Month: July 2017

Ask A Manager

Really handy blog

So when I started writing this blog, I envisaged that sometimes interesting questions would come up regarding people management, which I could write about.  And they do (people are way more interesting than computers).  However, most of the “this happened and I learned a thing” thoughts I have aren’t easy to safely anonymise – especially given the pretty small readership of this blog is mostly from my place of work (Hi folks!)

So instead, here’s the general advice I try and live by, and try and encourage in others.  It’s pretty simple, and is a good starting point for managers, managees and coworkers trying to cover any kind of problem or issue.

  1. Talk about the issue to people who can actually help close the issue down.  The number of issues I’ve encountered where “Bitch all about this issue in the pub or on one of our chat channels” was considered an acceptable replacement for dealing with it really surprised and shocked me, until I realised that I used to do exactly that.
  2. Initially assume good faith.  Differing viewpoint >> Partial Ignorance or Partial Incompetence >> Malice.  Even if you already think you know where the other person is,  be ready to discover that they’re back towards the “not-a-bad-person” end of the list.
  3. Bring your adult ego state to the conversation, and engage their adult.  If they bring their parent or child, then you can engage with that, but be aware that for any interesting issue, you won’t be able to close it out until your adults have engaged and accepted the next steps.  If this doesn’t make sense, read the first few chapters of Games People Play by Eric Berne.  Maybe someday I’ll try and post a summary, but I’ve tried and given up before.

I’ve said the advice above is simple.  That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy.  In particular, there are two problems that I keep bumping up against (with myself as much as with others).  Over the years I’ve converged on two blogs, which I recommend as they help with these.

  1. Being honest and adult.  Our brains tend to make stories that paint us as heroes, and we don’t like to see anything against that – which means having grown up conversations, assuming that the other person isn’t a total arsehole, maintaining your cool and adult engagement, etc. is really damn hard.  Ask a Manager is full of useful advice for how to approach issues sensibly and pitfalls to avoid, and if you look on there, probably the one you have (or a similar one) is covered already – probably from both sides!
  2. Talking to other people.  Especially where I work (software company full of geeks), actually talking to people, about issues, that involve conversations that might have tension in, can be daunting.  For this, I’ve found Captain Awkward useful.  It’s not specifically work related (though the “Work” section is large), but it contains lots of conversational starters – Captain Awkward calls them “scripts” – which are good ways to help break that initial barrier.


=== Edit 2017/10/08 – Fixed Ask A Manager link


Developing your testing using jokes

Why did the developer cross the road?  To get to the others’ ide.

Another in a somewhat sporadic series of “things you can do in your spare time that are fun and hone some of your testing skills.  This one comes from a session a year or two back at the Assurance Leadership Forum (formerly Test Management Forum) by James Thomas.

Joke creation flexes just those same skills you need for testing.  Logic, reasoning and deduction, lateral thinking, breaking assumptions, and that intuitive flare for spotting the edge of something that niggles and pulling at it until it unravels.

And it turns out, that James has now released an eBook which you can read here (don’t panic – it’s a 20 page PDF) that talks through and unpicks some of this far better than I could explain.  I recommend the read, and then giving creating some Jokes a go!

“Get Stuff Done” time



So I’ve found over time that while I’m pretty good at mopping up the easy tasks, and I’m pretty good at doing the fun tasks, I’m fine with doing the urgent tasks (even the un-fun ones), and the quick tasks are no problem either.  I’m even “OK” at doing the larger hard tasks.  But man oh man does my task list slowly fill up with the not-super-urgent-and-not-super-quick-low-grade-crappy tasks that only take 30 mins or so but I don’t want to do.

The only technique I’ve really found to get these done is a “Get it done” session.  I line up my backlog of tasks, get out my phone and a tally-pad – and see how many I can knock off in a pre-defined time.  Typically when I do one of these, two things happen.

  • I manage to get a load more items knocked off than I thought I could.  Turns out when I’m putting the effort into pushing myself rather than hating the work, I can get loads done.
  • The 2 hours rolls around so fast and I feel really productive and good afterwards. (Sorry colleagues who sit behind me and occasionally have to put up with me getting all excited and triumphal.)

I always kind of assumed that this was because I was a bit weird and childish, and then I read this blog post, which pretty much covers the same idea (on a larger scale).  So it’s not just me being weird and childish.   Work tasks, chores at home, whatever, I’d really recommend giving this a go.