Tag Archives: leadership

What is Your Legacy? Part 5

How to reduce the cost of testing
Image courtesy of Amazon.

Throughout the “What is Your Legacy” series, I have mostly focused on the Testers in the trenches and I hope you enjoyed learning more about Testers that you may not be connected. Perhaps you found one or more Testers that you will start following on Twitter or their blogs. I love how the Testing community supports one another and how we share information within the community. Today I would like to talk about the book “How to Reduce The Cost of Software Testing”.

This book was written by many Testers who responded to a couple of questions posted on LinkedIn. It is an amazing book filled with the collective knowledge of more than 20-Testers from around the world sharing their thoughts and experiences on reducing the cost of Software Testing while still identifying the problems and bugs. A brief bio is provided on each of the authors with most of them having active websites. This is another great way to “meet” more Testers within the community.

This book also introduced me to Testers such as Selena Delesie who wrote an important chapter on “The Cost of Quality”. She presents different processes and approaches to reduce costs while improving quality through a fictional company case study. I think most of us are challenged to reduce the cost of testing but retain a high level of quality testing. We need to understand that cost as we make decisions since there are typically many different paths to choose from.

Another Tester I learned about through this book was Catherine Powell who wrote a chapter called “Opportunity Cost of Testing”. I love this chapter because as Testers every decision we make has a cost. We may select one set of tests over another set based upon the requirements and known risks. Testers are always fighting the clock; therefore understanding the opportunity costs of our decisions is fairly important.

This book is packed with valuable information; a great way to get acquainted with a lot of Testers; and the chapters can be read in any order. It does not get much better than that! Hopefully you will have an opportunity to read this wonderful book and apply what you are learning to your own department.

What is Your Legacy – Part 2

I recently attended a women’s conference with the theme “What is your Legacy?” Before I get back to my onboarding new testers series I am writing a few postings on testers who I believe are leaving a legacy in the testing field. It is important to understand that you do not need to be a consultant or own your own business to make a difference. Testers in the trenches can influence change not only in their organizations but also in the testing community. In part one I discussed a few testers that I admire for different reasons. Of course this is an endless list as each of us will admire different leaders. There are many well known leaders such as Cem Kaner, James Bach, Michael Bolton, and many many others. But my focus is more on the testers in the trenches and how they are leaving a legacy that have inspired me! I hope that you realize that everyone can have a legacy. Today I am sharing a few more testers. And think about your legacy – how will you be known – and how are you known presently?

Darren McMillan
I became acquainted with Darren through Twitter and was immediately impressed with his approaches for challenging how testers approach problems. He would tweet asking if anyone was interested in participating in a testing challenge that he was facilitating with his team. Different problems were identified such as “the world could end in 5-minutes” and “testing the future”. Testers would have a time-box to complete the assignment and would provide how they approached the problem, then Darren would meet with them and create a mind map with all the solutions and ideas. You can find his challenges on his website. I have used these challenges as part of my training program as they are a fun way to learn and you will find where you fall into thinking patterns that need to be broken. Plus it shows the power of teamwork over individual, silo testing. As a team we are stronger by bringing together different ways to approach the same problem. I remember when Darren started to blog about using mind maps to write test plans, test ideas, and test cases. It was very interesting to me since it was a lean way to capture information and visually was easy to read. He wrote about mind mapping in Tea-time With Testers and I found an opportunity to use them in test planning and execution. What I witness was testers around the world adopting mind maps as a way to plan and manage the complexities of testing. I don’t know if Darren realized the impact he would have with his blogs and articles but imagine if he did not blog about his ideas with fear they would be rejected.

Michael Larsen
Michael Larsen is an endless supporter of the testing community. He is a Black Box Software Testing (BBST) instructor. BBST is a challenging software testing program that I have not yet attended since it is always filled before I have a chance to enroll. My understanding from Michael and from the BBST website is that it is a blended learning approach using videos lectures, quizzes, different homework assignments, and a final exam. The homework and the exam are peer-reviewed. Every participant in the course reviews work submitted by other participants and provides feedback and suggests grades. What I really like about this approach is that you demonstrate your skills through various activities and at the end of it if you pass the course it really means something! Michael also maintains his own blog with interesting postings from book reviews, software testing techniques, and information on conferences. I love Michael’s book reviews because it has helped me identify books for my testing team. Michael also is a facilitator of Weekend Testing Americas and as the chapter has grown more facilitators have been added. I do admire how much Michael gives of himself to the Testing Community and his own beautiful family.

Elisabeth Hendrickson
Elisabeth has extensive experience as a developer, tester, manager, and quality engineering director in a variety of companies ranging from small startups to multi-national enterprises. You can learn more about her through her Test Obsessed blog. I love her book Explore It! Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing. It is a small book in size but it is packed with valuable information and you only need to read a few pages to be inspired on how you might approach a testing problem differently. This is a great book to be part of your journal club to slowly work through the material to determine how it influences your testing and how you view testing. Take your time and do not rush the reading. Instead read a few pages and let the information sink in before moving on. I also love her book There’s Always a Duck. It is a collection of her postings from blogging and other places she published. It is a great collection of stories and information spanning her 15-years of writing. I love how she brought together this information in an e-book format making it easier to read and locate information. Elisabeth is a gifted writer and both books are important contributions to the testing community as they hold a wealth of information based upon her experiences.

Career planning as a path to promotion – using Mind Maps

career planning steps

In developing a career plan you have many options from creating a formal plan to using tools such as mind maps to organize the skills and knowledge you would like to develop. It is important to have your own plan to ensure you are progressing in your career. In the September 2013 edition of Tea-time With Testers I wrote an article called: Prepare for Promotion Now! It was part of a special edition: Women in Testing. In preparing for a future promotion you need to understand where the company is headed and continue to develop your skills to be ready for future opportunities.

Recently, I was promoted to Director, Quality Management Programs. In this position I will be continue to oversee the strategic direction and leadership of the Software Testing department. In addition I will oversee and implement a quality management system and participate in company-wide quality initiatives and programs. I was in the right place at the right time and over the years I continued my formal education while progressing my skills and knowledge. When I review how my career has progressed over the years it all came together for this promotion fulfilling a new need in the organization. Often sacrifices need to be made to prepare for your future career. When returning to college for my Masters in Strategic Leadership, I went to college full-time and worked full-time. My weeks were about 70-80 hours during this time period. Over the years I continued my professional development through social networking, books, blogs, webinars, and training seminars. Social networking opens up a lot of opportunities for interacting with experts throughout the world regarding different subject matters. Plus I look for new opportunities at work to take on additional responsibility or incorporate what I am learning to how we work. I have never been concerned about working a 40-hour week as I believe we each make life choices on how we use our time.

I tend to have a vision for my life that I discussed in my New Years posting. The below mind map is an example on how you can define your vision, goals, actions, and how you will be accountable. Developing a plan can be easy; however making progress can be difficult. Be sure to identify the gaps in skills and knowledge you are trying to bridge to help with knowing if you are making progress. Then identify a discipline method to review your progress to determine your next steps. You could have a second mind map or just add more nodes to your planning map to document your progress. For example you could add the date when you attended the Rapid Testing Intensive course by James Bach.

Best wishes with your career planning! In future postings I will share other tools for career development. If you want more information on mind mapping see my posting An Introduction to Mind Maps and Testing. See my previous posting on Ideas and Approaches on Developing a Career Plan and if you review my blog you will find more postings on leadership and career development. Plus stay tuned for future postings!!

Career_Plan

What Will You Do To Develop Your Leadership Potential?

Action Plan
I have posted several articles on suggestions on how you can develop your leadership skills. Hopefully you found this information helpful with a suggestion or two that you can use in developing your skills. Now it is up to you to decide what to do next.

Personal Integrity
Integrity as defined by dictionary.com is the adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; and honesty. I would guess that most people believe they have integrity, as they are honest and ethical people. Lets dig a little deeper into personal integrity and ask a few questions that are important for leaders.

• If I tell someone I will take care of something, do I complete it as promised or does the person need to follow-up with me?
• Do my actions speak louder than my words? Do I live the lifestyle I claim to live?
• Do I gossip and spread rumors?
• Do people feel they can approach me when there is a problem or question?
• Do I have a temper where people do not find me approachable?

There are more questions that could be asked but we have to determine if people trust us and seek us out.

I believe strongly that actions speak louder than words. As an example, we all know it is important to have a good working relationship with the developers and the business people. Do not be a tester who talks about the importance of relationship building – instead lead in that aspect. When there are problems or more information is needed on the business requirement, reach out to the appropriate people and lead those efforts from a testing aspect. Build a reputation in the various functional areas allowing you to tap into those relationships. Just as important encourage these people to seek you out with problems and questions.

Your Personal Integrity Action Plan
What areas do you need to address? How visible are you in key functional areas? Do people seek you out? Why do people seek you out? Why do they not? Starting today what changes can be made to start building more meaningful relationships?

Expertise
Do you have an area of expertise whether it is product knowledge, data processing, or a particular testing approach (i.e., load testing)? How can you take a leadership role in leading lunch and learn sessions, round table discussions or other forms of training and discussions? This could lead to inviting other testers to present their expertise with you overseeing and leading the process.

Your Expertise Action Plan
What are your areas of expertise? How can a leadership role be developed in that area? What expertise would you like to develop? What are the company needs that might be a good fit? Based upon this assessment, what is your plan to achieve these goals?

Journal Clubs
Facilitating journal clubs is a great way to show leadership skills because they can demonstrate organization, communication, time management, and conflict resolution skills. If your company does not have a journal club determine if you can start one whether it is during work hours or afterwards. Refer to my posting for more information on journal clubs.

Your Journal Club Action Plan
Do you think you would enjoy leading a journal club? If yes, be sure to research strategies on facilitating a journal club to ensure it is a beneficial experience to those attending. What are your first steps to move this initiative forward?

What Will You Do?
Throughout this series, I have provided different learning materials and suggestions for developing your leadership skills. Many of these suggestions may not seem like large initiatives and all of them may not be applicable. Plus there are other avenues not discussed in this series. Regardless of your approach, it takes time, practice, and receiving feedback from the right people. Building your leadership skills is similar to building your testing skills. Start small and work your way to larger initiatives.

What are your leadership opportunities and what is your plan to progress your skills and abilities?

Below are links to previous leadership postings that you might find helpful.
Developing Your Leadership Potential
Leadership Books, Seminars, and Workshops
Books I Read: The CEO and the Monk
Books I Read: Gung Ho!
Developing Your Leadership Skills through a Journal Club
A few more books to develop your leadership skills

A few more books to develop your leadership skills

crossword 14
My recent postings are about how testers can develop their leadership skills. I have shared a few books that have helped me in my career and today I would like to share a few more books. I hope that you are working on finding opportunities to develop your leadership skills. Remember it is okay to start with something small and then continue to build upon your successes.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell (10th anniversary edition)

John discusses 21 laws of leadership with stories of leaders who were successful and those that were not and why they failed. At the end of this book, John provides a leadership evaluation based upon the 21 laws. This assessment allows you to determine where you would like to make changes or the skills you need to add to your leadership team since no one will excel in all 21 areas. This is a good book for both self-assessment of leadership skills while understanding why other leaders succeeded or failed in certain areas. I always enjoy reading stories about other leaders to help me refine my leadership approaches.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Stephen Covey talks about making a “paradigm shift” in your life, which is a change in perception and interpretation of how the world works. It is important that you take time to study this book in order to understand and apply the seven habits. Below are the seven habits. Plus you can read more about them through Amazon and Wikipedia.

The first three habits deal with self-mastery: Be Proactive; Begin with the end in mind; and Put first things first.

The next three habits deal with working with others: Think win-win; Seek first to understand, then to be understood; Synergize (combining the strengths of other people).

The final habit is: Sharpen the saw, which is basically creating an environment of physical and mental renewal.

This is a good book if you are looking to dive deeper into self-awareness and change. But you will need some serious time to work through and apply the material.

Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton

This book provides insight on your strengths and talents through an Internet assessment called StrengthsFinder ® Profile. The assessment is a product of a 25-year, multimillion-dollar effort to identify the most prevalent human strengths. This book is good if you want to learn more about the gifts you are born with and how to tap into those skills.

Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham

This book expands upon your strengths and talents as identified in “Now Discover Your Strengths” through a six-week evolving plan to further develop them. There is an online assessment called “The Strengths Engagement Track” to help you understand how effectively and consistently you are tapping into your strengths. You take the assessment at the beginning and at the end of the program. This assessment is used with the six-week program. This book is good if you are looking for a structured program to tap into your talents. If a team is using this approach, there is a way to link the ID codes to provide an overall team score.

Your Leadership Training Action Plan

Through this leadership series, identify material that is appropriate for how you learn to develop your leadership skills. Identify a leader(s) that you can study his/her leadership style and consider developing an actionable plan. This personal plan can include books to read, blogs to follow, how to protect time for your training, and working with a mentor or coach to hold you accountable and provide feedback on your progress. In a future posting I will write more about creating a career development plan.

Below are links to previous leadership postings that you might find helpful.
Developing Your Leadership Potential
Leadership Books, Seminars, and Workshops
Books I Read: The CEO and the Monk
Books I Read: Gung Ho!
Developing Your Leadership Skills through a Journal Club

Leadership Books, Seminars, and Workshops

leadership books

In my first posting I started a discussion on leadership and what it can mean to testers. I want to share Teri Charles article called “Be the Leader You Want in Your Life”. Teri shares some great insight that I completely agree with so I hope you will take some time to read her article. I am impressed how Teri is always learning to improve her testing skills and knowledge.

There is a whole industry of leadership books, videos, and seminars describing or led by inspirational leaders to help you develop your leadership abilities. It can be rather overwhelming to sift through all the potential opportunities. Over the next few postings, I will discuss a few books that influenced my career.

Personally, I enjoy reading about leaders from different disciplines to challenge my own leadership style and approaches. A couple of books I read earlier in my career includes: “The CEO and the Monk” and “Gung Ho! Turn on the People in Any Organization”. Plus when there is time I enjoy reading Harvard Business Review, which can provide guidance on handling conflict, problems, team building, and other valuable advice. I like how they present different sides of a problem that you can analyze and decide what would you do if you were in that situation. Then different business leaders provide their insight.

Currently I am reading John C. Maxwell’s 10th anniversary edition of “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You”. Remember that leadership is not a static action – like testing you are always learning and developing your leadership skills. As such John published a 10th anniversary of his book to share with his readers what he has learned since its original publication.

From a broader development perspective, I am a fan of actionable models. There are several books that I have found beneficial. They include:

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
  • Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
  • Go Put Your Strengths to Work by Marcus Buckingham

I usually take my time reading these books since I like to read a chapter, let it sink in a bit, and see how I can apply what I am learning to my leadership style. I tend to take notes or outline the concepts to help me work through the material. I might write a brief plan on how I will handle situations differently. My books tend to have sections highlighted and I use small sticky notes to tag important pages. I tend to purchase them in a physical book format instead of for my Kindle. I like that you can highlight text on the Kindle but a physical book allows me to quickly flip between pages.

Do you have any favorite leadership books? Do you prefer a physical book or reading on your Kindle?

Developing Your Leadership Potential

leadership

There are a lot of great leaders within the testing community. Most everyone could produce a list of whom they consider a leader and the qualities that they admire about them. However, I do have a concern that the “leadership” label can actually prevent testers from recognizing their own potential. Too many testers believe if they do not have the “right” title they cannot be leaders. Some testers will have “leader” in their job title such as a “team leader”. They may lead a team of testers to meet a testing deadline by providing direction and oversight. Others will have “leadership” implied in the job function. A senior software tester may provide leadership through decision-making and solving complicated testing problems to provide guidance to more junior testers. The Testing Manager may provide leadership through sharing vision and strategic direction. I would like to dedicate a few postings to talk more about developing your leadership potential and opportunities – regardless of your job title.

Leadership Definition
How do you define “leadership”? Depending upon whom you ask, they may provide a slightly different definition. Below are definitions from popular leadership experts and from the online business dictionary.

Dr. Stephen R Covey teacher, organizational consultant, and author:
“Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.”

Dr. John Kotter, Harvard Business School and the Chief Innovation Officer at Kotter International. From HBR Blog network January 9, 2013:
“It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy.”

From the online Business Dictionary:
The activity of leading a group of people or an organization or the ability to do this. Leadership involves:

  • establishing a clear vision,
  • sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly,
  • providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision,
  • coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.

A leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations. Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, although it may be learned and enhanced through coaching or mentoring.

Whose Leadership Do you Admire?
Create a list of testers who inspire you and whose leadership you admire. What makes them a good leader? Did they receive a promotion and suddenly people started to follow them? Or did they build a reputation over time where earned respect resulted in people seeking them out and following their direction? How many of them had “leadership” in their title or job function?

There are many testers I admire for their leadership skills – often I do not know their job title or job responsibilities. I respect the ability to identify and progress a vision that is adopted by other testers. The creation and evolution of weekend testing is a perfect example. There were the initial testers who led the initiative and then testers around the world stepped into leadership roles to create and evolve their chapters. I admire those who become a champion for different approaches such as documenting test ideas and strategies. A great example is the teaching and sharing of practical examples on how to use a tool like mind maps. The leadership I have witnessed by several testers has influenced many testers throughout the world to adopt mind maps as a testing tool.

Throughout the years, I have witnessed leadership within companies I am employed by testers stepping into this role when their title and job function does not indicate “leadership”. Some have taken the lead when a project is in trouble. Other testers have taken the initiative to learn complex functionality to lead those testing efforts. While other testers excelled in their communication ability to present new ideas for acceptance by other testers.

When testers believe that they need to be in the right job before they can become leaders, they can actually limit their career progression. Typically people are promoted once they demonstrate the ability to perform higher-level position responsibilities. This should not be interpreted that you should only work on your leadership skills when there is a promotion opportunity. Developing these opportunities can make your current position more rewarding. Becoming a leader is not like turning a light bulb on and off. I receive a promotion and now I can be a leader. This is flawed thinking that I have witnessed in the testing community. Leadership presence is not a title instead it requires influence and respect that is earned through your actions. For example, it is making eye contact, personal connections, building trust and respect, and acknowledging other people’s skills and abilities. Leaders initiate communication and relationships with other people – they do not wait for people to seek them out.

So you might be wondering how to develop your leadership potential. Leaders identify opportunities and take calculated risks. We have seen that with the examples I discussed in this article. However, do not be concerned that you need to start off with something big. Find small opportunities to develop your leadership skills, reputation, and consider developing your own learning plan.

What have you done to develop your leadership potential? What could you be doing now to be a better leader?