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Consultant Lloyd Roden: Choosing realistic software test team challenges

Some challenges are not worth taking on, said consultant Lloyd Roden during his StarWest 2009 keynote here at the Disneyland Hotel today. A software testing expert for U.K.-based Grove Consultants, Roden started off his talk about testers’ top challenges today with a warning about setting up the wrong challenges for a test organization.

“We can’t fight every challenge. You can’t do everything,” Roden said.

Examine the preparation needed and the talents of your team before setting goals, Roden advised. “Climbing everest would be a challenge, but it would be a stupid one to undertake without preparation and skill,” he said. “Cooking a meal for 20 would be a challenge for some and not for me, because I love cooking and have cooked a lot.”

A good challenge improves the people who take it on and opens their minds to different approaches to achieving the goal at hand. “Bad challenges are harmful and have undesirable consequences,” he said.

After advising testers there to “choose your battles carefully,” Roden gave a personal example, recalling his daughter asking for pierced ears when she was 14 years old. At first he was against the ear piercing, his daughter’s first request, until his wife explained that piercings didn’t have to be permanent. So, he chose not to say no to piercings. He did say no to tattoos, which are permanent, until she was 18. He didn’t feel she was prepared to make a decision with permanent consequences.

One way test managers can know what challenges to set for test teams is to do testing himself. He often runs into test managers who do no testing and believes they’re missing the opportunity to really know what goes on with his team everyday. Remaining outside of testing can lead test managers to set unrealistics goals and challenges.

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