Blog posts in English

Say "Yes, but…" and remain true to your values

Testers sometimes have to make compromises. We have professional values and beliefs, but they may conflict with values in the contexts we act in.
Isn’t there always someone who matter who has an opinion about what testing is and how it should be performed? 
I remeber a few situations, where I have felt I was tasked to do something in a way that I didn’t agree with. How can I make a difference, then?
This feeling points to something which is a dilemma for every skilled professional: We can sometimes feel that our personal and professional values are challenged, but there is still a job to be done.
How can a I make the compromise, accepting a challenge, while staying true to my values and beliefs? 
It’s about learning and improving.
Social responsibility
To me, one of the most important things about being professional and a context driven tester is taking social responsibility. This is an important value to me.
Social responsibility is not about self-critique. As a professional, my personal doubts and worries are valuable.
Instead it is about trying to give customers what they need by understanding their situation and helping them get better with what we are doing together.
That requires what I call personal leadership. But foremost, it requires conversation and negotiation.
“Yes, but…”
In his “Improv(e) your testing” talk at Let’s Test 2016, Damian Synadinos @dsynadinos reminded me of a simple and efficient strategy to opening conversations. In improv, a golden rule is to start replies with with “yes, and…”. This helps adding to whatever is happening on stage.
In professional situations we sometimes have to subtract instead:

Yes, I will perform the test and report to you about it, but please explain me how the test case and bug count metrics you ask me to do will be useful?

The “yes“-part is about accepting the challenge. The “but” implies that I’m going to stay true to my knowledge, experience, values and beliefs and raise professional doubts about methods I’m asked to use, things I’m asked to report, processes I’m asked to follow.
I’m not asking rhetorical questions. Rhetorical questions shut windows to the world and enclose me in my own thoughts and ideas.
So I keep thought in the back of my mind when I’m asked to do something in a certain way: “Is this really in the best interest of the people who matter: The project stakeholders?”
Replying “yes, but…” enables me to act on my personal values in contexts which have values of their own.
Masterclass in New York City
On September 26th, during Test Masters Academy‘s REINVENTING TESTERS WEEK in New York City, I will be doing a workshop titled: “Act on your values!” on values and personal leadership.
As testers and IT-professionals we have to quickly recognize and adapt to ever changing contexts in order to produce value for our employers, clients and various diverse customers. This can be challenging, both on the personal and the professional level. As leaders, team members and individuals we often have to lead ourselves.
The workshop will focus on how our personal and shared values can guide us. It will be based on the principles of protreptic dialogue, which is a philosophical facilitated conversation revolving around the values embedded in what we say, do and think. First described in ancient Greece in the fourth century, professor Ole Fogh Kirkeby of Copenhagen Business School has revived protreptic dialogue as both a concept, a leadership tool, and a coaching principle with the objective to “turn us towards ourselves”.
I plan for the workshop to be a safe space for exploration and learning. Participants are expected to share opinions, thoughts and ideas, and to treat others’ opinions, thoughts and ideas in a respectful and appreciative manner. No prior knowledge of leadership, dialogue, philosophy, or protreptic dialogue is required.
Key takeaways

  • Consciousness about personal values and values of the contexts we work in
  • Strategies for dealing with the dilemmas we face as testers
  • An introduction to protreptic concepts and dialogue

Get tickets here.

0 replies on “Say "Yes, but…" and remain true to your values”

Great article and I agree with the dilemma you have outlined!!
The “Tongue-Fu” conflict avoidance book ( which I quite like, also advocates the use of “yes, and” instead of “yes, but”… even if you actually mean “yes, but”. Reason being that people find “but” to be a discounting of the initial agreement and more likely to trigger a conflict response. According to the methods in the book, you can use “yes, and” in your statement without losing the meaning…
“YES, I will perform the test and report to you about it, AND please explain me how the test case and bug count metrics you ask me to do will be useful?”
Workshop sounds great, wish I wasn’t 17,000km away….

Thank you for your comment 🙂 Too bad you can’t make it to NYC 🙁
I agree, “yes, and” can be effective too and can help avoiding conflicts, if there is a risk of that. Conflicts are never good, but can be unavoidable. My main concern is that, whatever happens, we should do whatever it takes to get to dialogue and negotiation. Patience, and being conscious about ones own values is important.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *