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Team Leadership: Telling Your Testing Stories


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It used to be that your work and results spoke for themselves. No longer is that the case. Today you need to be a better collaborator, communicator, and facilitator so that you focus your teams on …

It used to be that your work and results spoke for themselves. No longer is that the case. Today you need to be a better collaborator, communicator, and facilitator so that you focus your teams on delivering value. Join Bob Galen to explore the power of the story, one of the most effective communication paradigms. You can tell stories that create powerful collaboration. You can tell stories that communicate product requirements and customer needs. You can tell stories that inspire teams to deliver results. And you can tell stories that explain your value and successes to your customers and stakeholders. Explore basic storytelling techniques, specific techniques for framing stories for software testing activities, and test leadership storytelling that energizes and guides your teams. Take time to practice telling your stories—and become a much better storyteller and leader within your testing efforts.

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  • 1. MK PM Tutorial 4/29/13 1:00PM Team Leadership: Telling Your Testing Stories Presented by: Bob Galen RGalen Consulting Brought to you by: 340 Corporate Way, Suite 300, Orange Park, FL 32073 888-268-8770 ∙ 904-278-0524 ∙ ∙
  • 2. Bob Galen Bob Galen is an agile coach at RGalen Consulting and director of agile solutions at Zenergy Technologies, a North Carolina-based firm specializing in agile testing and leading agile adoption initiatives. Bob regularly speaks at international conferences and professional groups on topics related to software development, project management, software testing, and team leadership. He is a Certified Scrum Master Practicing (CSC), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO), and an active member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. Bob published Scrum Product Ownership–Balancing Value from the Inside Out, which addresses the gap in guidance toward effective agile product management. Contact Bob at or
  • 3. Team Leadership Telling Your Testing Stories Bob Galen President & Principal Consultant RGCG, LLC Introduction Bob Galen Somewhere ‘north’ of 30 years experience ☺ Various lifecycles – Waterfall variants, RUP, Agile, Chaos Various domains – SaaS, Medical, Financial Services, Computer & Storage Systems, eCommerce, and Telecommunications Developer first, then Project Management / Leadership, then Testing Leveraged ‘pieces’ of Scrum in late 90’s; before ‘agile’ was ‘Agile’ Agility @ Lucent in 2000 – 2001 using Extreme Programming Formally using Scrum since 2000 Currently an independent Agile Coach (CSC – Certified Scrum Coach, one of 50 world-wide; 20+ in North America) at RGCG, LLC and Director of Agile Solutions at Zenergy Technologies From Cary, North Carolina Connect w/ me via LinkedIn and Twitter if you wish Bias Disclaimer: Agile is THE BEST Methodology for Software Development However, NOT a Silver Bullet! Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 2 1
  • 4. Outline Intro Elevator Pitch / 30 Second Commercial The Story Factor – Annette Simmons The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling – Stephen Denning Tell to Win – Peter Guber Techniques Examples Workshop Storytelling Close Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 3 Stories Elevator Pitch You’re in the middle of a testing cycle for a business critical project. You’re testing a single component of a large system - roughly 10 testers are on your team. The Vice President of Software development walks up to you in the lab and asks you – “How’s it going?” What do you say? He challenges you on several defects that you’ve entered – disagreeing on priority and severity How do you respond? This is a great opportunity. You’re either ready for it and respond well or you don’t which do your choose? Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 4 2
  • 5. Another Situation Same situation, although time has passed and the project has missed several of it’s planned Beta dates and things are “dicey”. You’re in the middle of the “last” testing cycle prior to going to Beta test. You’ve found some regressions that you “suspect” will impact the products ability to go to Beta. The Vice President of Marketing walks up to you in the lab and asks you – “How’s it going?” What do you say? How do you say it? Another, even more critical opportunity to make an impression Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 5 Stories Elevator Pitch We’re in communicating situations all of the time As Test, QA and Process engineers We’re representing the product, it’s correctness, completeness and overall quality We’re representing our test team and ourselves We’re the living embodiment of “how is it going?” And “is it ready yet?” I refer to these ongoing and ever present conversations as a communications & PR effort It’s all of our jobs and we do it anyway So why not learn techniques for doing it often and well? Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 6 3
  • 6. Stories Elevator Pitch - Introduction Break into groups of 2 Take a minute or two and introduce yourselves. Share on: Background information (Overall experience, where you work, etc.) Biggest challenge you face at work Ideas for facing that challenge I’ll time each exchange Let’s debrief how did you do? Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 7 30 Second “Commercial” In job search circles, they refer to your developing and delivering a “30 second commercial” for networking. It’s aQuick introduction Concise overview of your background Includes your professional history Delivered to fit the situation, allowed time and specific audience You take the time to develop your “commercials” from your resume, you should have at least a few – to many of them. They’re targeted towards different audiences and situations. Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 8 4
  • 7. 30 Second Testing “Commercials” Current work status: What are you working on, what are your recent successes and your challenges. Very importantly - what’s next? Do you need any help? (escalations, ideas, alternatives, workarounds, etc.) If you have one message to send for status – what would it be? Make sure you communicate it! Current product status: Overall view to your area of testing responsibility What is the overall product stability, feature set maturity and performance? High level defect trends, schedule status and work projections Always practice your commercials - Preparation is the key! Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 9 Characteristics Keys to Effective Communication Concise communications – remember the “Top 1/3” rule If you could only say 2-3 things, what would they be? All forms matter – written, verbal, non-verbal, defects Target your communications Their functional role and level within the organization Their point of view (adopt their POV - empathize) What they want to hear and what they need to hear What will they do with the information you give them Can they “handle” the truth and how much of the truth Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 10 5
  • 8. Story Models Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 11 Story Telling Model Annette Simmons The Story Factor, published in 2006 Six stories everyone needs to be able to tell People don’t always want data, then want faith. Faith in you. Stories help them to find that faith in you. The importance of ‘connection’ of staying ‘Real’ Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 12 6
  • 9. “Who I Am” Stories This is your introduction. If you’re new to a group or role, then it’s pure introduction If you’re new to a situation, then explaining how you faced similar situations might be appropriate Make them personable Try to inject some sort of humor Show vulnerability—illustrate a mistake or a personal flaw Be honest and genuine Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 13 “Why Am I Here?” Stories This is the “What’s in it for you” story Explain your career path—why are you particularly skilled to do this? Or explain a project path—what events have led to your getting involved? Share what are you trying to achieve, and why Sometimes your very role, charter, or mandate on the part of your company helps here These last two are easy and hard—linking to you. They might also blend together into a single story. Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 14 7
  • 10. Vision Stories This is the “What’s in it for others?” story At a leadership level—where are you proposing taking the organization? Why? looking for alignment At an agile level—what methods and path will be used? How will we measure success? At a project level—what is the purpose / goal of the project? And how do you envision our supporting that goal? Often its about sharing a high-level strategy Connecting it so that others can ‘See’ it Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 15 Teaching Stories Sharing your experience Learning from mistakes Failing Forward The Wisdom of the Crowd Trusting each other; 5 Dysfunctions of a Team Sharing ‘models’ for maturation and improvement Patterns Anti-patterns; often we can learning more from what didn’t work Solving problems Listen to our customers; take & accept feedback Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 16 8
  • 11. 5 Dysfunctions of a Team -- Lencioni Inattention to Results Avoidance of Accountability Lack of Commitment Fear of Conflict Absence of Trust Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 17 “Values-in-Action” Stories Playing back “actions” stories Team members helping each other Projects under ‘stress’ and how teams’ seemed to rise to the occasion Character checking / building events Agile teams holding to their “quality commitments” and time-box agreements Persistence, patience, staying the course Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 18 9
  • 12. “I Know What You’re Thinking” Stories This is your opportunity to address Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt Dissention Historical patterns Trust in leadership vs. Trust in your teams Undermining, lack of true support, waiting things out We don’t address performance issues Everyone treated the same Nobody is ever fired or released based on poor performance New ‘Sheriff’ in Town; new rules and a new spirit Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 19 Story Telling Model Stephen Denning The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling published in 2005. Author of Squirrel Inc. Similarities to The Story Factor, but with a leadership and more in-depth focus. Denning has gone onto become immersed in innovation, leadership reinvention, and agile methods. Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 20 10
  • 13. 8 Narrative Patterns Stephen Denning 1. **Motivate Others to Action Using narrative to ignite action and implement new ideas 2. Build Trust in You Using narrative to communicate who you are 3. Build Trust in your Company Using narrative to build your brand 4. Transmit your Values Using narrative to instill organizational values Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 21 8 Narrative Patterns Stephen Denning 5. **Getting Others Working Together Using narrative to get things done collaboratively 6. Share Knowledge Using narrative to transmit knowledge and understanding 7. Tame the Grapevine Using narrative to neutralize gossip and rumor 8. Create and Share Your Vision Using narrative to lead people into the future Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 22 11
  • 14. Tell to Win Peter Guber 1. Motivation Your, be intentional, passion, engage 2. Audience Render an experience, connect, align with 3. Goal Purposeful, build an ongoing relationship (not a point transaction) 4. Interaction For them to own, secret sauce 5. Content Its everywhere, your own experiences, what moves you Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 23 General Techniques Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 24 12
  • 15. Basic Framework Still quite effective… Tell them what you’re about to tell them Tell them Tell them what you just told them Oreo Cookie Model (sandwich) From a Planning and a Strategy perspective, consider: Opening Moves Middle Game End Game Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 25 The “One Thing” When it comes to risky, controversial, and emotional conversations, skilled people find a way to get all relevant information out into the open. That’s it. At the core of every successful conversation lies the free flow of relevant information. People openly and honestly express their opinions, share their feelings, and articulate their theories. They willingly and capably share their views, even when their ideas are controversial or unpopular. Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 26 13
  • 16. The Pareto Principal Crossing the Chasm Communicate mostly to the 80% Communicate mostly to the Early Adopters and the Majority Tailor your message to these folks; reach out to their interests, connecting to them Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 27 Turning Points Major shift points or nexus points can be useful in stories A major shift or turning point in your life A major external turning point to you personally, your group, your organization; M&A activity A major turning point in a project A key player leaving your team Example: I’ve often used lay-offs as transition points for major shifts in my career. From the ashes rises another chapter. My two books have resulted from these transitions Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 28 14
  • 17. Connecting to Your Audience Reference their perspectives Reference their context What would you want to hear IF you were in their shoes What sorts of history relates to your topic Walk about, make eye contact Talk about what you’d like to help the audience do, how you’d like to serve them Keep the Servant Leadership mindset in mind throughout Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 29 Admiration Someone you knew when you were growing up Someone in the organization who has met a lot to you The person you admire most in your organization Someone who did better in the organization than anyone expected Someone who mentored you (showed you the ropes) in the organization Someone who handled adversity incredibly well in the organization Someone who is a humble servant leader Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 30 15
  • 18. Goals & Objectives You can’t force collaboration. You can encourage it towards specific expectations surrounding Goals & Objectives Major initiative Major project Major new methodology Challenging new technology Quarterly / Annual goal-setting Connecting alignment to the top-line strategies We’re all being measured together Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 31 Clarifying & Listening Were you listening? Play it back to me what were the key points? What do you think will be the most challenging parts of the strategy? Is this the right direction? Does anyone see crucial adjustments that need to be made? Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 32 16
  • 19. Humor Self deprecating humor can be incredibly powerful in stories— particularly as an introductory device Share internal stories that are commonly views as humorous Twist questions around, be playful with your audience You don’t have to be a comedian; be yourself Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 33 Adding Context Add appropriate breadth and depth to the context that folks normally wouldn’t have— Risk context Organizational context Impact context Customer context Dependency context Quality context Leadership context Technical context Revenue context Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 34 17
  • 20. Power of Transparency 13 Behaviors that Foster & Increase Trust 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Talk Straight Demonstrate Respect Create Transparency Right Wrongs Show Loyalty Deliver Results Get Better 8. Confront Reality 9. Clarify Expectations 10. Practice Accountability 11. Listen First 12. Keep Commitments 13. Extend Trust Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 35 Visualization Try to paint a picture Directionally committed – Burn the ships behind you Let pictures do some of your talking for you Mine the organization for supportive “pictures” Defect reports, project failures, M&A intentions, success & failure email, metrics, virtually anything that adds to the imagery Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 36 18
  • 21. Group-based Stories Engaging multiple story-tellers Defining a strategy around a group with different Perspectives Stories Audience Connections For example, we’re “ Going Agile” Engage Development + Quality + Product Engage team member(s) from pilot team(s) Engage leadership to speak to the core drivers Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 37 When trying to make a point… Let it emerge Don’t start with it: This is a story about incredible courage. At the end, you will aspire to be like me Or end with: And now I expect you all to be like me Allow everyone to come to their own conclusions. Of course, you can recount what it means to YOU Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 38 19
  • 22. Safety In order to get feedback the environment has to be considered ‘Safe’ Commit to “What happens in Vegas ” for all story telling session Don’t be afraid to disagree or debate, just don’t take follow-on actions Tell stories about how much you appreciate candor, feedback, and truth-telling It will take time to establish trust, but well worth it. Safety needs to be 100% Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 39 What to try? Find opportunities for stories Keep a diary; remember key events When in doubt or when there’s a ‘void’ start Remember: we can all tell stories, think about your interviews When it feels like its time to stop stop Walk around, make eye contact, take questions Be yourself; don’t try to be someone else It’s better to tell a story badly, than to not tell one at all when the opportunity is there Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 40 20
  • 23. What to avoid? Ridicule Lying or stretching the truth Poking fun Mean spiritedness Getting personal Complexity – multi-threaded stories Making it about you Negativity, pessimism, excessive realism Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 41 Group-based Workshop Storytelling Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 42 21
  • 24. Example Stories / Situations I want to mine everyone for story examples Situations where you told a story effectively Situations where a story would have worked, but you didn’t leverage it Observations from your history that could be re-framed into an effective story This is NOT storytelling, but just brainstorming & mining examples from each other Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 43 The notion of a Triad I want you to break out into groups of three We’ll rotate around 3 primary roles Story-teller Story audience Story observer We’ll explore each of you telling a story One of you volunteers with a potential story All three will strategize on the structure of the story Tell the story Debrief the story Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 44 22
  • 25. Introductions You have 6 minutes, two minutes each Properly introduce yourselves to your Triad team Professional introduction: work, how long, career path, current title, current responsibilities, likes & dislikes Personal introduction: family, children, where you live, vacation, hobbies, volunteering, recent books you’ve read In the last year, what are compelling truths you’ve discovered? What do the next five years hold in store for you? Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 45 Story #1 Introduction Imagine you’ve just joined your current group as a leader or senior contributor The group is tight-nit and tenure of quite long, so you want to make a good first impression to You decide to tell a story about yourself—as a means of sharing some insights as a way of introduction One that – shares more about who you are (either professionally, personally, or both) Also, one that sets the stage for some changes you plan on making within the organization Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 46 23
  • 26. Story #2 Confidence & Direction Think of your toughest, most challenging projects that you’ve encountered in your career Think of what made it challenging, and more importantly, what were the factors that you brought to bear to deliver the project Get down to the essence of that made it work out. Now translate these lessons to a current project and share a story relating the pervious to this one connecting the dots and trying to inspire confidence and direction Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 47 Story #3 Vision – “Going Agile” Your current organization has decided to go agile Leadership is basically driving it down from above, so you and your team have little choice but to “get on board” You do feel it’s the right decision, but for your own reasons. You also realize it will be a great cultural challenge for your team. Many of whom have been around for 20+ years This is your first exposure to them of what's about to happen, why, and how you expect it to evolve Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 48 24
  • 27. Story #4 Interview Your interviewing a new test manager for within your team. She’s come wildly recommended and the interview has proven the accolades to be understated. She’s outstanding You’ve been given the closing position on the interview She asks you about the culture and why you get up in the morning. What’s exciting about your job and why are you there. Here’s your chance to WOW her and close the deal Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 49 Story #5 Project Status Quite frankly, you wish they would cancel this project. It’s over schedule by 6 weeks and testers on it need to move onto their next effort—so everyone is multi-tasking and stretched The software doesn’t meet the clients needs and the development team doesn’t know what they’re doing Each release has more defects than the last and your in a death spiral of fix – test – refix The VP of Product Development has asked you for an assessment of the situation from a “QA perspective” for himself and the rest of the leadership team—now Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 50 25
  • 28. Story #6 Agile Automation Initiative You’ve been on-board as a senior test manager for 3 months. You were initially shocked that there was no automation strategy in place and that only about 10% of the regressions suite was automated It’s a tremendous resource and time waste and you’ve just sold management on your ideas for investing in automation You now want to share your vision with the testing team and created a shared strategy that will quickly change the dynamics Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 51 Wrap-up • Hope we challenged your existing assumptions a bit Inspire you to change your view towards Automation ROI and investment What did I miss? • Final questions or discussion? • • Thank you! Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 52 26
  • 29. Contact Info Bob Galen Principal Consultant, RGalen Consulting Group, L.L.C. Director of Agile Solutions, Zenergy Technologies, Blogs Project Times Business Analyst – BA Times My Podcast on all things ‘agile’ Experience-driven agile focused training, coaching & consulting Contact: (919) 272-0719 Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 53 Story of Joe Vulnerability & Patience Facilitated, introduction to the Technology leadership team. HR gathered questions Joe was in the military in Germany and Special Forces. During an “accident” he suffered a brain injury and was essentially left for dead He eventually was brought to hospital and recovered, although to this day, he’s receiving operations The team focused on these details instead of trying to find out about his style and intentions Point is: he graciously answered every question no matter how personal or painful. Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 54 27
  • 30. Story of Company A Lack of Transparency & Honesty External emphasis on growth, prosperity, stock option worth, etc. VC funded growth; deferring profitability Behind closed doors: Company doing poorly, strategies Finances were obfuscated Lay-offs Projecting when we’d run out of VC funding Surprise! Lay-offs Strategic move towards self-sufficiency & profitability Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 55 Story related to Dysfunctional Test Team Improving Group Performance In general, I used stories to re-frame expectations of the testing team at Company E. They took the following flavors: Stories of performance that aligned with our new models; and aligned with recognition Stories of what performance we were looking to change at a group level – examples of the future 1:1 stories in performance coaching; leveraging role models and real examples External stories related to the changes / efforts the team was making in reshaping itself. This was very much ‘marketing’ Copyright © 2013 RGCG, LLC 56 28