Are Your Test Reports a Death Sentence?


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Good software testers often interact more with people than with software, especially when reporting on the results of testing. Yet our industry provides little training or guidance on the social and psychological aspects of our jobs. There are times when the results testers deliver to project teams and stakeholders can be difficult to accept. It is fascinating to observe the reactions a negative testing message can provoke in people during the final, stressful phases of a project. Based on the speaker’s experience in highly contentious test reporting and background in psychology, Nancy Kelln discusses the psychological side of test reporting and examines the challenges when reporting difficult information to project stakeholders. Learn why test reporting problems are often people problems and how to understand the emotional reactions from project stakeholders when delivering less than ideal testing results.

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Are Your Test Reports a Death Sentence?

  1. 1.       rent Session    Presented by:  Nancy Kelln  F       Brought to you by:      340 Corporate Way, Suite   Orange Park, FL 32073  888‐2 T5  Concur 4/8/2014    12:45 PM          “Are Your Test Reports a Death Sentence?”        GL Sports, Ltd             300, 68‐8770 ∙ 904‐278‐0524 ∙ ∙ 
  2. 2. Nancy Kelln FGL Sports, Ltd   A test manager at FGL Sports, Ltd., Nancy Kelln enjoys working with teams that are implementing or enhancing their testing practices and provides adaptive testing approaches to both agile and traditional testing teams. With sixteen years of diverse IT experience, Nancy has coached test teams in various environments and facilitated numerous local and international workshops and presentations. From small-scale to multimillion dollar projects, she has played many testing roles—project test manager, test manager, test lead, tester—and co-founded the POST (Perspectives on Software Testing) peer conference. Nancy and her family live in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada. Connect with Nancy on Twitter @nkelln.  
  3. 3. 1 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln StarCanada2014 Toronto, Ontario NANCY KELLN FGL Sports Ltd. Are Your Test Reports a Death Sentence? @nkelln #testing #qa
  4. 4. 2 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Check In  Please introduce yourself and answer the following questions:  Who you are.  Why are you here?  What do you hope to get out of this session or this conference?
  5. 5. 3 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Two Disciplines Collide! Psychology Testing
  6. 6. 4 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln About this Session  This session focuses more on psychology and impacts to testing, rather than on testing.  Interpersonal relationships and communication on project are extremely impactful on team and project success.
  7. 7. 5 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln People Matter  Sometimes testing software is more about people than it is about software.  “No matter what the problem is, it is a people problem.” – Jerry Weinberg
  8. 8. 6 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Exercise 1 - Project Problems  What was your last project problem?  Work with your group to identify and share you last project problem.
  9. 9. 7 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Exercise 1 - Continued  How is this project problem a people problem?
  10. 10. 8 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Exercise 1 - Continued  Share the problems your group identified.  How does thinking about problems as people problems change your perception of them?  Does thinking of them as people problems give you more options for resolving them?
  11. 11. 9 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Laying the Communication Foundation  How do testers lay the foundation to improve communication with stakeholders?  Define areas of communication early in the project.  Set expectations on what will be communicated, when it will be communicated, and how it will be communicated.  As the project progresses, reassess the timing, frequency, format, audience, etc.  Gaining consensus on the communication plan and re-evaluate the plan in the hopes of limiting the surprises and potential concerns.
  12. 12. 10 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln So why does it still go wrong?
  13. 13. 11 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Reporting Testing  Testing is at a difficult place in a software development project.  We come last, typically in a time of high stakes, high emotions, and concerns for schedule and budget.
  14. 14. 12 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Delivering the Results
  15. 15. 13 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Delivering Good News  When we have a quality product and testing is going well it is easy to deliver good news.  Our tests are passing.  Our results are good.  The product is stable and performing well.  We have found no significant concerns during our testing.  Testing is running on time and is able to test the product as planned.
  16. 16. 14 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Delivering Bad News  Sometimes the information we provide about the product is not good.  We sometimes deliver news that people do not want to hear.  The product is of poor quality and is significantly not meeting expectations.  Many of our tests are not passing.  We are unable to test.  Often times stakeholders receiving our ‘bad news’ message react poorly.
  17. 17. 15 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln The (Over) Reaction!
  18. 18. 16 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln And now for something serious…
  19. 19. 17 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln 5 Stages of Grief  Within the study of Psychology Elisabeth Kubler- Ross proposed that individuals go through 5 stages of grief when faced with the reality that they are going to die.
  20. 20. 18 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Denial in Death  Denial is a conscious or unconscious refusal to accept facts, information, reality, etc., relating to the situation concerned.  It’s a defense mechanism and perfectly natural.  Some people can become locked in this stage when dealing with a traumatic change that can be ignored.  Death of course is not particularly easy to avoid or evade indefinitely.  Test results can be a bit like this for some people.
  21. 21. 19 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Denial in Testing  Testing can provide clarity to the reality of a situation.  If individuals are not aware of this reality they may start by denying its existence.
  22. 22. 20 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Anger in Death  Anger can manifest in different ways.  People dealing with emotional upset can be angry with themselves, and/or with others, especially those close to them.
  23. 23. 21 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Anger in Testing  Testing can provide information that stakeholders are not prepared to hear.  Individuals may panic and become upset when the reality of the product does not meet their expectations.
  24. 24. 22 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Bargaining in Death  Thoughts about “what could have been done differently”.  “If only…”  Promising to do anything to avoid the situation.
  25. 25. 23 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Bargaining in Testing  Testing may present information that may seem easy to fix with more people, more time, more money.  Stakeholders may present both reasonable and unreasonable options.  Bargaining can keep us focused in the past when we wish to go back in time and change things.  Bargaining can also move us forward when there is hope for change or a plan of action to get somewhere else.
  26. 26. 24 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Depression in Death  What are some signs of depression?  Sadness, regret, worry, concern, stress, anxiety, fear, uncertainty, hopelessness, frustration, bitterness, self pity, lack of control, feeling numb, suicidal.  In death, the grieving person begins to understand the certainty of death. This process allows for disconnection from things of love and affection.
  27. 27. 25 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Depression in Testing  Testing may present information that results in feelings of hopelessness and despair.  Stakeholders may be unable to see alternatives and become stuck.  Due to the nature of projects we cannot just disconnect and move on.
  28. 28. 26 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln 3 Components of Emotions  Physical Reaction  How our body physically reacts.  Cognitive Experience  What is going on in our brain.  Behaviour  The observable signs someone else could see.
  29. 29. 27 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Exercise 4 – The Emotional Response  Pick 1 of the 4 emotions and discuss with your group how this may manifest on a project.  It may be helpful to pick a particular stakeholder, give an example of the type of bad news that person may receive.  Using one of the 4 stages, provide examples of the physical reaction, cognitive experience, and behaviour you may see on a project.  If you have a real life experience you wish to share please do.
  30. 30. 28 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln The 5th Emotion
  31. 31. 29 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Acceptance in Death  Individuals come to terms with their own mortality.  The time to reach this stage varies from person to person.  For some people it happens early on; however for others it may never happen.
  32. 32. 30 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Acceptance in Testing  No matter what the message testing brings, the ideal goal is to gain acceptance from stakeholders.  Acceptance enables the movement forward and onto the next steps.
  33. 33. 31 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Order Doesn’t Matter  Even in death, people do not progress thru the stages in order.  People may only experience one or two or may go between one and another.  The key is to understanding what you may face and being able to label it in the hopes of being able to deal with it.
  34. 34. 32 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln How to Get to Acceptance  Individuals need time to process what they have heard.  Similar to acceptance in death, the stakeholders of the test reports may also not get to acceptance.  Finally it isn’t our job to necessarily bring people to acceptance. “I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
  35. 35. 33 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln What’s Next?  Understanding the psychological theory behind the emotional reaction that individuals may exhibit helps to:  Label the emotions so you can better deal with the situation.  Learn about how to deliver bad news, increasing your emotional intelligence, and skills for these types of reactions.  Leveraging already learned skills for dealing with emotions of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression.  Prepare for situations where these emotions may arise.
  36. 36. 34 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln The Benefits of the Emotional Response  Although emotional responses to bad news can present a challenge to deal with, there is at least one benefit.  An emotional response to bad news may mean your message was heard.
  37. 37. 35 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln Questions? Nancy Kelln FGL Sports Ltd. Calgary, AB Canada
  38. 38. 36 Copyright ©2014 Nancy Kelln References Page – Websites & Books  Websites  Wikipedia,  The Five Stages of Grief,  Five Stages of Grief,  Denial,  Anger,  Bargaining,