Monday, 12 October 2009

What's Your Testing Motto?

Do you have a motto in your testing work?

What's a motto?
Do you have a general approach to your work? Maybe it's an attitude or general starting position. Maybe it's something that sums up your team approach, your problem approach, the approach to test issues - it could be a separate approach for each or a single approach that works on many different levels.

When I first started as a trainee function tester (that was the job title) one of my first team leaders said to me, "Anyone will help you, but you will have to do the work."

Personal Motto
I liked that, adopted it and personalised it. I reframed it for my use as, "I'll help with anything, but it's you who needs to do the work."

This fits into the teamwork approach grouping of mottos, or phrases that sum up my approach.

On the face of it this could sound negative. I never interpretted it that way when first hearing it and have never meant it that way when using it. To me it is an enabler for teamwork. If used within a team it means that everyone supports everybody else within the team and also that everybody contributes to the team. So, from that perspective it's very inclusive.

I don't remember the last time I used the phrase (maybe 2-3 years ago), but everybody that works with me (including managers) knows about it, buys into it and I occasionally hear it used in front of me - so it's an idea that is easy to adopt and spread.

People like and see the value in it, whether it's called a motto, a phrase or an attitude.

Other Mottos?
Can I find a phrase that sums up my attitude/approach to problem solving and test approaches? Mmm, let's see:

Problem solving: I'm a divergent thinker and emergent learner, so I think my attitude has got to be broad coverage, initially shallow and follow-up on key areas.

Test approach: This is a combined top-down and bottom-up approach, trying to understand the big picture as well as digging into the details (a typical answer from a divergent thinker and emergent learner!)
Note, it doesn't mean that these approaches always work for me - but they are starting points.

Why bother?
You could ask the question, "why bother trying to sum up my testing approach?" Maybe you have a list of things that you could categorize that you use, something taking a page or chapter to discuss.

Well think of the example of twitter. Sometimes when trying to get a message across (in 140 characters) you need to re-think what you want to say, cut out the noise and try to distill the message.

It doesn't always work - sometimes you remove part of the message/meaning as well as the noise. But, try it as an exercise - what do you do, why and can you describe it? It's a very powerful exercise.

Do you have any mottos?

Can your testing approach or attitude be summed up in a few words? In your own words, or somebody elses...


  1. Hi Simon, your twitter exercise is something I also suggest for writing bug headers - its one of the recent twitter tips on @dailytestingtip

    (yes I know complete and utter obvious plug!)


  2. Hi Anne-Marie,

    Yes twitter is a very good tool to help you get the most meaning out of the fewest words. Lots of potential usage...

    No problem with the plug I'll ask for payback on the favour later ;-)

  3. Personal Motto
    Sharing with others and Learning from others

    Problem Solving
    I am a lateral thinker(still learning a lot) and my attitude has got more to do with moving step by step to solve any problem, see if anyone else has solved better, identify the gaps in my thinking and adopt a more optimized approach

    Test Approach
    I put on the layman's hat to test any product and see the impact it can make to a first time user of the product. Then I move on to other test techniques based on what interests the stakeholders the most. 100% coverage is a big No.

    Parimala Shankaraiah

  4. Hi Simon,

    One of the main mottos I keep telling myself is:

    "there is no such thing as a best practice, just ideas, suggestions and recommendations"

    And this tells me all the time that I can't look at a problem or a task with a standard and normalised point of view. I need to try and think of all the good ways I have solved a problem and apply them to this problem, but not assuming that it is the best solution possible.

    And a self promoting one which I always tell myself is

    "always think of the Purpose, Audience and Context"

    It makes me sit back and think about what I'm doing, what I'm going to respond with and what I really am being presented with. It stops me rushing in without fully understanding the situation.


  5. Good comments Rob, thanks!

    Assume nothing - absolutely.

    We used to have a saying at our place - it crops up occassionally - "Assumption is the mother of all FU's!"