Saturday, August 24, 2013

Use Another Pair of Eyes to Help: 99 Ways Workshop #76

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 #76: Use another pair of eyes to help - pair with someone, or try to grab someone for a quick debrief if your team doesn't "do" pairing. - Anna Baik

Most of the time, organizations don't "do" pairing because they either haven't  considered it, don't understand the benefits, or they have had a negative experience with it. One is easy to overcome, two is a little more challenging, and three can be downright uncomfortable to try to deal with. If you've ever been burned in a pairing situation, well, it may not offer much comfort to say "we're not all like that" or "that was a different situation".  

The advice of this next section, while it's meant to seek collaboration and confirmation/consideration from others, really focuses on the last part of the phrase "if your team doesn't "do" pairing."

Workshop #76: Pick a developer, tester, or someone in your organization to do an "eye check" at the most informal level, or an actual test review at a higher, more involved level. Be willing to do the same for anyone else who needs it.

Generally speaking, I am a fan of the pair-programming process, but it does require patience and an ability to help the other person see value in the interaction. In short, we need to participate in a level that goes beyond "I want to have you help me with this just because I think it will lead to better quality". 

At a deeper level, people need to know that their interactions and their ideas matter. They also need to know that we respect their time and their energy. When there is a negative response to airing or working with others, there can be many reasons, but the most frequent/likely is that the other person(s) feel that we are wasting their time. Therefore, we need to be specific, focused and mindful every time we ask to be part of a pairing situation, and we also ned to do the same from our perspective. 

If someone is unfamiliar withh ow to do a pairing session, or seems ill prepared, spend a little extra time with them to help them feel at ease, and help them get to a specific point so that the pairing is successful. Help them know that you will be willing to be patient enough to see a situation through for them. Likewise, in the future, they may also be willing to do the same for you.

One of the more cynical criticisms of pairing is that it's considered as an "accountability partner" type of thing. This isn't entirely without merit. Two people working on a task and sharing focus often does deliver higher end quality precisely because two people are accountability to each other, and the ability to "slack off" or focus on other things is greatly diminished. Some people dislike this "baby sitting" connotation. The danger (and yes, I do men danger) is when people feel "trapped" and unable to focus on other things. We all have different priorities and needs, and sometimes it's best to simply keep pairing or a focus on other people's time very brief, very deliberate, and to likewise treat the situation the same when we are asked.

Think of what it would take to get a variety of people to focus on a given task. Choose five people  and consider the way they work, the style of interaction they prefer, and how they best approach situations and problems. By being aware of these interactions, and engaging them in the way that they prefer, we can do a lot to help make our interactions successful, and in the process, give them more of a reason to want to interact with us in the future.

Bottom Line:

Time is precious, an each of us values our time in unique ways. To help develop better collaboration, focus less on the task at hand, and instead, get to know the ways and reasons your co-workers use and value their time, then align your approach accordingly. It's possible that those who are resistant to pairing or collaboration will change their minds if they feel the other party values their time as much as their own.

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