Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Attendance Too Regular? Try This!

Inspired by Ajay Balamurugadas's blog at


The title was Enjoy Testing

which starts with:

"For the past few months, I left office at sharp 6 p.m. I felt I should not invest more hours just because someone's estimate was wrong. So, I always took the 6 p.m. cab to home instead of the 8 p.m. or 10 p.m. cab."

And Michael Bolton commented:

"...I perceive that resolution to the trickiest part of the problem starts with recognizing people."

Michael is right. It starts with people. And guess who is the first person to recognize?

Yourself, of course.

The very first thing that struck me about the (quite fine) post was the regularity with which you come and go to work. Ordinarily, such regularity is a highly valued trait. For example, people can count on knowing when you'll be there and when you won't. Very good contribution to communication--and thus very high on every tester's list.

However, as an experienced tester, you already know that too regular, too predictable, behavior is a way to miss a great many bugs--and that's true of the regularity in attendance, too.

I would suggest you come in a couple of hours early on some random day next month, and (on a different day, probably) leave quite late. And, if you have people who work night shifts, arrange to be around for one or two of those.

I probably didn't have to explain why, but some of Ajay's readers may be less experienced than others. Experienced testers can probably all tell stories of when they came in early or left late (or were somewhere they weren't usually expected to be, or even prohibited to be) and because of that noticed something that led to a bug they never would have seen otherwise. (Perhaps something they were totally unaware of.)

I myself can tell many such stories, including one that may well have saved astronauts' lives, so I regularly practice being somewhat irregular in my behavior as a consultant (yes, I know that's a paradox).


Fiona Charles said...

I find it can cut both ways in any problem-solving activity, including testing.

Variety, particularly in a routine activity like going to work or brushing my teeth, acts as a brain jiggle and sometimes jiggling my brain is exactly the right thing to do. Any writer knows you can often solve a writing problem by changing where you sit, or the time you sit down at your desk. I can sometimes see a work problem from a different angle by taking a different route in. Other times it's better not tackling the problem at all for a while, but concentrating deeply on something entirely other, like learning a new piece of music or gardening.

But executing a well-worn routine can also free the mind to wander. I often have new ideas while walking a familiar route or taking a shower in exactly the same way I always do. That's a common human pattern too.

I think the trick is to do both. Allow yourself some familiarity, but frequently challenge basic assumptions by going against your patterns.

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