Posted on November 9, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

It’s Monday, which means it is Writing Excuses day! Two blurbs to bring to your attention.

One of the interesting things about comics is that there is no real, set format that everyone uses. Every writer uses their own format and style. There is a lot of books that will show scripts that different comic writers use, their style. I’ve settled on a style that I like, but what it really comes down to is: as long as your stage direction and your dialog are clear enough that the rest of the creative team can figure out what is going on the page, that’s really what matters.

Think about this while writing your Test Strategies, Test Plans or even Test Cases. There is no single way to do any of those. Each and every person will have variations that they evolve over the course of their career. The trick to to make that format work with the rest of your team. And that’s actually not that hard of a trick.

You can break the rules once you know them, and you are breaking them on purpose

This one applies not only to a person’s entire career as a tester, but when you are changing organizations as well. Figure out the culture, and the origins of that culture, and then start breaking the rules.


Posted on November 7, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

It would appear that I am on a weekly release schedule for this. I thought it was more random than that, but post timestamps disagree with that notion.

Posted on November 2, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

One of my core beliefs around work is that it shouldn’t suck. And when it does suck, you need to move somewhere else. Perhaps in the same field, perhaps to something completely different. I didn’t have a term for it until I read Brian Marick’s Ease and Joy.

Doing your job should be an act of joy.

Armed with a label for the concept I am starting to see it more and more. Like on the back page of today’s newspaper.

BMW Canada (and maybe internationally) has a new ad campaign called simply ‘Joy’. Here is the copy from the ad.

On the back of this three-letter word, we build a company.
Independent in spirit, philosophy, and practice.
Accountable to no one but the driver.
We do not build cars.
We are the creators of emotions.
We are the guardians of exhilaration, thrills, and chills.
We are the Joy of Driving.
No car company can rival our history.
Replicate our passion.
See our vision.
Innovation is our backbone, but Joy is our heart.
We will not stray from out three-letter purpose. We will nurture it.
We will make Joy smarter. We will push it, test it, break it – then build it again.
More efficient, more dynamic.
We will give the world the keys to Joy and they will take it for a ride.
And while others try to promise everything, we promise one thing.
The most personal, cherished, and human of all emotions.
This is the story of BMW.
This is the story of Joy.


BMW just laid claim to Joy! That’s pretty bold. Bigger, stronger, faster. Sure, they could have taken up those attributes, but no, they chose Joy which I think wins. And wins big.

Could your company even begin to start saying it stood for Joy? Very few can. Too often it is a different three-letter word: MEH. Meh does not win. Meh doesn’t even get to the finish lie.

Or how about LIE. Very often companies that build with that as a basic attribute look amazing in the warmups, but when it really counts they trip and skin their knees when leaving the starting blocks.

Now I’m not naive enough to think that they have rebuilt the company around Joy. This is marketing after all and Joy is a fantastic idea for a campaign. That doesn’t mean you can’t actually build your company (or team) around it. You owe it to yourself, your employees and your customers.

Now go watch this little video that introduces the campaign. Here is the spoken bits.

We are a car company.
But we don’t just make cars; we make time machines, build snowplows and works of art.
We inspire fans and fan clubs.
We realized a long time ago that what you make people feel is just as important was what you make.
Joy is BMW.

The second last line is the most important one.

We realized a long time ago that what you make people feel is just as important was what you make.

I’m now thinking that Joy is directly tied to Awesome. See almost anything Kathy Sierra has been talking about for a couple years ago. Like this Ignite from here called Better Is Better

Here’s your homework:

  • How are you increasing Joy? For yourself? Your team? Your company? For your customers?
  • How are you enabling Awesome?
Posted on November 1, 2009 in Uncategorized by adam1 Comment »

The October 29, 2009 edition of Prime Time Sports had a segment with Keith Law about the Blue Jays’ new General Manager. In specific, about whether or not he should hire someone with a tonne of baseball experience as a mentor; he is after all only 32. (Yes, younger than me and running a major baseball franchise. No, I’m not feeling career failure. Not at all…). The general feeling is ‘Yes’ and that regardless of age or experience you need a half dozen people you can respect to bounce ideas off.

Here is an ish transcript of what Keith said during one critical part of the conversation. I’ve cleaned it up a bit for clarity and added annotations for people not up to speed on the Jays.

What I’ve heard about those [Pat] Gillick (former GM for Jays when they won their back-to-back World Series) years is that their biggest problem was actually making a decision. Gillick was very big on ‘everyone in the room has to be on-board’. And that works fine if the room is small, but their rooms were really packed. Now if [Alex] Anthopoulos (the new GM of the Jays) is willing to just say ‘You know what? Two thirds of us are pointing in the same direction and I like it; that’s how were are going.’ You have to be willing to have advisors below you who vehemently disagree with you and still go in the other direction. And then everyone needs to walk out of the room and be fine with it. It was a huge problem with [J.P.] Ricciardi (the most recent former GM) that his advisors could not disagree with him. You were just not allowed. If he had already decided what to do you, couldn’t point in another direction. You couldn’t walk out of the room feeling like we are doing the wrong thing. That was unacceptable.

This comes back to the Devil’s Advocate idea and its lack could explain why second-time entrepreneurs have a harder time at things than they did the first time. On the flip side, you could use who the leaders of an organization surround themselves as a barometer of future success: ex-consultants and yes-men, not so good; people willing to say call out the boss’ idiot ideas is much better. The boss still has to be the one who makes the decision, but if they are not cultivating a culture where they can be disagreed with, then they are leading a sick company.

Posted on November 1, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

The book Billion Dollar Lessons is making the business press rounds this month. I don’t have a copy, but that has never stopped me from writing about a book. Especially when a review in Canadian Business does a nice job of summarizing things.

It’s this often-demonstrated absence of sober second thought in the boardroom that has Carroll and Mui proposing a formula to build disagreement into the corporate strategic process — what they call the devil’s advocate review.

According to the review, this devil’s advocacy process is the key to the success of business. Just having someone there challenging ideas is not enough though. It has be ingrained in to the culture of the organization.

Carroll and Mui don’t propose such a review as an alternative method for setting strategy, nor do they suggest that it should override a business’s top executives. But they want executives, senior managers, and board members to “expect, accept, and even demand frank discussion and robust analysis whenever ‘bet the company’ moves are on the table.”

In other words, even though the ego likes it, don’t surround yourself with ‘yes men’.

And in the testing community I belong to we also ‘expect, accept and even demand’ our ideas to be challenged and discussed. It’s how CAST operates, and is in fact embodied in the guiding principles of the AST. I think in both cases it makes for better ideas as a result, though I agree that sometimes the ‘frank discussion’ seems more unfriendly and personal at times.

Is your test group the devil’s advocate? And does test leadership, and those up the chain from them also take up that mantle as well? A muted devil’s advocate isn’t a very effective one.

Oh, and a bit of cool linguistic history. The term devil’s advocate comes from the Catholic Church’s promotor fidel whose job is to question sainthood appointments.

And if you are interested in the strategies that companies pursue at their peril without serious devil’s advocacy, this presentation lists.

Posted on November 1, 2009 in Uncategorized by adam1 Comment »

Canadian Business has a piece called The downside of overnight success which talks about a paper called How Adoption Speed Affects the Abandonment of Cultural Tastes. (Fortune also covers it here.) The main argument of the research is not that certain products (like Crocs) don’t fall out of favor as fast at they do because of an inherent flaw in the product, but because they rose so fast.

This has HUGE implications for startups. Especially those starting to emerge from stealth mode. Here is three and a half paragraphs from the article.

In other words, once something reaches a certain threshold of popularity, people no longer want to identify with it. And anything that reaches this threshold quickly has the added disadvantage of little built-up goodwill.

“This has important implications for businesses,” says Wharton professor Jonah Berger, who co-authored the study with Gaël Le Mens of Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeu Fabra. “They think they want a thing to catch on quickly — we’ll have greater word-of-mouth, greater product awareness,” he says. But the findings suggest these products will have a shorter lifespan and be less successful overall.

The study’s results pose an interesting problem for companies: how do you launch a product and hit it big, just not too big or too quickly? One place to start, suggests Terry O’Reilly, a marketing consultant and the host of CBC Radio’s The Age of Persuasion, is to think less about the life of the product and more about the life of the brand. “My mantra to clients is to think long term,” says O’Reilly. “A brand is a long story, not a bunch of short bursts. You want to tell the same story with consistency, but in fresh ways. Clients are always looking between here and Christmas, or between Christmas and the March break, and they need to look beyond that.”

The brand story — the messages it evokes for the consumer — should stress a product’s quality and functionality so that its lifespan will extend long after any novelty wears off, says Claire Tsai of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “We need to give consumers a reason to stay with the product,” Tsai says. “People are not going to abandon something like President’s Choice chocolate chip cookies just because they want to disassociate themselves from someone else who eats them — the quality is not affected.”

What’s your company’s messaging and strategy like? Is it going for flash-in-the-pan? Are you building products to meet today’s buzzwords? Or are building something for the future?

I’d be logging bugs on the former.

Posted on November 1, 2009 in Uncategorized by adamNo Comments »

Canadian Business magazine had an interview with ‘Star-chitect’ Jack Diamond in the December issue. Yes, it isn’t even November here, but that is magazine cycles for you… It is a pretty good interview with things like ‘How do you know when a project is successful?’ (recognition by peers, and by the public) and ‘How do you deal with a difficult client?’ (what people say isn’t always what they mean), but the best one is the final one.

What goes into creating a successful firm?

People know we’re very serious about architecture, so we attract bright young people. One of the keys to our success is the Friday-afternoon meeting where the entire firm gathers to review projects, and there’s criticism and discussion about them. At those discussions, we talk only about architecture, not about insurance or liability or a burst pipe on a construction site. And a junior architect, if they have some constructive criticism to offer, it’ll change the direction of the project. So it’s a learning office. In fact, I often think our Friday-afternoon meeting is the best graduate seminar in the city. People are engaged. There’s very seldom a night or a weekend when there are not people working here, and it’s not done by cracking the whip. People say, “We love working here.”

Let’s break this down.

  • we’re very serious
  • we attract bright young people
  • the entire firm gathers
  • we talk only about architecture
  • it’s a learning office
  • people are engaged
  • People say, “We love working here.”

How many of these things apply to your office?

Why not?

Posted on November 1, 2009 in Uncategorized by adam1 Comment »

I don’t think I have ever linked to an obituary before, but at the end of this week’s Maclean’s magazine there is one for Jean Guy Potvin. It’s a pretty inspiring tale of someone overcoming the obstacles life throws your way, but there is also a message to be learn too. Here are two relevant snippets.

On May 1, 2003, he was fixing a street sweeper, working beneath the large vehicle. Because it was a quick, simple job, he hadn’t secured the tank with a lock bar. But Jean slipped, knocking a lever, sending the tank crashing down on top of him. His friend, mechanic Harvey Jones, jumped on a forklift, which he used to lift the tank off Jean.

Jean began mentoring others with spinal cord injuries, taking them on bus rides, to the race track and to the zoo, and became a public speaker for WorkSafeBC—telling his story so others might avoid taking “shortcuts” and getting hurt.

Admittedly, in testing we are unlikely to get physically injured or killed by taking a shortcut, but someone else might. Physically, financially, productivity-ly.

What’s the difference between a shortcut and deciding to not do something? I think it has to do with laziness and the assessment of risks. Laziness should never be the motivation for an action. But analyzing the situation, weighing the pros and cons and then making a purposeful decision that looks like laziness is perfectly fine. But it also means that you accept the outcome of any of the risks that end up biting you in the butt later because you did not address them.

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