"Over-reliance on dev telling testers what to test".
"Our testers rely on the devs telling them what to test".
In 20 years of testing, I've heard this a lot. If you're an EM, Head of X or CxO lamenting the same thing, this post is for you! I'll share some questions to help you spot the signs, identify the causes and tell you how to improve things.
Let's get started!
How does this manifest itself?
Look for the signals.
Generally, testers rely on the devs because they lack something:
The first time they see the feature is when it needs testing. Lack of awareness.
They don't understand any technical aspects of the application. Lack of architectural knowledge.
Their product knowledge is minimal. Lack of domain knowledge.
The state of the product is difficult to perceive. Lack of testability.
Most importantly, this manifests as testers lacking confidence in themselves and their work.
What are the causes?
Examine the context.
How are people working together, and under what conditions? Here are some things to look out for:
Collaboration - How are testers working with their teammates? Do they pair? Ensemble? Do refinement sessions happen without the testers, or are they pulled in as a matter of course?
Contribution - Are the testers involved in discussions about the technical implementation? Do they indicate when different implementations impact the testing effort? Do they remind the team about overlooked risks? Do their teammates patronise them? Are they invited into discussions when they aren't participating?
Support - How much training do testers get? Do their line managers understand testing roles and support their career growth? Have expectations been set? Do testers know-how meet those expectations? If they don't, do testers get coaching and mentoring from their line managers?
When testers aren't succeeding, ensure the environment is designed for success before hanging them out to dry.
Where can you make changes?
Read all the above and do the opposite!
Ok ok. Maybe it's not that simple! Here are some specific ideas:
Protect 1:1 sessions as much as possible. If you can't attend, make sure it's rescheduled.
Make sure testers are included in all refinement sessions. Capture the conversations if they can't.
Teach testers (or give them the space to learn) how to model systems.
Ensure any testing strategy is aligned with the business's bottom line (thanks, Keith Klain!)
Tell them your expectations ahead of time, not after the fact.
Coach them if they're struggling. Helping people get unstuck is more powerful than telling them what to do.
Mentor them if they're spinning their wheels for too long.
Make coaching and leadership part of the job description for senior positions of all roles.
Celebrate their contributions.
Once testers level up their business knowledge, can describe the application architecture, contribute to refinement sessions and are supported, you'll be amazed at what they can do!