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FEAR: psychology in the pursuit of quality

  • 27/10/2011
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  • Posted by EuroSTAR

Do you consider quality assurance as a technological profession?

Or have you got the same experience as I do that the difference in projects is made by people?

One project is a great success and another is a complete disaster. Even though both use the same process, the same test method and the same toolset, how come?

The difference is found in: psychology!

The reasons for the way in which people work together (or not!) make all the difference. People base their actions on their view on reality. Their view is not always correct.

Lets take the an example: A test manager who reports to the end-users “there are 100 defects” triggers the end-users “FEAR”! Often unnecessary. When the same test manager reports a bit more in-depth the end-users would learn there are 100 defects, of which 50 have been solved, 27 are low-risk and deferred to the next release, for 16 defects there’s a work-around and the remaining 7 defects can be solved and retested in time. They would be happy about progress and quality. The basic message is the same but the psychological effect is totally different.

Another example: You are testing risk-based (aren’t you?) so for a low risk area you may decide that exploratory testing, based on a charter for a timebox of 4 hours is sufficient risk-mitigation. You may however find that a professional tester doesn’t want to limit his testing to this. He will argue that with exploratory testing only, he won’t uncover all defects thus having residual risks. Behind this is the testers FEAR that something will break in live operation and he will be blamed, because users will state that the system is “not very well tested”. But it was low-risk so the consequences of the bug are not dramatic. How do you cope with this FEAR? Involve both the tester and the end-user in the risk analysis and the subsequent test strategy so they will really understand that if a part of the system is low-risk then all residual risks caused by remaining defects are low-risk and thus accepted by the client. By having people understand the reasoning behind choices makes them work together much better.

I am convinced that improving the testing process starts with improving the understanding that people have of their project, the goals and the reasons behind the choices made. Based on practical experience the TPI NEXT book states ‘Communication is a means of team building’.
Are you interested to know more about the psychological side of the pursuit of quality? Come and hear my talk at the EuroSTAR conference on tuesday afternoon. I will tell you much more about FEAR (for example that this acronym stands for Fantasy Experienced As Reality) and I will demonstrate the graph of testers happiness!

Next to the conference itself I look forward to also meeting you at the expo, at breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to forget in one of the pubs in Manchester! (over food and drinks it’s much easier to discuss psychology and other aspects of the wonderful profession of software testing and quality assurance)

See you in Manchester!!

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