Jesper Ottosen @jlottosen owns a hoodie with the statement “As context-driven as context allows…” printed at the front.
The statement brilliantly phrases a dilemma I find testers often face: Testers often have to compromise between following professional values and beliefs, while acting in contexts which do not share them.
There are always people who matter around; people who has an opinion about what testing is and how it should be performed; opinions that do not necessarily align with the testers’ opinions; and sometimes, they are not even even good opinions.
As professionals, we have values and beliefs. But sometimes we end up in situations, where we are tasked to do something that does not match our values and beliefs. It is easy then, to end up feeling that we are doing work that no one needs and wants.
This feeling points to something which can be a daily ethical dilemma: While our personal and professional values may be challenged, there is still a job to be done.
How can a tester make the compromise, accepting a challenge, while staying true to her values and beliefs? How can she find energy to work on improving things?
To me, one of the most important things about being professional is taking social responsibility. This is an important value to me.
Social responsibility means that I keep myself open to what others have to say. I try to always respect people I’m working with, even though we may disagree about certain or several things.
Social responsibility is not about self-critique. My doubts and worries are more often right than wrong.
Instead it is about trying to give people what they need by understanding their situation, and helping them get better with what we are doing together.
That requires what I call personal leadership. But foremost, it requires conversation and negotiation.
In his “Improv(e) your testing” talk at Let’s Test 2016, Damian Synadinos @dsynadinos reminded me of a simple and efficient strategy to opening conversations. In improv, a golden rule is to start replies with with “yes, and…”. This helps adding to whatever is happening on stage.
In professional situations, sometimes we need to subtract, however:
Yes, I will perform the test and report to you about it, but please explain me how the test case and bug count metrics you ask me to do will be useful?
The “yes“-part is about accepting the challenge. The “but” implies that I’m going to stay true to my knowledge, experience, values and beliefs and raise professional doubts about methods I’m asked to use, things I’m asked to report, processes I’m asked to follow.
It is not about asking rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions shut my windows to the world and enclose me in my own thoughts and ideas.
Rather it is about keeping a thought in the back of my mind when I’m asked to do something in a certain way: “Is this really in the best interest of the people who matter: The project stakeholders?”
Replying “yes, but…” can be enable me to act on my personal values in contexts which have values of their own.
Masterclass in New York City
On September 26th, during Test Masters Academy‘s REINVENTING TESTERS WEEK in New York City, I will be doing a workshop titled: “Act on your values!” on values and personal leadership.
As testers and IT-professionals we have to quickly recognize and adapt to ever changing contexts in order to produce value for our employers, clients and various diverse customers. This can be challenging, both on the personal and the professional level. As leaders, team members and individuals we often have to lead ourselves.
The workshop will focus on how our personal and shared values can guide us. It will be based on the principles of protreptic dialogue, which is a philosophical facilitated conversation revolving around the values embedded in what we say, do and think. First described in ancient Greece in the fourth century, professor Ole Fogh Kirkeby of Copenhagen Business School has revived protreptic dialogue as both a concept, a leadership tool, and a coaching principle with the objective to “turn us towards ourselves”.
I plan for the workshop to be a safe space for exploration and learning. Participants are expected to share opinions, thoughts and ideas, and to treat others’ opinions, thoughts and ideas in a respectful and appreciative manner. No prior knowledge of leadership, dialogue, philosophy, or protreptic dialogue is required.
- Consciousness about personal values and values of the contexts we work in
- Strategies for dealing with the dilemmas we face as testers
- An introduction to protreptic concepts and dialogue