreciate craftsmanship in all its forms. Notice when people take the time to show they care about their work. Compliment someone for that extra little bit of quality. See if the little things that surround you that make you think "wow, this is well done" can help refine your vision and attention. 

One of the things that makes me smile is when a developer or a senior executive, when I'm explaining an issue I've worked through, and a resolution that I have in mind, takes the time to say "hey, you know what? That was an awesome find. I really appreciate the attention you gave to this."

I have had many of those conversations over the years. I appreciate every single one of them. For a person who is accustomed to giving "bad news" (and yes, I also get my share of "bad news" directed at me, too), those moments of appreciation are priceless.

Take a day, a morning, an hour, whatever time you would like to spend, and for that time, invert your critical lens. I don't mean turn off your thinking or become a praise monster, I mean reverse your typical mode of thinking. For that time, I want you to focus on the beautiful. The amazing. The fantastic. If you are working on a piece of software, jot down some notes about what you think makes this application awesome. When you see a car, notice what sets it apart from others on the road. If someone is wearing an impeccably tailored article of clothing, note what makes it so. Tell the person wearing it you think it looks amazing. At a restaurant, if a server is going the extra mile, and is super attentive and takes good care of you, let them know that. If you live where it is uncustomary to tip, then verbally show your appreciation. If you live where tipping is the norm, be generous, and explain why you feel they deserve it.

Beauty, quality, and admirable aspects of any kind, are all subjective. What one person considers ugly another may consider wondrous. One person's acceptable and serviceable may be luxurious and impeccable to someone else. Look for those moments of beauty and aspects that add to the positivity of your experience. 

Once you finish with this exercise, you can go back to being ultra-critical again. I'm wiling to bet, though, after you try this a few times, even when you are being critical, you'll also see the amazing and the high quality that's there as well. Point out the issue, of course, but from time to time, tell someone when they have made something amazing, if indeed they actually have.

Bottom Line: 

Quality is all around us, and it is abundant. People do not set out to deliberately be mediocre. Most of us want to do well, to provide good service and value at some point. We typically point out the 99 flaws, but neglect to mention the one thing that is amazing. When you spot that amazing thing, tell that person about it. They'll go through and deal with the 99 flaws, and whittle them down one by one, but they'll do it with much more of a sense of joy when they know you really appreciated that one, awesome, high quality thing, whatever it happened to be.

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