Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We're all Searching - Live from #AgileTD

One of the interesting things about being a member of the “Twitterati” is that a lot of people can get to know you and what you represent, and they can get a good idea of who you are and what you look like. Mike Sutton spotted me from about 20 yards and yelled out “hey, it’s Michael Larsen, the TESTHEAD! Good to see you!” When I noticed it was Mike, I gave him a big hug, and we chatted for a bit. It was an awesome experience of two people who knew each other but never met knowing enough about each other to be fast friends in person.

Mike started his talk from the premise of asking “How much do you really care about your organization? Do you really care enough to test beyond the basics of your product? Are you willing to really go down the rabbit hole?"

Can you say that your work has an enormous impact on your personal growth and joy? If so, that’s awesome. If not, why not? Do you have the power to shape your work so that it can bring you joy? Mike’s not trying to make this sounds like some twinkly stardust idea, he’s saying that we put so much of our life energy into our work, we should do all we can to make it be something that brings us joy and purpose. If what we do is making us miserable, we should do what we can to either find joy in it, or break free and find a place where we can experience joy.

Mike’s core point of his talk is searching. Growth is challenging, it can be painful, and it can be frightening. but growth is what brings us new experiences, and new experiences can bring joy if they are positive. Companies do the same thing. They make be searching for revenue, for people, for markets, and each level of growth makes the search that much more intense.  If everyone is searching, and everyone is, what does that mean about what we are searching for? What does this search impact? In short, what do we care about, and how far are we willing to go to follow through on our search?

To be frank, most of the time, when we make a business decision, we are effectively making a guess. It may be a really well educated guess, but ultimately, it’s still a guess. There’s enough variability in the world that we don’t really know what will happen when we do most things. Chemistry is one thing, emotional economics is something else entirely. Agile teams are ultimately places we can roll with different guesses. We don’t have to take the safe gamble or structure things in a rigid fashion. Agile asks us to experiment, and if we fail, let’s learn quickly from it and regroup. Great in theory, a little more chaotic in practice. Development may be agile, but what about the rest of the organization? Are they harmonious or are they cacophonous (yes, I’m referencing yesterday’s keynote ;) ).

Think about what you are great at. Most testers love exploration. We are curious as cats. We have a passion to collaborate, and ultimately we want to make things better. That’s second nature for our software, but why isn’t it second nature for our organizations? Are we as willing to poke at the holes of our organization? If not, why not? Is it from an informed place, or is it from fear? Are we scared of what might happen if we explore our organization? Do we run the risk of offending others? Possibly, but we might discover something important.

We don’t nee to ask permission, though we may want to make sure we’re not breaking something that could get us arrested. Be OK with the fact that some people will not approve, but if you are willing to test the organization, you may find that you discover something deeply valuable to that organization. Counter intuitive? Maybe. Start asking what value we provide. Why do we exist? Beyond the money we are earning, why does our company exist? What kind of organization do we want to have?  Dare to ask, and let's take on the ultimate testing project. Find out what makes your organization tick, and find the bad points as well as the good points.

Ask questions. See where they lead :).

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