Inductions to aid collaboration

When people start a new job it can often be daunting and for some, a little overwhelming. There is often so much to learn and more often than not, a lot of the information you often need is either not easily available, or is so dull that you stuggle to get through it.

I started a new job many years ago and spent the first week reading a boring document explaining all of the departments, what they all did, what the product did and what was expected of me.

I started on the same day as five other people and the only time we really interacted in that first week was when we were all sat in the atrium waiting for our managers to take us to our “place of work”.

This is a shame when new starters don’t spend time with each other in their first few weeks/months. When you separate new starters you lose a valuable opportunity to build cross functional friendships and collaboration.

It’s also a shame when the information transfer is dull and in-affective. Even worse is when new starters aren’t even introduced to the rest of the business functions and areas.

So one of the things we’ve introduced recently at NewVoiceMedia is an induction process.

I’d seriously recommend this. It was great to see people from Marketing, Sales, Development and Professional Services (PS) all collaborating on team games.

These first few days were an opportunity also for each department to come up with something fun and fresh to tell our new starters and explain how their department functions within the business.

We saw games, visual model building (lego and cardboard boxes), mood board creation, low tech social networks, more games, prezi presentations and a serious amount of interaction. It was great fun presenting on Agile and Lean too and there were plenty of questions about how these techniques and methodologies translate to business value.

This now means our developers, testers, marketing, sales and PS now have ‘relationships’ with people in other departments and at least a basic understanding of what these other departments do. Communication channels have been created that otherwise may never have existed and a sense of collaboration has been instilled in the first few weeks of hopefully long and valued careers.

Induction days also give your team a sense of purpose and a feeling of belonging. We got some awesome feedback stating that although two days of intensive induction were tough, they were also very rewarding and a lot of fun. This is great news.

I’d recommend that all Leads/Managers consider an induction day to aid integration, cross team collaboration and more inspired communication channels. It doesn’t have to be a two day event, but I would suggest that it involves games and visual models and collaboration; activities a Tester has to do very often.

You know something I don’t know, but if you don’t share then we can’t grow

I’ve been getting to a few conferences recently and meeting lots of interesting people. One thing that is common amongst all of the conferences and user groups I get along to is that there are always people at these events who have one of the two following problems (and any number more that I won’t delve in to):

 

1. They work for someone who cannot, does not or will not share their knowledge
2. They are someone who cannot, does not or will not share their knowledge

 

It’s scary stuff. A lot of people in our testing community seem reluctant to share knowledge, skills or learning advice, even if they are at conferences. I’ve no concrete evidence of why but I suspect it could be any of the following:

 

1. They don’t realise other people might not know what they know
2. They don’t realise other people might know other stuff that they don’t know
3. They want to hog the knowledge and information in a belief they are more employable and less likely to be made redundant
4. They don’t know how to share their information
5. They don’t think people will want to learn from them
6. They lack the confidence to share information
7. They don’t value collaboration on test approaches and learning
8. They are scared people will become more knowledgeable than themselves (see point 3)
9. They don’t like other people
10. They don’t like communicating with others

 

No doubt there are thousands more reasons but I think it’s something we need to address as a community. There are lots of lessons and learning out there that many people could benefit from. We could all learn from each other. We could all improve our knowledge, understanding and skills.

 

I’m also surprised at how many stories I hear of Test Managers and Test Directors not sharing their wealth of experience (assuming they have it) with their direct team. The team is their key to success. Build the knowledge , share the knowledge, avoid the silos and encourage mastery amongst your team and I have no doubt you’ll see lots of success. So why don’t people do it?

 

So how can you help to share the knowledge and tease out the learning:

 

1. Take ownership of learning within your business / group.

Organise some learning sessions (lunch time learning, after work learning, internal blog, wiki, weekly training meeting).

Think about the Purpose, Audience and Context of your communication and choose channels and environments that compliment that.

For example, if someone in your group is unbelievably shy then presentations might not be the right choice. Maybe an internal company blog or wiki would be better.

If someone is terrible at writing and refuses to share their work in written form, then maybe an lunch time round table session might work. Experiment and keep adapting.

2. Join an online community focused on learning and sharing

For example, The Software Testing Club has an active forum, friendly people and whole wealth of groups available.

The Weeknight and Weekend Testers are very welcoming and friendly and have excellent testing sessions

There are countless forums and social groups online who are all very welcoming. Find the one that you like the feel of and sign up.

3. Join a larger social network and become part of the bigger community

Try Twitter (follow the #testing #softwaretesting #qa hashtags for a steady stream of new information) or maybe check out the softwaretesting tag on WeFollow.

LinkedIn has some good groups too, but be careful, LinkedIn has become the stomping ground of many “Best Practice Practitioners”

4. Create a local user group / meetup

Create yourself a local user group or meetup.

The Software Testing Club have some meetups throughout the year can help you get one off the ground.

There’s the very excellent London Tester Gatherings. (expanding North to Leeds also) and loads of other local meetups.

5. Slowly but surely explain and demonstrate the value of sharing and learning to those who are resistant

For example, run a training session with those who are open to sharing on some tech or some technique that you can all go away and use. Go away and use it and report the findings.

Maybe you started doing some security testing and found a SQL Injection vulnerability or you did some accessibility testing and found that none of your site is compliant with even W3C single A compliance.

 

There are many other ways to help promote a culture of learning and always seek to tease out information from those with a wealth of experience. It could be that they simply don’t realise how much knowledge they hold or maybe they’ve just not found the right medium to communicate it in. Keep chipping away. Keep seeking new ways to share. Keep learning.

 

After all, someone knows something that you don’t know. And you know something they don’t know. Wouldn’t it be beautiful to bring that together and share?