Strate­giz­ing or Executioning

Did you know that when some­one is exe­cuted in the elec­tric chair, the first jolt of elec­tric cur­rent is designed to cause imme­di­ate uncon­scious­ness and brain death?   This is inter­est­ing to me because the human body is com­posed of elec­tric cur­rents and energy.  I’ll spare you the 7th grade pro­ton, neu­tron, elec­tron story, but suf­fice it to say that too much elec­tric­ity and we die, no elec­tric­ity and our bod­ies just wouldn’t work.

I have seen this same phe­nom­e­non in orga­ni­za­tions that are test­ing.  Often com­pa­nies will have too much or not enough of some­thing impor­tant.  The end result is usu­ally the same as too much or too lit­tle elec­tric­ity in our bod­ies – the test­ing pro­gram stops work­ing or suf­fers strate­gic brain death.  As an exam­ple how test­ing elec­tro­cu­tion can occur, I’ve seen com­pa­nies end up exe­cut­ing them­selves to death by run­ning lots of tests.  They exe­cute so many tests that they don’t take the time before or after a test to strate­gize.  They lit­er­ally become the exe­cu­tioner and the vic­tim all at once.

When any one aspect of test­ing is over or de-emphasized the test­ing pro­gram can be put at risk. Clients often get hung up with test exe­cu­tion, but this same thing can hap­pen when other impor­tant test­ing steps have too much or too lit­tle empha­sis.  Another exam­ple is a client who was known to glo­rify results eval­u­a­tion and had whole teams ded­i­cated to inter­pret­ing test results.  They would run a test and spend a lot of time and resources pour­ing over ana­lyt­ics data, back­end data, and putting together pages and pages of met­rics.  In this case too, the whole pro­gram suf­fered.  The ironic thing about this is the same com­pany couldn’t tell me one thing they learned in their whole pre­vi­ous year of testing—they had lots of results and num­bers to inter­pret those results but that is it.  For­tu­nately this client has made the shift to give equal impor­tance to the other impor­tant steps and their test­ing pro­gram is look­ing much more promising.

You might be ask­ing your­self what those steps are.  What process can every com­pany fol­low to make sure they are remem­ber­ing the right things at the right time?  Let me intro­duce a sim­ple test­ing method­ol­ogy that out­lines 6 repeat­able steps that every test­ing pro­gram could fol­low to make their tests as strate­gic and suc­cess­ful as possible.

1. Ques­tion Creation

2. Ques­tion Definition

3. Ques­tion Evaluation

4. Test Execution

5. Results Evaluation

6. Action

Mature and suc­cess­ful test­ing com­pa­nies know that test­ing takes a lot of work and a lot of dis­ci­pline for con­tin­ued suc­cess.  The dis­ci­pline is adher­ing to a method­ol­ogy that helps move test­ing for­ward and keeps the com­pany doing the right amount of the right thing at the right time.  My goal is to help you see that there is more to test­ing than any one aspect—including run­ning tests.

I hope that these steps will help you focus your efforts and will bring the strate­gic nature of test­ing to the fore­ground.  To that end, I will be explor­ing each of these steps in detail and what it means to have enough of each step to empower us, but help us avoid over­do­ing it and in turn keep us from strate­gic brain death or non-functioning test­ing programs.