Saturday, November 28, 2009

Embrace CEO like thinking in your testing

What is the first thought that cross your mind when you hear the word "CEO" ? Chief Executive Officer, a person who is at the helm of all the affairs in the organization, a person who drives the organization through its growth, basically a person who is visionary.
All these are right inferences given the context of a CEO. A CEO may not be an expert in all the diverse areas that constitute his/her organization but does possess a certain kind of unique thinking patterns (in addition to the vast knowledge and experience, of course) that enables him to take most complex decisions.
That really makes me wonder often- Is there any takeaway for test engineers from the CEO mindset that can assist in testing a product effectively ?
To explore the answer to above curiosity, I came across some of the beautiful instances in my recent experience.
The book "Inside Steve's brain" provides an wonderful insight into Steve Jobs' thinking and how it helped transform Apple over the years. There is a significant mention of Steve Jobs being a perfectionist and a stickler for details. The book talks about how Jobs sat with designers and virtually tested the prototypes and gave valuable feedback for every seemingly minor detail. His involvement is touted as one of the major reason why Apple products have a good focus on User friendliness aspect. Consider the below instances from the book-
Instance #1
Incredibly, Ratzlaff's team (He was in charge of look and feel of Apple's Operating Systems) spent six months refining the scrollbars to Jobs's satisfaction. Scrollbars are an important part of any Operating System but are hardly most visible element of the user interface. Nonetheless, Jobs insisted the scrollbars look just so, and Ratzlaff's team had to design version after version.

Instance #2
While working on the new interface, Jobs would sometimes suggest what at first seemed to be crazy ideas, but later turned out to be the good ones. At one meeting, he was scrutinizing three tiny buttons at the top left of every window. The three buttons were for closing, shrinking, and expanding the window, respectively. The designers had made all the buttons the same muted gray, to prevent them from distracting the user, but it was difficult to tell what the buttons were for. It was suggested that their function should be illustrated by animation that was triggered when mouse cursor hovered over them.
But then Jobs made when seemed like an odd suggestion: that the buttons should be colored like traffic stoplights: red to close the window, yellow to shrink it, and green to expand it. When we heard that, we felt that was a strange thing to associate with a computer, "Ratzlaff said. But we worked on it for a little while and he was right." The color of button implicitly suggested the consequence of clicking it, especially the red button, which suggested "danger" if the user clicked it and didn’t mean to close the window.

These are interesting quotations that emphasizes many things one of which is the attention to detail required to make a real difference to the product. Jobs’s Attention to details is exemplary and something which is a direct takeaway for the Test engineers.

One another appealing aspect is his CEO like thinking. CEO is the real "owner" of each and every aspect of organization and product design is definitely one of them. Taking ownership of something is easier said than done. To think about ownership, think about the project that you are currently working as the one in which you have personally invested and the stakes of the project depended upon how well you do your part. If you don’t do your part well, you lose all your investment. Imbibing ownership in testing opens door for several initiatives and innovations, which would otherwise stay dormant.

I feel another aspect of Jobs's personality that is exhibited in above quotations is his passion, a burning desire to succeed and make a difference to the user experience.
The aspect of ownership and passion are a lesson for any aspiring as well as Experienced tester. After all being "Experienced" in something doesn’t ideally mean that one is "Passionate" about that very thing. Ownership and Passion indeed supersede any other skill an employee need to create a space for himself/herself in their sphere of work.
Here’s to a CEO who tests!

Any thoughts/comments ? Please do share.

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