This year I've had a focus to my study - something I think could well take a few years to really come to fruition. There are three sources I'm working through - although to me, I'm feeling there is a lot of overlap,
- I'm doing an online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy course
- I'm working through an excellent series of audio lectures on critical thinking
- I'm working through some of Jerry Weinberg's writing on the secrets of consulting
As a tester, I often find "unhealthy" attitudes towards testing, and I know I'm not alone. What do I mean by unhealthy? Well often it can be overly optimistic, not understanding what testing really does and the function it performs (blaming testers for the bugs they find sound familiar?).
This is supported by the exploration of psychology within the "Your Deceptive Mind" audio lectures. We'd like to think the way we make decisions is we review the evidence, then decide a course of action. In actual fact, we tend to emotionally decide an outcome in advance, then filter the evidence we encounter to support that outcome (a bit like our flat earther last year).
Likewise the models in our mind are always trying to find simple solutions to complex areas. We don't like complexity. Often politicians win at the ballot box because they have a simple (often woefully simple) solution to a problem, and many people feel they can get behind it. Within testing this often manifests itself as "surely out there is a tool which will simplify all this for us", combined with the salesman patter of "this tool will reduce your need for testers". It's something our brain wants to believe, and will often get us stung in the process.
In pretty much all this research a common term is coming across as a first line of addressing - rapport. The word gets bandied about a lot - but what does it really mean? Well to me it means giving someone room to explore and explain their approach and thought processes in a non-judgmental manner.
This seems to be the core of both counseling and consulting - if someone feels they're being judged, they tend to hold back, and especially be defensive regarding why they do things a certain way. Our first step as a consultant is to understand the framework and the decisions which are being made. A good consultant can then build on this, and suggest alternative methods of viewing things, sometimes nudging, something challenging that world view.
Such change is slow, and can be a bit frustrating - but it also has the potential to be permanent. You are finding ways to experiment and demonstrate factors to your clients to earn their faith and confidence.
It's a lot easier to enforce a new test doctrine or process, and have people adapt or leave. But unless you've done some groundwork, people will either throw it away as soon as you leave, or (potentially worse) be slavishly devoted to your method without understanding it (and you've just created your very own Cargo Cult).
All this theory of course is wonderful - but as ever, it's the point where it's put into practice that's the true test. That work - and the methods and approaches which can support this - is ongoing ...
If you have any thoughts or experience in this space, I'd of course love to hear about this in the comments section below.