It will never work here

I think one of the most fundamental mistakes many people make when talking about testing is to assume that everyone works in the same environment, thinks the same, is testing the same and is at the same stage in their experience and learning.

I remember one evening during EuroSTAR 2011 quite a few people gathered after the day to discuss the Future of Testing. The problem was, there was no point talking about the future of testing as I suspect all present had a different view of what current testing actually is. The current ideas to one person might be the future ideas to someone else.

I have an arch nemesis who occasionally turns up to events and conferences and generally argues with everything I may ever say. My Arch Nemesis works in the same industry/domain as me, yet Cloud and Agile will *never* be accepted in their company. Never.

Yet cloud and agile are at the heart of what I do everyday.

People work in different environments and each environment will have it’s limitations, differences, pros, cons and nuances.

It will never work here” is a phrase I hear all too often from Testers and mostly it is *possibly* true. And that’s cool. There’s a way of working for everyone and as great Testers we seek out these ways. We aim to maximize our strengths, whilst minimizing our weaknesses. This is what we do. Right?

Whether it is cloud, agile, continuous release, testing in live, acceptance test driven development, exploratory testing or any other activity/process you may do there will always be someone who loves the idea, but utters those words; “It will never work here”.

Instead of complaining about people who say this I’ve started challenging them as to why they think “It will never work here”. I ask them:

  • How did they come to that conclusion?
  • Who did they ask?
  • Was that the right person to ask?
  • Did they explore alternatives?
  • What makes them think that?
  • What do they honestly think?

If it is true, that it would absolutely never work for them, then that’s cool. It probably wont work. Time to explore some other avenue.

If you think “it will never work here” when you hear someone talking about an approach but aren’t sure why it wouldn’t work, then I would encourage you to dig deeper and ask further questions. Are you really sure it won’t work?

And if you think it would work but come up with resistance to change then don’t fear. This happens to almost every person who ever tried a new idea. There are always barriers; technical, people, money, time, red tape, process etc.

What can you do to make realistic changes to your testing?

Note: The following ideas are based on the assumptions that changes you make are contributing to the department/companies objectives and goals – you do know what they are…right?

Instigate small changes, one at a time, and observe and measure feedback.

Find people who think the same way as you and work with them to bring about change.

Prove it – Make a change and measure the return on investment (ROI). If you can prove a good ROI for a change then you have a much stronger case. A gut feeling is good, but hard cold facts are better.

For example, let’s say you run a series of tests daily, manually. You prove that with some investment in an automation framework you can eliminate parts of the manual testing, freeing up a tester to do something more interesting and valuable instead.

Document the time saving, the costs, the expected time needed etc and present this to your manager/team. You stand more chance of getting agreement for change than simply saying “I think this would work”.

“But I have no time to make these small changes” – How about outside of work? During your lunch? Early in the morning? Are you sure you’re actually working on important things during the day? Or just “busy”? (busy does not mean you are adding value).

You can focus on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Let’s say you have great technical expertise in writing Selenium tests but no experience of the whole grid and infrastructure system behind it. Why not outsource this to a dedicated selenium grid cloud system and focus on what you do best? Or look to someone else in the business to get you going quicker?

Accept that nothing big will change overnight and look for small ways to improve your current situation. By accepting that things are “the way they are” you will approach your work with a different view. Tiny improvements and changes may become more obvious. Routes to new ways of working may present themselves more openly. You will notice ways to make your job easier/more fun/more challenging.

Move on. If you work in an environment where no change is possible (and you need it to change) then move on (easier said than done). When you have reached a plateau, don’t just sit there. The tech world is moving fast, and it’s important to keep your skills sharp and relevant. Move on and seek out something more in tune with your thinking.

Don’t take each approach and model as a one-size fits all solution.
If you took each new idea, tried it and and it didn’t work, then try changing the approach. If it’s not right for your way of working then do something about it. All of the training and information on testing can be useful, but your intuition and experimentation are more important. And if you mash another idea to create a new one and it works…please share it with the wider community. 🙂

4 Replies to “It will never work here”

  1. Nice blog post, Rob.

    I think ‘Prove it’ has to be my favourite, so often I hear people moaning about how no one ever listens to their ideas, nothing ever changes etc etc. Telling someone else how you would make things better is never enough. At the very least need to have some facts and figures to back it up. In the best case you would have a prototype or demo that proves why you’re idea is better.

    Change is difficult. Almost everyone has an experience of how something changed for the worse. People need to be open to new ideas and learn to adapt, either themselves, their opinions or maybe just the process/tool/idea.

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I had a really enlightened meeting once with a CEO who told me that there was a world of difference between Assertion and Demonstration. He explained that too many people “assert” that something will work, or something is wrong, or something is valuable. Too few people demonstrate it.

      Demonstration is the key to providing evidence, that ultimately adds kudos to suggestions and ideas for improvement (and/or change). After this meeting I’ve tried so hard to ensure I’m demonstrating rather than asserting.

      Long winded way of saying – thanks! Glad you liked the post.


  2. Hmmm… My recollection of one evening after EuroSTAR ’11 was trying to figure out where you were in Copenhagen without any other form of communication other than twitter 🙂

    1. lol – that was 2010 though wasn’t it? But yes, that was an interesting night 🙂

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