Testers often find themselves in predicaments where they may be asked to compromise on quality standards—whether it's pressure to sign off on a product before it's ready, getting involved in numbers games that value metrics above all else, or facing harassment to take on work that isn't theirs. Knowing when, how, and why to say no can improve your situation and gain respect for testers everywhere.
How often do we say “no” in our professional lives? The count really does not matter; what is more important is saying no at the appropriate times and saying it tactfully in order to accomplish our end goals. (You do have a goal, right?)
The difficulty of knowing when, how, and why to say no is not unique to the testing community—this is universally applicable to all disciplines, across all domains, and often stretching into an individual’s personal life, too. At the end of the day, rightfully saying no helps you draw your priorities and maintain sanity in the workload you handle day in and day out. It also helps improve judgment and prioritization skills while building self-confidence.
How to say no has been covered in many topics, but today, let’s discuss some situations for our specific roles—how to say no as a tester.
Scope creep is a problem for the product’s health if not planned for and timed well. While every discipline will put forth its case on whether it is OK to take in scope changes, the tester who holds the responsibility to finally sign off on the product’s quality should learn to say no if scope changes wouldn’t leave enough time to test them thoroughly. However, when saying no in a situation like this, the tester needs to have done his due diligence and homework so he can explain the impact of such scope changes, especially when done later in the game. This is beneficial both from the standpoint of a tester’s workload as well as from the end user product acceptance standpoint.
Pressure to Sign Off on the Product’s Exit Criteria
Although testing as a discipline has moved upstream in the product development lifecycle and is no longer relegated to the final phase of a few weeks just before product release, the tester faces the same amount of pressure (if not even slightly more) compared to other teams at the time of signing off on product exit criteria. Quality checks are an important component of the exit criteria, and despite the current reality of commencing testing activities early on, a tester continues to be very busy at the time of sign-off, whether it is in finishing pending test execution efforts, or mapping back his test results to determine overall traceability, or regressing defects, or interpreting the overall test efforts to the product’s exit criteria.
While this is often done under tight deadlines, a tester needs to maintain his calm in objectively carrying on his work at this stage. Oftentimes there is undue pressure from various stakeholders and senior management, forcing the tester to sign off on the exit criteria prematurely to ensure the release timelines are not impacted. While the tester must be cognizant of the timelines and the external commitments made to the market, he should not fear refusing to sign off on criteria if he truly believes the product is not ready for the market. While this is a very sensitive area that may impact the tester’s reputation in the team, if he is able to justify his decision with information such as the end user impact, the team should appreciate the fact that he did not succumb to pressure.