Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bringing Energy Back to Testing - Live from #TestRetreat

Picture the scenario. A tester has been in the game for a number of years. They know the details, they know the product, they've done countless stories, and at some point, the testing becomes rote and paint by numbers. The thrill is gone. the excitement level has left the building. Do you see yourself in this scenario? If not, fabulous, this talk is not for you ;).

If, however, you have been in this situation, or currently see yourself in this situation, then Phil McNeely's session on "Bringing Energy Back to Testing" is for you. I know how this feels. I've been there and done that. At a certain point, I lost the joy and fun that testing used to provide, and at some point, I was just going through the motions. It wasn't intentional on my part, I didn't intend to go on autopilot, but I did find that there have been times where I just did what I had to do, and often what I really didn't want to do. Often the reasons came down to doing the same thing over and over. Sometimes people just burn out. For many, their  passion is somewhere else, like snowboarding, or knitting, or writing a novel. Fort those people, it helps a lot to accept that their true passions lie elsewhere and to encourage them to invest in those areas to the point they feel they are getting satisfaction there, and the follow on effect is that they can focus on what they do at work.

In my case, I often found myself overcommitted to too many good things. It's not that I was necessarily burned out on my work, but that I was committed to my day job, and to writing, and to teaching, and to community engagement. In short, I found I was spreading myself too thin in too many areas. At those times, it became apparent that I need to "give myself a haircut" across the board. When a tester who was at one time productive seems to be less focused or engaged, it might be worth making a lunch date and just getting to see what is going on in that tester's life at that moment, both inside and outside of work. It's possible you might discover that they have recently become the PTA president at their school, or they have taken on an important but time consuming position at their church, or there may be a family situation due to an illness or situation in the family that is drawing upon their energy. I know when I have too many things happening in my life, every area suffers, and yes, that includes work. By realizing that energy commitments have changed, we can help that person (or ourselves) consider what options we have to make modifications.

I wrote about this a few days ago over at the ITKE Uncharted Waters blog, but something I am using to help me stave off this challenge is using an Objective Journal. By having me consider what I am working on, and questioning it on a regular basis, I can keep myself engaged with the problem, rather than waiting for something to complete and going of and working on something else that's not on target or, sometimes, not even remotely productive. The trick for me with the Objective Journal is that it allows me to see small, everyday wins. By seeing those wins, I stay motivated and excited.

Ultimately, regardless of how engaged or not engaged we are, at the end of the day we need to realize that WE are the ones that need to develop our motivation. We can encourage and offer to help others achieve motivation, but externally motivated people tend to not stay motivated for too long. Internally motivated people can stoke that fire indefinitely, so work to encourage that spark in others, but more importantly, help them develop and maintain that spark in themselves.

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