Testers and Independence

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by - jonathankohl 
I'm a big fan of collaboration within software development groups. I like to work closely with developers and other team members (particularly documentation writers and customers who can be great bug finders), because we get great results by working closely together. Here are some concerns I hear from people who aren't used to this:
How do testers (and other critical thinkers) express critical ideas?
How can testers integrated into development teams still be independent thinkers?
How can testers provide critiques of product development?
Here's how I do it:

1) I try very hard to be congruent. Read Virginia Satir's work, or Weinberg's Quality Software Management series for more on congruence. I work on being congruent by asking myself these questions:
"Am I trying to manipulate someone (or the rest of the team) by what I'm saying?"
"Am I not communicating what I really think?"
"Am I putting the process above people?"

Sounds simple, but it goes a long way.

We can be manipulative on agile teams as well. If I want a certain bug to be fixed that isn't being addressed, I can subtly alter my status at a daily standup to give it more attention (which will eventually backfire), or I can be congruent, and just say: "I really want us to focus on this bug."

Whenever I vocalize a small concern even when the rest of the team is going another direction, it is worthwhile. Whenever I don't, we end up with problems. It helps me retain my independence as an individual working in a team. If everyone does it, we get diverse opinions, and hopefully diverse views on potential risks instead of getting wrapped up in groupthink. Read Brenner's Appreciate Differences for more on this.

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