The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Developers: Habit #4: Think Win/Win

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on several matters of broad national interest—the State of Arizona’s immigration law and the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) regarding health insurance requirements.

Miraculously, both political parties, Democrats and Republicans, claimed victory in each ruling. That’s not the kind of win/win we’re talking about here.

Although there may be a kernel of truth in the losing side’s argument (whichever party you think that is), in reality, one side largely won and the other largely lost.

But in business, unlike sports or politics, there is a win/win scenario where all parties can genuinely and legitimately benefit from the outcomes of a given situation.

In our case, we’re referring to the tugs of war - or grudge matches - that routinely arise between development teams and the organizations whose job it is to test their work. These conflicts are disruptive, they adversely affect the quality of the software produced, and they cut into the effectiveness of developers and testers alike. The real loser in all of this is the customer—the end user.

If the customer is always right, who’s wrong?

Perhaps the most important thing you can do to foster a win-win scenario is to share knowledge among all the team members, developers and testers. The tendency to withhold certain information from team members “on the other side” may be natural, a desire to protect your turf (and perhaps, your job), but it is not productive. It contributes to mistrust and when discovered (it’s always discovered sooner or later), it fosters ill will.

Use collaboration software to share real-time access to documents, comments, defect tracking, and anything else all team members might need to do the best job for the customer. Remember, this is not “Us vs. Them;” developers and coders work for the same boss—the end user.

Find ways to work together

Agile development and agile testing require developers and testers work together in ways that go beyond traditional roles.

Instead of looking for ways to silo your part of the operation, proactively seek ways to work together with testers. Sometimes, this means something as simple as developing a relationship that goes beyond shop talk. Find common interests outside of work, take inter-team lunches, foster activities that forge bonds that reinforce your relationship, such as a company bowling or softball team that competes against real competitors—people who don’t work in your enterprise.

By seeking out opportunities where developers and testers can unite around non-work-related common goals, that camaraderie will soon spill over into the workplace and you will find yourselves tugging on the same end of the rope more often than not.

Integrate to Elevate

If you implement the types of tools that integrate the entire project, you set the tone and provide the channels that will help develop and testing teams integrate as well.

Achieving a win/win situation, especially in software development, does not come naturally or easily. We’re taught from a young age that where there are winners, there must also be losers. We see our political leaders fly in the face of reality and proclaim victory regardless of the facts on the ground. It’s easy to miss the opportunities to move everyone forward when we are given the false dichotomy of win or lose.

Next up in our series: Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.

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