My most important testing tools.

Laying off friends wasn’t fun, but it had to be done. That’s how the journey of discovery began for me in the wake of the financial crisis. I was a test manager back then, and all of a sudden found my self as the managing director of our company.

But what to do with a collapsed customer base and few dozen unemployed friends?

As a testing professional, my first and only instinct was to meet with as many strangers in the software industry as possible and to ask what their most significant concerns were.

Over the course of 10 years, I’ve met with 2000 people in the context of understanding their problems and asking them if they needed our testing services.

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It turned out that many decision-makers had mostly biased assumptions about testing rather than actual, hands-on experience.

  1. Most of what they knew about testing was taken from school books.
  2. They usually fell back on age-old habits of industrial management.
  3. They had no clue about the outcomes they wanted.

Most of the decisions were derived from the upper ladders of organization charts, which presented even more problems. For example regarding a simple question — What is the ROI of software testing? How can we make sure that our testing investments pay themselves back? How can we measure it?

To be able to sell a simple idea of professional testing to a stranger presented a significant number of hurdles that had to be overcome. As if that wasn’t enough, we needed to learn how first to convince strangers to do testing at all. And then we needed to go further helping them actually to choose practical ways of testing.

The tools we needed, it turns out, have very little to do with our skills as professional software testers.

Too often commonsense was the least significant factor in decision making. It all boiled down to two fundamental features of the human mind. The beliefs people hold and the psychological defenses they have.

But how does one bypass those features of the mind?

Instead of studying yet another course or a book about software testing practices, we decided to set out on an expedition. For me, most essential testing tools are hidden inside three books that don’t mention testing at all.

  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff
  • Influence by Robert Cialdini

But why would I consider these to be some of my most valued testing tools?

It’s simple really. The results that we produce as testers mostly have value when others are willing to change their thinking, decision, or actions based on our work. For example by fixing a bug or re-considering release schedules.

So what if the next thing you studied wasn’t about tools and methods of testing? What if you invested in the skill of influence this time?

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