Slow Down, Drop It and Be Creative
Test and Monitor | Posted August 26, 2013

QA teams have less time to report bugs, it’s easy for them to feel like they are running out of time. Feeling this way can soon lead to rushing through work, cutting corners, and eventual burnouts among team members. This is why testers need to take a closer look at the project workflow as a whole and find ways to be more effective. If you feel uneasy about tough deadlines dictated by project managers then the team culture or work habits amongst employees need to be assessed. In addition, testing requires a certain amount of creativity think exploratory testing, but creativity is naturally reduced by stress. There needs to be empathy when managing teams, especially when any defect that is overlooked can cause tremendous loss of company credibility after a product launch.

I attended a conference held in Boston this past week, and was fascinated by a speech given by Arianna Huffington. She's not a software tester, but you can’t deny her qualifications in project management when she has amassed one of the most popular media outlets in the world. Her speech really resonated with me, particularly her points emphasizing that most project teams need to rethink their workflows and culture. When meeting strict deadlines is the norm, it's easy to fall victim to toxic work patterns in order to "get the job done," but that doesn't mean the project was completed effectively. Mrs. Huffington stated three points that should be taken into account:

  1. Being in a hurry all the time leads to burnout.
  2. Some projects CAN be completed by simply dropping them altogether.
  3. Creativity flourishes only when we can shut out the rest of the world.

Burning Out

It's time to take a closer look at what you are rushing to get done.

Let's face it; we all succumb to vicious cycles that spawn from being under constant pressure - we're all human. Taking a step back to invoke change may be a scary thought when our daily routine is so deeply ingrained in us, but it's the best way to do away with these viscous cycles to avoid burnout which leads to hefty mistakes in the QA process.

Mrs. Huffington's philosophy on work culture and employee well-being is a big reason why The Huffington Post has become so successful. For instance, she spoke about how she introduced "nap rooms" for her company in order to allow her employees a place to relax and recharge. It makes sense. People simply don't work as effectively when they are constantly tired and stressed out. Everyone is different. Some people probably DO need a nap or a few minutes to stop and smell the roses during the day, and it shouldn't be indicative of the type of employee they are.

Personally, I would be reluctant to be seen walking into a "nap room" in the middle of a work day, but that's exactly the problem. Our society has built a culture of racing to the finish line without stopping to unwind. In the case of software testing, mental bandwidth is a limited resource, and walking away from testing once in awhile to "relax" can allow you to come back with new a approach to see things in a different light.

Quitting in the Name of Success

Another one of Mrs. Huffington's points was that sometimes the best way to complete something is to drop it altogether; that we have a terrible habit of trying to complete projects that don't matter. Instinctively, not finishing a project brings out our guilty conscience. When a project is incomplete we feel guilt until the task at hand is completed. An example of this would be creating a lengthy test script for added features to software that will unlikely even be used by the end user. It may be a better approach to avoid building that test script altogether, and to just do a quick manual test of that add-on feature. Of course, dropping important test cases is not recommended, but a lot of the work testers perform may be due to habit, irrelevant testing procedures, or even peace of mind for the tester.

Getting Creative

In relation to Mrs. Huffington's last point about creativity, being creative with your exploratory tests is very important to find bugs that would otherwise be overlooked by test automation or manual test scripts. If testers are stressed out or dealing with a an influx of emails from other teams, they cannot focus on the creative aspects of their testing. You need to have time to shut out the rest of the world to allow creativity to flourish, since constant distractions limit your creative process.

We, as a society, have built this troublesome work environment in order to be more efficient in our day-to-day lives, but are we really being efficient? Only when we are not in a hurried, rushed, or tired state of mind can we truly be effective with our work and lives in general. The old culture of racing to the finish line as a reaction to the fear that we'll get left behind needs to end.

What do yo think? Does Arianna Huffington have a valid point, or is she just expressing what the average worker wants to hear? Can we be more efficient workers and be less stressed at the same time? Comment below to let me know what you think.

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