Category Archives: Leadership

Update on Book Review

When I was at ResMed, I was reviewing the book Black Box Testing in order to prepare for teaching a class to testers. Because I left ResMed in December, I will not complete the book review right now. Upon re-reading it after two decades, I find that I cherish the things I learned from it. I will continue reading it, but at a slower pace. As I do, I will submit reviews of each chapter at that time.

In the meantime, I will resume posts on investigations, experiments, and lessons that I learn in testing and testing technologies.

Developing Trust

Developing Trust

“What did they say?” “That it’s supposed to work that way.” “And?” “I wasn’t sure what else to say. What do you think?” “I think that you need to develop some trust. First, develop some trust in yourself. Then develop some trust from the dev to you.” It’s a common conversation I have with junior testers. As testers, our goal should be to build trust. Trust enables us to our jobs.

Trustphoto credit: mikebaird via photopin cc

What is trust?

The asset most required in our jobs as software testers is trust. That is because trust is knowledge of a person or group. The currency of that knowledge is the combination of competence, character, and commitment.

The first, competence, is how well we can do our jobs. People may think we have character, but we I say a feature has a problem, do people believe that I know what I am talking about. Competence varies for all of us depending on the domain. I can know much about restful web services (Rest) and not know much about User Experiences (UX). Or somebody may trust my knowledge in Rest but not UX. I could understand the technologies used but lack understanding of the business use.

The second measure of trust is character. I consider character to cross domains. I guess that somebody could have a character weakness, for instance if they are a covered alcoholic, but not relevant for this kind of trust. Do people know you give an honest answer? That would be integrity. Do they know you see things through to the end, or do you drop things when you get resistance? That would be courage. Other character traits of a tester include ability to communicate, and dealing with ambiguity.

And the third measure of trust is commitment to causes. A person could be honest and earnest, but wouldn’t lift a finger to save a spider if they don’t like spiders. Others will trust me or not if I am dedicated to those values that the team shares. This can vary from place to place. I have worked where the tester was ‘supposed to be the police’, as well as places where the tester was supposed to describe the quality level to management so they could make a proper decision. Popular commitments in agile include delivering value to the customer, continuous improvement, engineering for current (not potential needs), and always-working software.

Why do We Need Trust?

We do not hear many arguments against trust. But we do not always hear for a call to gain trust. Without trust, everything is more expensive in both money and time. For example, terrorist attacks in Mumbai and New York in the past decade created new, more expensive agencies to combat the potential for attacks. I have personally witnessed the cost in time every time I travel from an American airport. The example is extreme, but it scales down to our work. For instance, if I am not trusted to create tests then I will have additional review processes, sign-offs, etc.

Without building that trust, even when the competence, character, and commitment are present, you will pay the no-trust taxes. In a new relationship, the trust must be built. An assumed trust, one that is assumed upon meeting, can be duplicitous – other assumptions come with it.

How do We Build Trust?

How to build trust isn’t a simple question. That comes having competence, character, and commitment. When the currency is low then we will find building trust difficult. Those things can grow in time. If we study our craft, if we study our domain, we will gain the competence that convince our stakeholders that we ‘know what we are doing.’ As we mature, we build character from making the right decisions. As we question our beliefs and motives, we develop the commitment that other respect.

On the other hand, we build trust from others as we improve ourselves. We work in various domains – we have different levels of knowledge in those areas. We start at different trust levels in our relationships. We work with people who have different general tendencies for trust based on their experiences. Domain risk also plays into trust. I will be careful no matter who I am working with to build a pacemaker.

Lowest Trust – When we work with somebody that does not trust us, deserved or not, we can build a foundation of that trust by being polite, and simply helping them. Do not ask questions except for those that will help you do the task correctly.

Low Trust – Learn about them. Questions should be inquiring but not challenging. Your interest in them, and sharing some common experiences. Though you should focus more on them. What are their motives for what they are working on? What are their commitments?

Medium Trust – When you are at good level of trust, you can make suggestions to help them. THEN BACK OFF. Expect them to ignore your suggestion. In the occasion that they take your suggestion, be available to answer questions about details. Success isn’t necessary, but a big investment into a failure can lower the trust level.

High Trust – Once you have a high level of trust, you can act on their behalf if you tell them appropriately about what is done. Give them a report on what you will do, what you have done. For those working on Agile teams, this can sound like a ‘standup meeting’.

Highest Trust – When you are at the highest level of trust, you can just act on behalf of somebody. You know their interests and how they would decide themselves.

You can be at different levels of trust at different times of a relationship. It can go up or down for various reasons. If you haven’t interacted with somebody for a while, you might treat the trust level as if it atrophied. If you are a hired expert, you can probably skip the lowest trust level and start somewhere else.

Planning to Be Trusted

By evaluating the trust levels that your stakeholders have in you, you can begin planning on how to build a higher level of trust. The work you do when implementing a trust-building plan will actually make you better and more trustworthy. That trust is a cornerstone to becoming more effective as a software tester.

Trust me.

 

Link

Community Service Sunday

People at my church will be working in the community today instead of traditional church services. I will be out there too, working on a food drive to benefit the families of deployed Marines who typically get little in return for the extreme sacrifices. If you see me at Von’s or Stater Bros, come say hi. You can follow my tweets on the hash tag #CommunityService. I will add to this post to describe my experience later.

Leading in the Midst of Change

I got this verbatim from my pastor last night in a church meeting.

Four Different Levels of Change

  1. Mind: Information is the key to change a mind. Make sure they have the data. Facts are more persuasive than opinions, but do not necessarily generate consensus.
  2. Heart: Relationships are the key to spur a change of heart. The focus is on empathetic understanding instead of compelling arguments. An especially difficult hurdle is that emotional reactions are directed at the leader.
  3. Lifestyle: Experiences are the keys to changing lifestyle. Leaders need to give others the opportunity to have the same kind of experiences that they had, which helped bring about their own change.
  4. Culture: Commitment is the key to change in culture. A common mistake is to believe that one has won a commitment when one as one a vote. Cultures change slowly.

The Secret of Jeremy Lin’s Fame

You have to avoid all news outlets to miss the story about Jeremy Lin. I doubt that because a) you are reading the internet right now, and b) you opened this article. The interesting thing about this story is why he is a phenomena. I have heard many reasons for it.

He’s the first American born NBA player of asian descent. Aside from ESPN’s headline and SNL’s parody, does that matter? We’ve had (and have) NBA players from China. I didn’t see that level of excitement for the first Israeli player, the first Iranian player, or the first French point guard for that matter. That’s a small factor.

He’s a Harvard graduate and the NBA typically chooses talent over smart. There have been players from the Ivy League before, in the NFL, NHL, MLB, and even the NBA. Stanford, known for it’s excellent academics, has several graduates in the NBA. That’s not significant.

He’s lifted the NBA Knicks, a storied franchise, from a downward spiral. Anytime the Knicks improve, it’s a story. That’s mostly because the Knicks have been such as bad team over the past 10 or 12 years. However, Carmelo being traded to the Knicks was not that big of a story.

The truth is that he is such an interesting story to most of the people in my world because he is just like you. Here are the ways that he is the same as you.

1. You are Exceptional

Jeremy Lin has shown the world he is exceptional by setting new records points and assists in his first few games in the NBA – more than Magic Johnson. He has helped (at least up until now) turned around the Knicks season. Who knew – apparently not the 30 general managers that didn’t draft him.

You have things that you are better at than most people around you. What are you good at? You know those things you do that make you proud of yourself. There are probably things that you haven’t given yourself credit for being good at doing.

2. Nobody Believed (or Believes) in You

Lin’s high school coach was quoted as saying he thought Jeremy would be a good NCAA Division 3 player. Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks coach, didn’t even know his player’s name for a couple of weeks. He played because D’Antoni did not have a choice. His aging start point guard, Chauncey Billups, was traded to clear cap space. His newly signed point guard, Baron Davis, has been injured the entire season. And the first backup point guard was doing a poor job at running the starting team. Lin getting to start was a desperation move.

You have heard those things too. Maybe your parents said “We just don’t want you to get your hopes up too high.” Maybe a guidance counselor said “I think you should be realistic.” Maybe your co-worker said “but you are just a _[fill in the blank here]_.” Maybe you had times when you didn’t even believe in yourself.

3. You are not Perfect

Jeremy Lin isn’t either. And you don’t mind that he turns the ball over a lot. He can’t rebound like Carmelo Anthony, his Knicks teammate. He is part of a team. He fulfills roles of that team, some better than others. He facilitates the offense of the team. He initiates things. He doesn’t have to be good at all things.

 You are not perfect either. I may not know you specifically – I can guarantee that you aren’t perfect. You do, however, have skills. Practice those skills. Shore up your weaknesses. Develop yourself.

4. You Need an Opportunity

Jeremy Lin wasn’t drafted into the NBA. He looked for opportunities. He went to the eventual NBA Champs Dallas Maverick’s mini-camp. He was cut. He played a 10 day contract for the Golden State Warriors as a backup. He played overseas. He played in the NBA’s Developmental League. He did not step back and accept defeat.

You were not hired into the executive fast track of a Fortune 500 company when you graduated college (or maybe you didn’t graduate college). You started at a company that paid you poorly. Maybe that was the only offer you received. You have had to ask for more responsibilities. You have asked for promotions. You have been disappointed too.

My Story

I figured out that Jeremy Lin is like you when I discovered that he is like me. I learned to believe in myself.

I am exceptional. I have a critical mind – that’s part of how I ended up in software testing. I like teaching other people. I like to move to the next level. For most of my career, I have read the latest strategies and techniques in the software testing & quality magazines to see they are recommending what I am already doing.

I had to suffer through doubters to the point that my boss told me that my confidence should by much higher than I projected. I was promoted to be the QA manager for Service Manager (hundreds of millions of US dollars in sales and maintenance per year) because the project manager had a QA manager quit when hiring requisitions were frozen. They believed in me enough to call me “interim manager” until I proved myself in the position.

I am not perfect. I am more excited about what’s next than finishing what is now. I was a lousy public speaker – think Albert Brooks’ character in Broadcast news (sweating and falling apart). I learned to carry myself through Toastmasters. I learned my craft through courses, books, magazines, and reading articles on the internet (like you are doing now).

I found opportunities. I started at HP as a contract hardware tester making $9/hour – pushing paper through the fax machine’s sheet feeder. Years later when I was promoted to be the QA manager,  because I asked for that job – and requested a lot of responsibilities in between.

Your Story

The corollary to Jeremy Lin to being like you is that you are like him. His story will be your story if you want it to be. You like Jeremy Lin because you want his story. So make it happen. Start by telling me your story here in the comments below.

Leadership (part 6) – Your Story

As a result of this series, I was able to lead a 1 hour seminar session about leadership at Toastmasters Leadership Institute in San Diego on Saturday where I shared an interactive discussion. I want to keep building on the topic of leadership because it is so interesting. I found the interaction of the comments on this blog to be helpful to me, and even more so with the questions and comments that I received in during the interactive session.

I want your story. I am requesting for you to answer these questions, preferable by video recording, so that I can include them in collage of answers. Please contact me by email using mcnulla at gmail dot com so we can arrange to transfer a copy of your video. Also, see the release form to make sure you agree with it.  Thank You!

RELEASE AGREEMENT

For good and valuable consideration, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, I hereby consent to the photographing of myself and the recording of my voice and the use of these photographs and/or recordings singularly or in conjunction with other photographs and/or recordings for advertising, publicity, commercial or other business purposes. I understand that the term “photograph” as used herein encompasses both still photographs and motion picture footage.

I further consent to the reproduction and/or authorization by David McNulla to reproduce and use said photographs and recordings of my voice, for use in all domestic and foreign markets. I hereby release David McNulla and organizations that he works with including Toastmasters International, and any of its associated or affiliated organizations, their directors, officers, agents, employees and customers, and appointed advertising agencies, their directors, officers, agents and employees from all claims of every kind on account of such use. I am at least the age of 18 years.

Leadership (part 5) – Getting Others to Participate

Leadership is not an individual sport – others have to play or it won’t happen. I will discuss how you can convince others to join you and participate. I am tailoring this section to Toastmasters because I have been asked to speak on this subject in a couple of weeks, but this kind of leadership applies to so much more than Toastmasters. My great friend Ed, a leader in his church, said to me “You nailed it with leaders being servants. That is the way Jesus modeled true leadership.” This stuff applies all the way around non-profit organizations, families, and sports teams.  Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to create more leaders. It’s for you, so you have less dead weight to carry. It’s for them, to have purpose and a better life to live.

“Whoa, Dave,” you might say, “Why does it matter to me if somebody is a poor leader of a Toastmasters club I don’t attend?” It matters because you believe in the organization, otherwise you wouldn’t be part of it. It’s a good organization because of the people – the ones that came before and the ones that come later. It matters because a leader doesn’t want a failure like that on his watch. And I am glad it didn’t take much to convince you, I knew that it wouldn’t.

Let’s get on with the leadership building.

Now the foolish salesman will treat everybody the same. One size fits all. That is a shame because many will miss the point of their leadership opportunity. They need to know how this helps them. The things they need to know depend on where they are at in their journey. Some of the leaders are experienced. Others are just starting. I believe the key is how much or how little they have benefited so far. Somethings must apply to all. Here are some things you can tell them:

Everybody:

  1. Praise their good qualities. Of course, you have to recognize their good qualities first. And tell them. This should start and end every time you give advice.
  2. Remind them about teamwork. If you don’t have time to do it right, you definitely don’t have time to do it alone.
  3. Work the Toastmaster leadership program. You will read about the basic skills to be successful, practice to learn those skills, and fill larger roles to apply those skills at a higher level.

Experienced Toastmasters:

  1. People make the organization happen. A well run organization doesn’t happen automatically like the seasons, flowers, and fruit. You have received that benefit, so pay it forward.
  2. Now you have a chance to create your legacy and greater reputation. You are building your brand. How do people think of that brand?

Newbies:

  1. Others are there to help you. Nearly every situation you encounter, somebody else encountered that or close to that circumstance. Ask for their help, then honor that help by seeing it through.
  2. Leadership is rewarding. Whether you decide to conquer the world, or return to being the servant leader, you will always appreciate your own capability and accomplishments.
  3. You will develop a greater understanding of the organization, and of the skills you need to master your own definition of success.

Let’s go back to the first image that we had in this series – the one about the new leader. The new leader is ready to take on new responsibilities because of learning leadership skills. He is going to be a successful leader. But you are not that leader. You are not the Grasshopper, Kwai Chang Caine. You are the blind master Po. You have taught and encouraged the next generation of leaders. Because the greatest act of a leader is to create a leader that he himself would follow.