Agile testing and understanding change

What the...

Tomorrow at the Agile 2009 conference, Abby Fichtner and Nate Oster are doing a workshop called Where Does Developer Testing End and Tester Testing Begin?. Jenny and I hope you can make it, because they’ll be doing a giveaway of autographed copies Beautiful Teams. Check out my O’Reilly Community posts for more information:

In that second post, I spend a little time talking about some of the reasons that programmers resist great practices like test-driven development. Writing that post reminded me of something that Jenny and I wrote about change in Applied Software Project Management:

Many project managers—especially ones who have a technical background—tend to ignore the fact that their organizations are made up of people who need to be convinced of the importance of a change before they will adopt it. Some of these people will have an emotional or even irrational response to any attempt at change; it could take a sea change in the organization before they agree to it.

Irrational attitudes about software development usually boil down to two basic beliefs. First, people believe that most or all software projects are delivered late and delivered with many bugs, and that this is just a fact of life. Second, they believe that their organization is unique, and that the problems they are experiencing are particular to their organization and have never been seen before in any other organization.

(This second belief may seem odd, considering the many thousands of software organizations around the world that have all used similar tools and techniques to fix very similar problems and make real, lasting improvements. It’s possible that the belief in uniqueness comes from the fact that the software being built truly is unique, in that it has never been built before; it’s not a leap to assume—incorrectly—that the software project and all of itsproblems are therefore also unique to that particular organization.)

Many times, resistance is not irrational at all. Anyone who has been through a change previously—possibly a passing management fad—that didn’t fix the problem (or failed outright) may be resistant to another change. It may seem unfair, but if people in your organization have previously gone through poorly planned changes, it will be harder for you to make changes of your own.

When you are introducing new tools, techniques, or practices in your organization, you may encounter resistance for a number of reasons. By exploring the feelings, fears, and justifications for resisting change that project managers commonly encounter, these reactions can be unraveled and understood.

— Stellman & Greene, Applied Software Project Management, p206 (O’Reilly 2005)

It’s really easy to forget about this when you’re pushing for a change, especially something that requires extra work and learning. (I had to learn that the hard way – hopefully you won’t have to!)

One thought on “Agile testing and understanding change

  1. Thank you both again for all of your support and generosity! The workshop went wonderfully, we had a practically full house. People really enjoyed the autographed copies of Beautiful Teams and having such great prizes really motivated everyone in the games!

    You can see pictures and we’ve also made our slides available here if you’re interested:

    Thanks again!!

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