And in a simplistic way, you are either in it, or out of it. The loop I refer to is the loop that surrounds your team, or your project or your organisation or your current test case. The loop in which you work. Big or large. Wide or narrow. A loop. Maybe you belong to several loops. You will most certainly be in at least one.
If you are in a loop you often don’t see the problems with the loop. You are blind to the real reasons why your particular loop might not be working efficiently. You have narrow focus.
To see the problems with the loop, you often need to be outside the loop. Once outside the loop you can have fresh eyes and with a clear mind you can see the problems. You get a wider picture of the loop. You will see the problems, bottlenecks and efficiency gains. Some of the problems may seem obvious, as many problems are once understood, yet others may take a good deal of searching to be uncovered.
If you are outside of the loop you often see them quicker and easier than those people inside the loop. Look at how often a fresh set of eyes finds bugs in apps you’ve tested well; or when a customer reports a blatantly obvious bug the whole team missed.
Some problems persist in the same loop for many years. Often until fresh eyes point out the problems or the loop itself collapses under a mega weight of inefficiency and problems.
But I digress.
The problem with being outside the loop though is that you often cannot change the loop. And this is a common problem faced by many consultants (or new starters) who lack the pursuading skills needed to change the loop.
Consultants often point out the problems, notice the bottlenecks and clearly see a more efficient path of working, but because they are outside the loop they find it tough to change the loop. Resistance to change from outsiders is natural.
And it’s not just consultants who can point out problems. I’ve heard testers comment or berate other test teams for doing X when Y would be better. Do these testers work in a perfect loop themselves…really?
“You need to be outside the loop to see the loop. But when you are outside the loop it becomes much harder to influence the loop”
The above quote was taken from Patrick Neate’s awesome book “Where You’re At” (http://www.patrickneate.com/page.asp?p=3008).
So being inside the loop is hard work because you can’t see the problems as clearly. But being outside the loop is hard work too because you can’t always influence the loop.
So here’s some advice.
Don’t be afraid to step outside the loop…often. Taking a step back from your testing world and looking at the project as a whole is very valuable.
Taking a critical look at your project from another viewpoint is essential. Taking a massive long look at the whole organisation from a different perspective can be mind blowing.
- Why not swap people from one team to the other after the project finishes (unless of course you find the all elusive high performance team of heros)?
- Why not sit in on other team meetings?
- Why not have floating testers who simply switch from team to team every week. This works wonders but takes a certain type of tester (and supporting team) to cope with it.
- Why not share your observations and collaborate to improve? Why not help each other to see the problems?
I’ve seen this working first hand with major success. You’d be surprised at how valuable this can be. A real eye opener for some teams. Heart breaking for others.
Why not get a consultant in to help you with your testing work, but ensure you give them the mechanism to make changes? After all, it’s a royal waste of time paying a consultant and then not letting them change anything. Believe me though, this happens a lot. Consultant are valuable, you’ve just got to work with them closely.
Outside viewers, consultants or observers are not a bad thing. Not always anyway. They are loop observers. They will see things you cannot. They will notice problems you might never see. They are incredibly valuable. Work with these people to improve your process.
Be conscious of the fact that you CAN influence the loop. And provided with the right information there is no stopping you.
Observers can feed you the observations, you can make the changes.
And there’s no better collaboration effort than that.
Photo courtesy of Alex Kess (flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/akc77/)