Improving the Test Process: Implementing Improvement and Change - A Study Guide for the ISTQB Expert Level Module (2014)
Chapter 8. Managing Change
The best plans, the most exciting ideas, the most promising objectives—they are practically worthless if they can’t be put into practical use. This can be one of the most challenging and rewarding stages of improving test processes. If the actual changes become adopted and if the expected benefits are achieved, you have achieved your ultimate objective: to improve the test process to the benefit of the organization, its stakeholders, and its staff. Conversely, this can be the stage where you end up with that sinking feeling of failure. Why aren’t they doing what was planned? Don’t they know this is going to benefit them too? Why are they resisting so much? The answer? “They” are humans and “they” don’t always behave as you would expect. Remember, most people don’t like change. Therefore, change doesn’t just happen; it needs careful consideration and management.
This chapter considers the critically important task of actually implementing the planned changes within the project or organization. We will look at the basic steps to follow and place a strong focus on the human aspects of implementing changes successfully.
Changes are not exclusive to the test process. Especially in the IT industry, you might hear people say, “The only thing that is constant here is change.” Anyone who wants to introduce change will benefit from reading this chapter: line managers, team leads, human resources managers, and, yes, process improvers. If you are on the receiving end of changes (and who isn’t), you will also benefit by reflecting on the human issues involved in changing the way you do things. If you understand what is going on, why you feel the way you do and what you can do about it, you will be better prepared the next time “change” affects you.
Syllabus Learning Objectives
(K2) Summarize the fundamental change management process.
(K6) Create a test improvement plan considering change management issues, with appropriate steps and actions.
(K2) Summarize the role of human factors in the change management process.
(K4) Analyze people’s attitudes to change and relate them to the Satir model.
(K5) Recommend measures to create acceptance of the changes by the people involved.
To introduce the subject of change, let’s consider what typically happens when change is badly managed. This could happen, for example, if a manager makes a surprise announcement at a meeting; for example, “Tomorrow everything will be done like this” (pointing, perhaps to a poster on the wall) or “From now on we will be better.” Maybe a trolley-load of documents is wheeled into the room and the manager proudly announces, “The new test process is here; use it” or, more subtly, “We will all be receiving a new tool tomorrow; this will improve our productivity.”
We expect that many of you have experienced similar situations; imposing change like this simply doesn’t work. Why? Well, because the two principal ingredients for sucessful change are missing:
A framework or process within which change can take place
A proper consideration for the human aspects of change
We need to consider both people and processes to create the right conditions for change. This means thinking about both of these aspects in advance of implementing changes and then managing the change right through to completion.
In the sections that follow, we will look at the fundamental change process. This will give you practical information about what to do and when. At each stage in the process we will ask the questions, “Where do people fit into this?” and “What can we do to help ourselves and others to change (their testing process)?” To help answer these questions, we will draw on some of the excellent guidance and ideas provided by Naomi Karten [Karten 2009], Virginia Satir [Satir, et al. 1991], and Malcom Gladwell [Gladwell 2000], (among others).
An appreciation of these various issues will help to establish a culture of improvement in which change is regarded as something that is “normal” and can be properly managed.
The principal ideas mentioned in this chapter are interwoven within the framework of change management and a fundamental change management process.
Before going into the details of this process, we’ll describe the basic steps in the fundamental change process and provide an overview of the two main pieces of work referred to: the Satir model and the theory of tipping points.
(1) A structured approach to transitioning individuals and organizations from a current state to a desired future state.
(2) A controlled way to effect a change, or a proposed change, to a product or service.
8.2.1 The Fundamental Change Process
A number of models of the change process have been proposed, but they all share broadly the same principles as the model used in this chapter. The fundamental change model includes the following steps, or phases:
Preparing for change
In this first step, the stage is set for the changes to be made, starting with the initial “spark” that establishes the need for improvement. Convincing sponsors and stakeholders that change is needed builds the momentum needed to get moving toward changes to the test process. With the backing of those people, you can set up the team needed to implement the changes and move forward.
Deciding what to do
The next step is to draw up a vision of where you want to go. How will the improved test process look when you are done? Objectives need to be set and aligned to the goals of the organization. In your approach, you will also need to balance out long-term improvements with the need to show short-term “quick wins.”
Implementing the changes
As the Expert Level syllabus points out, this is where you “make it happen.” More correctly, it’s where you enable the people whose work practices and responsibilities are the focus of change to actually adopt them. This is where effective communication, motivation, and an understanding of people’s responses to change are critically important for successful improvement.
Making the changes stick
Creating a new culture of improvement is at the heart of this step. This is where you need the patience and stamina to keep the ball rolling and provide all those involved with encouragement and support.
These steps may give the impression that the fundamental change process is purely sequential in its approach, but this is not so. There is likely to be a strong degree of overlap between the different steps, and the process itself may be iterative, with small increments of change being implemented in parallel to one another. For the test process improver, it’s important to know the stage at which a particular improvement has been achieved. Failure to manage this properly could result in confusion and might even endanger the success of the overall improvement program.
The IDEAL model of test process improvement also covers some of the issues mentioned in the fundamental change process just summarized. This comes as no real surprise because both models are involved in the overall objectives of test process improvement. An important distinction in this chapter, however, is that the focus is placed on the process of change itself and how to do this successfully. This places a strong emphasis on the two steps involved with implementing the changes and making them stick. Where relevant material is also covered the IDEAL model (chapter 6), appropriate references will be made.
8.2.2 The Satir Model
The way people respond to change is well captured in a model developed by Virginia Satir and eloquently described by Naomi Karten [Karten 2009]. Anyone who has been through a change (and who hasn’t) will find themselves agreeing with the intuitive and logical structure of the model, which fits well into the framework of the fundamental change process described earlier. The Satir model describes how people change from a defined starting point (“the initial status quo”) to a new and better end state (“the end status quo”) by passing through specific phases:
Impact of a foreign element (also known as jolt or trigger)
A jolt can come from a number of sources, such as the announcement of a new organizational structure. The key point is that the jolt causes a reaction that pushes a person away from their current status quo and, initially, into a state of chaos.
Period of chaos
Following the jolt, a person enters a state where uncertainty, insecurity, confusion, or even anger dominates. In this state, you can expect people to react emotionally and not logically. It’s a period of reduced productivity that can vary in its depth and duration, depending on the nature of the initial jolt and the measures taken (partly by test process improvers) to alleviate the negative aspects of chaos.
Development of transforming ideas
During this phase, people start to look for ways out of their chaos. A more positive approach is adopted as ideas begin to form at the team level. Of course, test process improvements will include such transforming ideas in the form of specific proposals documented in the test improvement plan. These proposals guide the process of finding transforming ideas.
Practice and integration
The climb out of chaos involves implementing the transforming ideas so that those affected can achieve the intended improvements. There will be setbacks and successes during this phase, and some people will adopt changes more readily than others. Ultimately, people get used to the changes by practicing them and integrating them into their regular working procedures. As people begin to “see the light,” they become steadily more enthusiastic about the changes and pull up the slower adopters. A new status quo is reached when these practices have been generally accepted as being the “normal” way of doing things.
As you will see in the rest of this chapter, test process improvers can do a lot to manage the introduction of improvements by appreciating the human aspects of the change process and by taking specific measures to manage those changes.
Note that the Satir model is generally applicable to virtually any situation where people change a particular aspect of their lives from an initial state to a new state. The identified phases may overlap and iterations may occur, especially where the introduction of new transforming ideas acts as new jolts. Test process improvers must take care not to introduce fresh jolts to people who are already in chaos. This can have the effect of deepening and lengthening the period of chaos, with potentially harmful impact on the organization and its employees.
The diagram in figure 8–1 combines the fundamental change process with the Satir model (symbols used taken from Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change: Focusing on the Human Side of Change [Karten 2009])
Figure 8–1 The fundamental change process and the Satir model
8.2.3 Tipping Points and Change
An appreciation of tipping point concepts [Gladwell 2000] will give us ideas about how to implement improvements effectively, especially where those changes affect a large number of people, such as in a large department or organization. In common with the Satir model, Tipping Point theory focuses on the people aspects of change. As noted in section 4.2.3, certain aspects of Tipping Point theory (such as the concept of “broken windows”) can help you to analyze test processes and identify the root causes of problems.
Some of the key aspects of tipping points are summarized next.
The Basic Concepts
Tipping Point theory focuses on the point at which small changes can have big effects, where change becomes “viral,” rather like an epidemic of influenza. Some of the basic concepts are as follows:
Stickiness: There are specific ways to make a message memorable (sticky is the word used by Gladwell). Small changes to the way information is structured and presented can make a huge difference. Good soft skills and care are needed to get the message across as intended; there is unfortunately a thin line between success and failure here.
Context: You need to be sensitive to the context in which rapid adoption of changes occurs. A good example is making improvements to the working environment (some colorful posters, new plants, more ergonomic workplaces). These changes may be small and yet create a constructive atmosphere that makes people more receptive to change.
Group influence: Groups can play a major role in spreading information and ideas quickly, mainly because peer pressure exists between their members and because a kind of group knowledge and memory develops. It’s important that groups are small enough to enable members to know each other. Having more than 150 people in a group is inadvisable because structural impediments start to occur that inhibit the ability of the group to agree and act with one voice. Groups are good units to take on responsibility for implementing particular improvements.
Small steps lead to bigger steps: To create one “wave” of movement, you often have to create many small movements first. This is what Gladwell refers to as the “paradox of epidemic” and is a significant concept for test process improvers to realize, particularly when proposing improvements.
The Champions of Change
One critical factor in achieving rapid, epidemic-like change is the nature of the messengers who spread the word. The following “champions of change” are identified:
Connectors: These people bring others together; they seem to know everyone and they make contacts very easily. They are friendly but casual, self-confident, sociable, and energetic. Generally speaking, the closer an improvement proposal comes to a connector, the more “energy” it has and the greater its chances of a successful implementation.
Oracles: (Gladwell calls them mavens): These people are like walking “data banks” of knowledge. They are socially motivated and want to help people by sharing their knowledge. People tend to actively seek out oracles, especially when there is uncertainty about what is fact and what is fiction.
Salespeople: These people are especially useful when others are unconvinced about improvements. They are expressive and fun and work with others at the emotional level. A good salesperson is hard to resist (don’t we know it!).
So the idea is that test process improvers use their knowledge of these types of people and the powerful ideas expressed in the Tipping Point theory to help get change implemented, in particular where large numbers of people are involved.
We have now looked briefly at three main areas in change management: the fundamental change process, the Satir model, and Tipping Point theory. The rest of this chapter takes a more detailed look at the activities within the fundamental change process and weaves together the process and people aspects.
8.3 Prepare for Change
This phase includes the following principal activities:
Establish the need for improvement
Create a sense of urgency
Establish the improvement team
These activities are similar to the activities for the initiating stage of the IDEAL model described in chapter 6. We describe the change management aspects of these activities in the following sections.
8.3.1 Establish the Need for Improvement
Getting started with test process improvement comes about from receiving an impulse. Without this it’s questionable whether the effort is justifiable, and sooner or later you are going to find it hard to answer questions like, Why are we doing this? Typically, the need for improvement comes from one or more of the following situations:
You receive stakeholder feedback
You see the need yourself
It’s your policy
You have probably been in this situation before. Something horrible has happened (e.g., a severe system crash) and testing is considered to be partly or wholly to blame. Depending on the severity of the disaster, there are likely to be investigations that lead to specific decisions being taken, such as “improve the testing process!”
Now, there is a lot of negativity surrounding this kind of situation. After all, organizations can lose substantial amounts of money, companies can suffer a blow to their image, and people can be hurt. However, one small crumb of comfort comes from the high-priority and management attention given to test process improvements. Being in the spotlight may not always be desirable, but test process improvers certainly will benefit from strong management backing and convincing arguments for improvement suggestions. However, the human aspects of changes resulting from software disasters will need very careful management.
You Receive Stakeholder Feedback
When you talk to stakeholders about testing, they rarely say straight out, “We need test process improvement.” The feedback you receive often gives you hints; you may hear statements like, “We find the faults too late” or “Testing is too expensive,” and sometimes you might just hear general statements like, “There’s something wrong with our testing.” Often these statements will be mixed in with more general discussions on IT, and you might not even be present when these things are mentioned. To ensure that you receive feedback about testing, you need to be sure that your line managers, salespeople, and consultants are sensitive to statements like these and pass on the feedback to you.
Depending on the importance and relevance of the stakeholder, a test process improver should consider all forms of feedback (both positive and negative) as an initial stimulus for establishing the specific need for test process improvement. Certainly, if you receive feedback from a CIO or senior VP, it’s time to get active! However, it would be advisable to check back first with the stakeholder and address any specific issues, especially those relating to the human aspects. It’s quite possible that the originator will modify their feedback once they realize the potential consequences of making the required test process improvements.
You See the Need Yourself
In our daily working lives in projects, working groups, and organizations, we frequently get the opportunity to exchange views about testing with colleagues. This could take place in a formal situation, like a project meeting, or it could be a casual conversation in the coffee room or over lunch. These exchanges of views provide valuable input and stimuli that can lead you to recognize the need for test process improvement. You need to be aware of these stimuli. Maybe some programmers mention over lunch that their component test process could be improved, maybe a tester has a good idea that they would rather discuss informally with their team, and maybe you hear lots of complaints about a specific aspect of testing (e.g., “The test environment is always down”).
Of course, project leaders should be alert to these kinds of issues, but test process improvers also need to be sensitive to any ideas or issues relating to testing. They need to recognize trends and issues in what they are hearing and present them in a coherent form for discussion and further analysis. They are also alert, for example, to any “broken windows” in the test process that might be negatively influencing it. They might hear people saying things like, “Nobody ever seems to maintain their test cases properly after a change; why should I bother?” These are clear signs of a test process in need of improvement.
Where necessary, potential improvement issues should be discussed with the project leader and with the group of people from which the ideas and comments originate. Project retrospective meetings are excellent opportunities for this kind of exchange of views (see section 6.6.). This is where soft skills can be particularly useful (see section 7.3.) so that a discussion can be started that enables the group to arrive at collective conclusions. The significant thing here is that establishing the need for improvement comes from within, that is, from the people who are feeling the pain or seeing the opportunities. This group “buy-in” can be a major plus if the ideas subsequently result in the introduction of specific improvements.
It’s Your Policy
A test process that has achieved a high level of maturity includes an element of self-improvement. This means the test process improver can consider improvements to be a standard, even regular occurrence that is anchored within the process. They might even be integrated into a quality management policy or a company test improvement policy. Establishing the need for improvement doesn’t depend on disaster striking, you don’t need to wait for stakeholders to give you feedback on where testing might be failing them, and you don’t need to rely entirely on the test process improver channeling issues into a collective view of where to improve; improvement is a continuous activity that is simply defined as an integral part of a mature test process. Some organizations, for example, might install a policy that calls for test process assessments to be performed annually on all projects above a certain level of criticality. If the assessment identifies areas for improvement, then measures are defined as a matter of standard procedure. Often the improvement measures are oriented toward tuning the test process or recovering from occasional slippages regarding specific practices (e.g., using the latest metrics in test effort estimations). Given this level of predictability and proactiveness, the human impact of change is much reduced; people may not always welcome the “standard” assessments, but they are rarely plunged into a state of deep chaos afterward.
8.3.2 Create a Sense of Urgency
Once the need for improvement has been established, it’s time to gather the information needed to make a case to important decision-makers (i.e., the ones likely to be funding any improvements). The information you gather should be as objective and relevant as possible. Try not to use words liketoo many or too expensive because they are open to interpretation. If only subjective arguments can be used, care should be taken that they are reasonable and realistic; decisionmakers are used to hearing exaggerated stories from people requesting funding, so “overselling” in an effort to create a sense of urgency could easily end up in failure. You should typically ask the following kinds of questions:
How many high severity defects were found in production and how much did it cost to fix them?
How many user complaints have been received about particular parts of an application?
What are some actual problems experienced in the test process and what was their impact on efficiency or testing effectiveness?
What risks (likelihood and potential impact) are associated with not improving the test process?
Creating a sense of urgency and gaining stakeholder backing will require many of the soft skills mentioned in chapter 7. High on the list are skills of persuasion and presentation. In addition, test process improvers should recognize that stakeholders may not react rationally to the news that the test process needs improvement; this must be handled with tact and care. Sponsors of improvement will want to be reassured about the change process and how it will be managed, so proposals for keeping them informed about status, problems, and risks should not be forgotten.
Assuming that stakeholder backing has been obtained, this should be made known to those affected by changes. They will need to know that there is support for the changes, especially if they are far reaching.
8.3.3 Establish the Improvement Team
Chapter 7 deals in length with the organization and roles found in an improvement team. When it comes to implementing change, the Test Process Group mentioned in section 7.1.1 will typically be assisted by individuals who can play a significant supporting role in getting the changes implemented and making them stick. When preparing for change, test process improvers need to identify these individuals (the “champions of change” and the “early adopters”) and get them on board.
Identify Champions of Change
To identify the individuals who will support the improvement activities, test process improvers should consider people in the organization who can be the “champions of change,” as mentioned in section 8.2.3. This applies in particular to improvements that need to be rolled out to many people across an organization. Depending on the number of people affected by the planned improvements and the specific nature of the changes themselves, it may be necessary to identify a particular mix of these special people, which include connectors, oracles, and salespeople. If there is likely to be a lot of convincing to be done, you would look for salespeople, if changes are more technical in nature (e.g., introduction of a new tool), it would be wise to identify suitable oracles with specific knowledge, and if you need to spread the word across a wide range of organizational units, connectors will be needed. If you are really fortunate, one person may be able to perform more than one of these roles, but that would be exceptional.
Identify Adopters of Change
The champions of change will tend to be more effective if the people affected by the changes are willing and enthusiastic. These are the so-called early adopters of change; they are generally open to change, they are unlikely to give up easily in the face of difficulty, and they will tend to withstand any setbacks during the implementation of improvements. Often these early adopters can be easily identified in an organization; maybe you know them yourself, sometimes you may need to ask around, and in some cases they come forward as willing volunteers.
If early adopters are not so easy to identify early, the test process improver may prefer to conduct an evaluation, as proposed by Kirton [URL: Kirton] (please read section 8.7., “Data Privacy,” before you do that). According to Kirton, we all have an element of adaptor or innovator in us.Adaptors tend to be disciplined and efficient; they are team-oriented problem solvers. Innovators are challengers of accepted theory and have ideas that can sometimes be quite radical. Kirton assumes that all people have a creative side to them and gives us an evaluation method to answer the question, Will someone prefer to be creative within the rules or by breaking the rules?
Determing whether a person is an adaptor or innovator is generally useful to show their preferred approach to adopting change. If test process improvers see a need for gradual change that involves, for example, the extension of existing testing practices, it would be better to focus initial attention on people with a strong adaptor side. If you are looking to break open current practices and introduce something completely new (e.g., introduction of agile testing), you would favor people with a stronger innovator side.
Early adopters who are also in a decision making position (e.g., a project leader or test manager) are the prime candidates for early involvement, especially if improvements are first to be introduced in pilot projects. Early adopters in these positions will significantly influence the choice of pilot project (see section 6.5.1).
8.4 Decide What to Change
This phase includes the following principal activities:
Establish a vision for the future.
Set specific objectives and align to business goals.
Decide on the implementation strategy.
Balance long-term and short-term benefits.
These activities are similar to the activities for the initiating stage of the IDEAL model described in chapter 6. We’ll describe the change management aspects of these activities in the following sections.
8.4.1 Establish a Vision of the Future
A vision for the future is not just something required to convince stakeholders and line managers of the need for and the reasoning behind test process improvements (refer to section 6.2.2); it’s an essential element of the change process. Certainly, people affected by improvement will be generally interested in aspects like return on investment, broad objectives, and the scheduling of specific changes, but for people to get behind the required changes, they must be able to see a vision of their future working practices. Using the term introduced by Satir (see section 8.2.2), what will the new status quo feel like? How will the new, improved test process affect people?
This vision for the future needs to be firmly established and agreed upon with stakeholders before any improvements are rolled out. Once this is achieved, the test process improver should consider how best to communicate the new vision to affected people and might prepare presentations and other materials showing the “big picture.” These will be needed when communicating for buy-in and understanding at the start of the “make it happen” phase of the change process (see section 8.5.1).
8.4.2 Set Specific Objectives and Align to Business Goals
Measurable objectives that are aligned to business goals are essential so that the benefit of test process improvements can be shown and their introduction can be performed in a controlled way. When communicating for buy-in and understanding, test process improvers will typically refer back to these aspects. (Further details are described in section 6.2.2).
8.4.3 Decide on an Implementation Strategy
The implementation strategy is part of the test improvement plan (see section 6.4.2). The strategy typically includes a consideration of which improvements are to be performed using a top-down approach and which shall use a bottom-up approach.
Top-down strategies implement improvements first at the higher organizational levels. The focus lies on the common ground between projects so that the improvements have a positive effect on as many individual projects as possible.
A top-down strategy will affect a relatively large number of people and the need for good communication will be high. When deciding on the implementation strategy, the availability of connectors to spread the word throughout the affected projects and departments will be a significant consideration in managing the change.
Bottom-up strategies implement improvements first in selected projects and spread successful improvements into other projects as required. The initial focus lies on demonstrating the value of specific improvements. If early adopters can be identified and any support required can be provided from oracles, this strategy will have a good chance of success.
8.4.4 Balance Short-Term and Longer-Term Benefits
Part of the test improvement strategy is to create a balance between the short-term improvements (often referred to as quick wins) and those that require more time to take effect.
Quick wins can have a significant effect on both the test process itself and the change process. Clearly, if specific problems can be fixed quickly, there will be a reconizable improvement to the test process (e.g., delays in executing tests due to low availability of the test environment may be quickly fixed by purchasing and installing a new environment). The impact of quick wins on the overall change process are also significant. Here are two of the most important aspects:
Motivation rises: When quick improvements are made, the message is clear: things are happening for the better. Early adopters are empowered, and some sceptics may begin to change their views. As the level of motivation rises, extra momentum is added to the overall change process.
References are achieved: Successful improvements serve as excellent references for achieving buy-in for other improvements. Salespeople have some material to work with in convincing others of the need for particular improvements.
When rolling out test process improvements, care is needed to ensure that the strategy is not too heavily biased toward quick wins. Even though the impact of these short-term gains on the change process is positive, a balance between short- and long-term gains is generally desirable. Some deep-seated issues may need time to take effect, especially where they affect working practices that have been in place for several years. Time is also required to establish a culture of improvement (see section 8.6.3). A strategy with too much emphasis on quick wins runs the risk that the change process loses momentum as the initial surge of activity and motivation drops off before long-term measures can take effect.
8.5 Making Change Happen
The principal activities in this phase of the fundamental change process are strongly focused in the people-related aspects of change. This is where many of the ideas introduced in the Satir model can be useful. The main activities are as follows:
Communicating for buy-in and understanding
Developing Transforming Ideas
Some of the issues we covered in chapter 6 (IDEAL model) will “ring a bell” in the following sections.
8.5.1 Communicating for Buy-In and Understanding
Communication is the key to minimizing the impact of the chaos that people go through after receiving a jolt (e.g., announcing that a new tool will be used for test management). Remember, chaos is a normal human response to a jolt they receive (see overview of the Satir model in section 8.2.2).
Good communication starts with informing people about what the improvement plan is and what the process of change will look (and feel) like. People need to be told how changes will affect them directly. Make presentations, hand out flyers, perform road shows, provide an access point where people can obtain information. This is the time to communicate the vision for the future that was agreed upon with sponsoring stakeholders (see section 8.4.1). The big picture needs to be explained in a clear and understandable way. What will future work practice be like? How will people benefit? Will there be winners and losers? How will you proceed (what is the strategy and the mix of long- and short-term improvement measures)?
This is also the stage to introduce the team of people who will be managing the test process improvement program and giving their support to making change happen. Introducing the key players who will be involved (connectors, oracles, salespeople, early adopters) can be a big step toward obtaining buy-in; people will feel more comfortable if they know that a particular, trusted person is involved in the change process. For example, if Harry (who is a great connector) is involved in spreading the word about improvements, people might say, “If Harry is part of it, then so am I.” (It will probably be more subtle than that, but you see our point.)
Obtaining buy-in and understanding is not a one-way street; people need the opportunity to give their feedback and ask questions. Giving a presentation and then leaving people to their “fates” is definitely not going to get their buy-in. Listen to them, learn from them, and if necessary, make adjustments to plans. It’s important to be undertanding but firm here, because the first signs of resistence will start to show even at this initial stage. The test improvement plan is not up for negotiation, but some constructive fine-tuning may be useful and help to build trust.
The practice of information-hiding should be avoided, unless it would mean distroying someone’s trust (e.g., line management is planning to inform people about certain details next week and has asked you to not to say anything about it now), breaking some important rules or laws (e.g., established company policy regarding staff communications), or placing yourself, other people, or your company at risk (e.g., by revealing commercial secrets). Above all, keeping information away from people as an act of kindness (to spare them the jolt) or to avoid their reactions will backfire. Sooner or later people will find out the information one way or another. Rumors may spread and information will get transformed and distorted as people try to piece together the whole story. Naomi Karten is absolutely clear about information-hiding when she says “… such withholding is dishonest, thoughtless, and unkind. And withholding bad news because it just didn’t occur to you that it would matter to others is a blatant sign of disrespect.” Hiding information is about the best way possible to destroy the trust a test process improver needs when getting the ball rolling and making things happen.
8.5.2 Anticipating Chaos
We know that a state of chaos is going to occur when introducing change, so it’s possible to take some measures to ease the impact. An important aspect is recognizing the factors and situations that can cause the jolt that leads to chaos. In section 8.3.1, the situations that can result in the need for test process improvement were listed. Each of these can represent a different level of severity when it comes to the “jolt” that occurs when necessary improvements are introduced. If improvement is introduced because it’s company policy to improve continuously, the jolt is relatively mild. Improvements that result from disaster striking will probably result in a severe jolt. This has to be appreciated by the test process improver so that the severity of the chaos can be anticipated.
When individual improvements are proposed, a similar consideration should be made regarding the particular jolts that will result when they are introduced. Any proposal that involves changes to working practices, having to learn something new, the introduction of new technology (e.g., tools), or organizational restructuring should be considered by the test process improver as reasons to take precautions against the ensuing chaos.
What can the test improver do to reduce the effects of chaos? Naomi Karten sums this up neatly when she says, “What, when, and how you communicate with those affected influences the duration and intensity of the chaos” [Karten 2009]. Here are some helpful tips:
Talk about the chaos that may happen before it happens; it may be difficult to recognize it when you’re already in it.
Let people know that experiencing chaos will be a normal reaction to the proposed changes and single out particular changes that are likely to have the biggest impact.
Be aware that people often think they are immune to chaos and may respond with “I can handle it” if chaos is discussed. The problem is, often they can’t handle it as well as they think.
Get people to practice recognizing the signs of chaos so they can respond to it properly (refer to the following section).
Anticipate a period of resistance; this is normal.
Manage expectations by being clear about the main vision and objectives.
8.5.3 Managing the Chaos
The immediate impact of introducing “improvements” is a state of chaos in the people affected. The appropriate symbol for chaos, used by Naomi Karten, is shown in figure 8–2.
Figure 8–2 How people experience chaos
Here are some of the more common signs of chaos:
People are more likely to react emotionally than in a reasoned, rational manner.
People experience many emotions, such as stress, unease, and possibly also anger.
People may feel a sense of loss and show signs of mourning for the way things used to be (i.e., the old status quo).
People show resistence to the change (see section 8.5.4).
Productivity drops (yes, it drops) as people try to adjust to change.
Test process improvers need to be aware of these signs and react in an appropriate manner. Here are some tips on managing chaos; they may apply to anyone who experiences change (including yourself):
If you talk to someone in chaso rationally, they may not get your message because they are emotionally charged. Repeat your message or ask them if they have understood fully. Be patient if they reply no.
Do not say, “You’re in a state of chaos; it will get better.” This can come across as patronizing. Remember, you are a test process improver, not a psychologist.
Acknowledge the situation, be understanding, and offer support. The best thing to say is, “Let me know if I can do anything to help.”
When in a state of chaos, don’t do or say anything you might regret later, (walk out, insult your customer, destroy your computer). The short-term “pleasure” of doing this will be replaced by long-term regret that could deepen the chaos.
Manage expectations by making it known that productivity will initially drop. Be understanding about losses of productivity.
Keep communication channels open and provide support where needed.
8.5.4 Handling Resistance to Change
Many test process improvers underestimate the phenomenon of resistance. When there is change, some people are simply against it. They have all kinds of reasons for not being keen on the process of change. Test process improvers must be able to cope with that and should be actively engaged in reducing resistance. That requires an understanding of how resistance is influenced by the test process improver’s conduct over time. If that understanding exists, resistance becomes predictable and may be influenced.
Figure 8–3 Resistance is predictable and may be influenced.
As shown in figure 8–3, at the start of the improvement process, few people will be aware of it. Resistance will not increase until more people have been informed about the changes and their impact. After the project has been announced, adequate support and tools should be available to help counter any resistance. Once it is put into practice and support is provided, test staff will suggest improvements. You should listen to them carefully, and the proposals should be discussed if necessary. A sensitive ear and acceptance of suggestions made will considerably reduce resistance. If support continues steadily, testers will become convinced, during this phase, of the benefits brought by the changes. They will carry doubting colleagues along with them and even compel them to join in. The resistance curve may be influenced by not delaying information, but more so by not providing it prematurely. Before wide-ranging information is provided, for example, support and tools should be available. If the kind of opposition likely to be aroused by a particular action is predicted, it will be possible to take precautionary measures to reduce it. Opposition can therefore be managed.
Virginia Satir notes that resistance is a natural response to change and can be experienced in a variety of forms:
People make excuses regarding why they cannot implement the proposed changes. Especially common are excuses like “I don’t have time” and “I’m too busy for these changes.”
People may get confrontational and challenge the wisdom of changes.
People may use delaying tactics by saying things like, “I’ll do this next week” (and next week they say the same).
To minimize resistance to change, the test process improver should understand the diagram shown in figure 8–3 and be able to apply the following recommendations:
Do not try to pressure people who show signs of resistance by saying things like “Come on, just get on with it.” The more people are pressured, the greater the resistance they build up against the person doing the pressuring. It distracts them from the change.
Talk to people and listen carefully to their concerns. Where possible, try to find ways to address their concerns. If they say they are too busy, check on ways to free up some time for them, perhaps by talking to a project leader or line manager. Be politely persistent; use questions that start withwhy.
Encourage the development of transforming ideas (see the next section).
Encouraging and motivating people who are resisting change takes time, patience, and energy. It’s quite possible that the test improvement group and those people who support the rollout will not be able to convince all resistors to change. Provided the number of those who persistently resist change is comparatively small and their reasons for resistance have been reasonably considered, it may be necessary to reduce or even stop devoting further energy to these people. Many of them will change their ways when the changes have taken a strong foothold and their continued resistance becomes steadily more unreasonable, especially within their peer group.
8.5.5 Climbing Out of Chaos: Developing Transforming Ideas
At this stage many people are struggling with the chaos brought on by the introduction of improvements. The overall way forward will already have been laid out in the test improvement plan, but it cannot address all the specific needs of individuals.
Satir calls the ideas that help people implement changes and lift them out of their chaos transforming ideas [Satir, et al. 1991]. The test process improver can encourage the development of these ideas by helping to create the right environment. This means, above all, giving people support when they decide to try things out. The culture should be open and blame free and provide the space needed for people to experiment and find solutions. In this context, “failure” may be a good thing, if people can learn from it and create better alternatives. All concerned should remain open to ideas and should avoid rejecting them too quickly.
The test process improver can enable transforming ideas to be generated and to create the right environment. Here are some of the approaches that can be applied:
Looking at things differently: Ask a person to take on the view of someone else with a different role or responsibility and then encourage them to walk through problems and proposed improvements from that point of view.
Looking at things together: Groups may also perform the kind of perspective-based activity mentioned in the preceding point and generate ideas from the discussions that follow. A similar method may be to apply de Bono’s principle of Six Thinking Hats, in which members of a group collectively consider a problem or idea according to six defined perspectives [de Bono 1999]. Other forms of group activity, such as workshops, brainstorming sessions, and walk-throughs, may also help to focus on specific topics.
Explaining the problem: Ask people to explain step-by-step the problems they are facing. This often results in them finding solutions themselves. Ask them open questions like, What do you think about the improvements to…? Then practice active listening (see section 7.3.2) to focus on possible transforming ideas.
Encouraging knowledge transfer: Where improvements are introduced in several areas of an organization at the same time (e.g., when the rollout takes place using a top-down strategy), the transfer of knowledge, experiences, and ideas can be a powerful motivator and source of inspiration. Encourage and enable groups from different projects or parts of an organization to come together regularly and even collaborate on implementing challenging improvements.
8.6 Making Change Stick
Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a test process improver is to see proposed improvements successfully introduced but then, some time later, to find that practices have reverted to their “old status quo” ways. Making changes stick takes patience, a culture that supports and encourages improvement, and an “institutionalized” process that is part of a formal quality system and firmly establishes testing roles.
This phase includes the following principal activities:
Roll out new ideas and practices.
Provide lasting support.
Create a new culture of improvement.
Practice continuous improvement principles.
8.6.1 Rollout of New Ideas and Practices
When new practices are adopted, it takes time for them to become the “standard” way of doing things. Before a test improvement plan can be considered fully implemented, there will be successes and failures, each of which can provide a jolt to the people affected by the improvements. Some of the factors that can influence the speed and depth of adoption are discussed next.
Influence of Communication and Personality Types
Rolling out test process improvements and finding transforming ideas (see section 8.5.5) will be most effective and efficient if those affected have the ability to communicate well with each other. Workshops are more productive, the transfer of knowledge and experience is more focused, and problems can be more openly discussed if people are able to communicate well. The test process improver needs an appreciation of different people’s ability to communicate to make the rollout as smooth as possible and to understand some of the issues that arise. One way to establish these abilities is to evaluate their particular personality type as proposed by Myers and Briggs [Briggs Myers and Myers 1995] in their classification scheme, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (also know simply as MBTI). Figure 8–4 shows the personality types.
Figure 8–4 Myers-Briggs personality types
Note that the personality types are organized in four pairs. A person is assessed as having a personality that matches one of each pair (e.g., they are extrovert or introvert). Typically, the letters (E or I) are used to build a complete Myers-Briggs Type Indicator covering all four attributes (e.g., ENFJ indicates that a person is an extrovert, intuitive, feeling, and applies judgment). The 16 possible MBTIs are shown in a matrix and individuals are positioned on the matrix according to their type. The example in figure 8–5 shows the MBTI personality types of four people (e.g., from a small project).
Figure 8–5 Myers-Briggs personality types (MBTI) example
Here are some of the benefits to be gained from considering the MBTI personality types of people affected by change:
You have a better understanding of how proposed changes will be adopted.
You can predict whether change will likely be welcome (P: perception) or resisted (I: introvert).
You can better determine if people will be prepared to experiment and accept some failure in the changes
(E: extrovert, I: intuition) or if they would prefer to wait until a “perfect” solution is provided (T: thinking, J: judgment).
You can better determine if people will communicate well with others or get on each others’ nerves? Considering the matrix in figure 8–5, people whose MBTI are close to each other (e.g., ISTP and INTP) will tend to get along better than those who are far apart on the matrix (e.g., ESTJ and INFP).
Isabel Evans notes that people in IT are typically INTJ (introvert, intuition, thinking, judgment) but business owners are typically ESTJ (extrovert, sensing, thinking, judgment) [Evans 2004]. These positions, unfortunately, are not adjacent to each other on the MBTI matrix, which may explain some of the difficulties we in IT have in communicating with important stakeholders like business owners.
Influence of Different Learning Styles
There can be a considerable difference between different people’s ability to learn new working practices and acquire new skills. These different styles are captured by a classification by Honey and Mumford that identifies four styles of learning, each with its advantages and disadvantages [Honey and Mumford 2002]. These are shown in figure 8–6.
Figure 8–6 Honey and Mumford learning styles
The test process improver can use this information to adjust the amount and type of support provided to particular people during the rollout of improvements. Clearly, people who are activists will need more support, but they will be good early adopters of improvements and can benefit others by passing on their experiences. Pragmatists are likely to be good at adopting new work practices and giving appropriate feedback on whether these are well considered, practical, and not too theoretical.
Influence of the Test Improvement Team
The people involved in implementing test process improvements and the “champions of change” mentioned in section 8.2.3 are instrumental in rolling out new ideas and practices connected with test process improvements. They have a positive impact on making changes stick by communicating sucesses (“do good things and talk about them”) and motivating others to implement improvements by encouraging them and giving them specific support. Overall control of the rollout remains with the Test Process Group (TPG), which follows the test improvement plan. The connectors, oracles, salespeople, and early adopters all play their respective roles in the spread of ideas and improvements, but care needs to be taken that the TPG coordinates its activities and ensures that the right messages are being communicated to the required people and projects; an overenthusiastic salesperson or a badly informed connector can undo much progress and prolong the rollout if the activities and statements made by these people are not coordinated correctly. Depending on the scale of the rollout and any challenges that may exist (e.g., strong resistance from particular people), it is advisable to regularly exchange information and feedback between everyone who is actively involved in implementing the rollout.
Use of social media can be helpful in spreading the word during the rollout. In particular, the use of tweets to feed people small items of information and news can be a powerful tool, especially if connectors are able to retweet (i.e., forward) messages to a large number of people. It’s important, however, not to make this the only means of communication; not everyone uses social media.
8.6.2 Provide Lasting Support
As the rollout progresses, many people begin to see the light. They realize that their test process is improving and some of the early resistors to change become late adopters. Ensuring that changes stick involves providing all necessary support for questions and suggestions that may come up, even after the rollout of improvements is considered complete. People simply feel more secure knowing that someone will help them if needed, and the permanent nature of the Test Process Group (TPG) is a significant factor in ensuring that this support is available. The messages here from the TPG is clear:
Reassurance: “We are in this together for the long term.”
Stability: “We are not going back” (to the old status quo).
The information channels set up for the rollout should be maintained where appropriate, and successfully implemented improvements should be built in to standard working practices, depending on the strategy adopted. If a top-down approach to improvement is being followed, updates should be made to items such as the overall process descriptions, general testing procedures, and company standards. These will provide the lasting support needed for others as the improvements are introduced across the organization.
The TPG may scale down the activities performed by the champions of change according to the test improvement plan and the achievement of specified improvement objectives. Particular people may be retained as oracles so that points of contact can be available for specific areas of testing, especially where these have involved learning new practices or techniques.
8.6.3 Create a New Culture of Improvement
A culture of improvement only develops over time. It’s something that is practiced by the people within an organization as a matter of routine and is strongly linked to the overall company culture. Culture in the sense of test process improvement means many things, such as the ability to discuss problems in a blame-free environment, the encouragement of all stakeholders to suggest improvements, and the the practice of conducting project retrospectives. Testing knowledge is shared and transferred between different parts of an organization and people learn to share both their successes and their failures so that they and others may benefit.
Although surprises and setbacks can never be ruled out, a culture of improvement will make improvement a more routine activity that people expect to participate in. There are clear roles and responsibilities for managing the improvements (i.e., the TPG) and the company should have a stated policy on test process improvement.
The role of the test process improver is to help establish this culture by obtaining stakeholder backing for the specific measures needed. This may mean talking to line management about setting up company-wide “communities” for developing and taking responsibility for particular aspects of testing. It may also mean taking on the role of neutral moderator in discussions about successes (“Can we build on this?”) and setbacks (“Can we learn from the root causes?”).
The culture of improvement may be slow to develop, particularly when following a bottom-up strategy. Using this approach often means that certain parts of the organization remain relatively untouched by the improvements, which has the potential for discord between different groups or projects. In this sense, the use of top-down strategies has advantages regarding the establishment of a culture of improvement. The improvement culture is further discussed as a critical success factor in section 9.2..
8.6.4 Practice Continuous Improvement Principles
The IDEAL model described in chapter 6 is based on the principles of continuous improvement as initially discussed in chapter 2. Following this kind of process will cement the culture of improvement and support an incremental approach to rolling out changes. Please refer to chapter 6 for further details.
8.7 Data Privacy
When you evaluate people, you must take into account how the evaluation is conducted, how the results are used, and where resulting data is stored. In most cases you will need permission from line management and/or human resource departments before conducting such an evaluation. In some countries you will also need to involve local workers and councils, and obey legal requirements regarding data protection.
The following multiple-choice questions will give you some feedback on your understanding of this chapter. Appendix F lists the answers.
8-1 Which step of the fundamental change process is missing from the following sequence: prepare for change, implement the changes, make the changes stick?
A: Establish a test improvement plan
B: Decide what to do
C: Perform interviews
D: Perform retrospectives
8-2 What is the step in the Satir model that follows a foreign element?
A: Practice and integration
D: Transforming ideas
8-3 Which of the following principles does not apply to the Tipping Point theory?
A: Small changes to the way information is presented can make a big difference.
B: Changes spread best within groups which do not exceed 150 people.
C: Changes should be introduced gradually in a controlled step-by-step process.
D: Creating many small changes can often enable larger changes to take place.
8-4 Which of the following can be used to show that there is a need for improving the test process?
A: Impact of past failures
B: Budget becomes available for improvement
C: Need to follow company policy
D: Realizing the need yourself and convincing stakeholders
E: A and D
8-5 Which of the following can be effective in making change happen?
A: Avoiding any form of chaos by good management practices
B: Handling resistance by setting milestones for specific changes
C: Increasing buy-in by communicating results, benefits, status, and progress
D: Ensuring that fast adopters of change are rewarded
8-6 What can the test improver do to reduce the effects of chaos?
A. Don’t talk about it too much; it may make people nervous.
B. Plan a short period of resistance into the test improvement plan.
C. Convince people that they will have no difficulty taking on changes.
D. Let people know that experiencing chaos is normal.
8-7 Which of the following best describes how the test process improver should behave when resistance is experienced?
A. If some people are showing resistance after the majority of people have adopted the change, then the test process improver should try to convince them to follow the others.
B. If resistance is high, then the test process improver should focus on convincing them that the changes will be beneficial.
C. If only a few people are showing resistance before the change is introduced, then the test process improver should negotiate with them.
D. If very few people are still resisting change after the rest have adopted the changes, the test process improver should simply ignore them.
8-8 Which of the following is not a benefit to be gained from considering the MBTI personality type of people affected by change?
A. Better understanding of how proposed changes will be adopted
B. The ability to estimate the effort required to implement changes
C. The ability to estimate whether change will be welcomed or resisted
D. The ability to identify people who will be good communicators
8-9 What factors contribute to a culture of improvement?
A. Clear identification of roles and responsibilities so that mistakes can be more easily tracked
B. Strong leadership by the leader of the test improvement initiative so that too many conflicting ideas can be avoided
C. Performing assessments on a regular basis
D. People learning to share both their successes and their failures so that they and others may benefit
8-10 What are the qualities of a pragamatist according to the Honey and Mumford learning styles?
A. Develops sound theories for reuse
B. Observant and good at collecting metrics
C. Will follow a model they can relate to
D. Learns by doing