Yesterday, a tester on my team gave an excellent presentation for our company’s monthly tester community talk.  She talked about what she had learned about effective tester conversation skills in her 15 years as a tester.  Here are some of my favorite take-aways:

  • When sending an email or starting a verbal conversation to raise an issue, explain what you have done.  Prove that you have actually tried concrete things.  Explain what concrete things you have done. People appreciate knowing the effort you put into the test and sometimes spot problems.
  • Replace pronouns with proper names.  Even if the conversation thread’s focus is the Save button, don’t say, “when I click on it”, say “when I click on the Save button.”
  • Before logging a bug, give your team the benefit of the doubt.  Explain what you observe and see what they say.  She said 50% of the time, things she initially suspects as bugs, are not bugs.  For example: the BA may have discussed it with the developer and not communicated it back to the team yet.
  • Asking questions rocks.  You can do it one-on-one or in team meetings.  One advantage of doing it in meetings is to spark other people’s brains.
  • It’s okay to say “I don’t understand” in meetings.  But if, after asking three times, you appear to be the only one in the meeting not understanding, stop asking!  Save it for a one-on-one discussion so you don’t develop a reputation of wasting people’s time.
  • Don’t speak in generalities.  Be precise.  Example:
    • Don’t say, “nothing works”.
    • Instead, pick one or two important things that don’t work, “the invoice totals appear incorrect and the app does not seem to close without using the Task Manager”.
  • Know your team.  If certain programmers have a rock solid reputation and don’t like being challenged, take some extra time to make sure you are right. Don’t waste their time.  It hurts your credibility.

She had some beautiful exercises she took us through to reinforce the above points and others.  My favorite was taking an email from a tester, and going through it piece-by-piece to improve it.


  1. Richard Siemens said...

    I'm not sure this falls into the same category as the topics that were presented, but I've found that talking about the positives of your software is just as important as talking about the bugs, issues and short-fallings.

    A quick note to a developer indicating that you have finished a pass of testing on their module and that you thought it the quality was good can go a long way. I'm not talking about ego-stroking or false praise. I'm talking about tempering your communication so that you are known for recognizing good software along with not-so-good software.

    Be proud of the bugs you find and be proud of the software your team is producing. Communicating both sides is important.

  2. Truth Revealed said...

    I like this article. It's very informative for a QA test professional, like myself, with only 3yrs of experience and still learning.

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