Could Agile Testers Help Debug Management?

Let’s imagine together how you can also use your testing skills outside of the arena of software production.

Sociocracy, an organizational governance method, gives feedback to executives. The feedback structure can use agile software tester’s skills because testers know how to measure performance accurately.

Everyone at the Agile Testing Days Conference has heard the term “debugging.” You may also know the story of the first computer bug. In 1947, early in her career with the US Navy, Dr. Grace Hopper was helping prepare a Mark I computer to show to a visiting Navy Admiral. Something was wrong. As a good Software Tester she finally isolated the problem to mechanical relay #70. (Back then, mechanical relays opening and shutting served as 1s and 0s.) The arms of Relay #70 had smashed a moth. Dr. Hopper scraped off the moth and taped it in her lab journal: the world’s first computer bug!

What message would US Navy Rear Admiral Hopper have for us, her progeny, Agile Testers? First, as the inventor of the world’s first compiler and inventor of COBOL, she would be pleased with the vast array of testing methods and tools that have been developed. Second, she might ask, “Why are you using all those testing strategies just with software?” Why aren’t you using them to test, validate or improve the container of the software, namely, the corporate structure and management processes that surround and serve as a container for the software? So, why not also try to debug management? 

Let’s explore the idea!

As a first step in the adventure, let's look at the organizational governance system called “sociocracy.” There are many methods for creating feedback known to the originators of sociocracy such as circles, double linking and consent decision making. They create containers for probing complexity and testing at all levels of the organization to identify and pinpoint problems and create solutions.

The concluding question is: how can you lead your organization to probe its activities? What is at least one practical step you could try immediately, learn from, and try some more? For example, how could you measure the effectiveness of one of your organization’s policies such as rules around travel expenses, how performance reviews are handled, requirements to set annual budgets, coordination of cross-functional teams, and so on. Many organizations are desperate to measure and improve such complex matters; yet, they fail to see that the software testing folks right under their noses have such measurement skills. The software testing folks don't have to wait to be noticed. They can take the initiative!