Trust and Testing

I threw out a few trust-based tweets this week.

I’m a big fan of #trust in the workplace – hire smart people, coach & guide them, but give them plenty of freedom to do the right things

You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) involve everyone in decisions. But build trust by sharing why and how you make decisions.

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust lately – specifically trust in the workplace and how much it benefits an organization. Organizational trust is a popular concept (assuming you know where to look). The Management Innovation Exchange (I’m a huge fan); there’s The Management Trust, and Management by Trust. Stephen Covey (no – not that Stephen Covey, his son) wrote a book on trust, and it’s in HBR frequently.

But too many leaders – no wait, they can’t be leaders if they ask this way. Too many people fail at trust. I’ve probably seen fifty tweets and blogs complaining about management keeping a thumb on workers by counting test cases, bugs, and time-on-task. My simple response to these people is to just quit (or find some less dramatic way to find a new boss if possible) – life’s too short to wallow in an organization without trust (Ideally, you should find a new job first, and I know that’s not as easy as it sounds these days, but still…).

Fortunately, I work in an organization where trust is a huge part of the way we operate. We expect people to work hard and do what they think is right. Doing the right thing – and having the freedom to explore is critical in testing (and in software engineering). I’m a fan of metrics, and think when they’re used right, they are extremely valuable and help immensely in decision making (conversely, I know of people so freaked out by metrics misuse that they won’t use them at all – which is nearly as stupid as using them poorly).There is so much more to software testing than functional tests – I just don’t understand how there’s a chance in hell for testers to do what they’re supposed to do if they don’t have the freedom to change course when they need to without fear of repercussion (or missing their quota).

I know there are some people who actually prefer to have very explicit instructions on what to do – they work better if they are told what to do (and when to do it). I don’t fault these people – I hope they all find jobs with the managers who insist on giving explicit directions and hovering over their employees while they follow those directions.

Of course, “trust” doesn’t mean “do whatever you want, even if it’s useless” – you still need to show value, and you need to be able to explain what you did and why you did it – but hopefully that’s a better alternative than mindlessly running test cases all day.


  1. You’ve summed it up well.

    The freedom to choose the best strategy but be able to back it up with sound reasoning should anyone question your methods. That’s the way to test.


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