To Be a Better Tester, Ask the Right Questions
Critical thinking is a core trait a software tester needs to succeed. Testing involves objectively analyzing facts to arrive at decisions; since we’re responsible for the quality of the product under test, this is an imperative skill for testers to build.
However, there are many constraints to critical thinking that can make the activity challenging, including changes in the product and market, evolution of development methodologies, and role and expectation changes at all levels in the organization. For example, given how dynamic product requirements are, the set of facts a tester has collected to make an informed decision may not be useful or accurate for long.
Changes are so quick and frequent that testers need to be not just critical thinkers, but critical thinkers who can operate under constraints and pressure.
One major skill that continues to aid critical thinking is the art of asking questions. Regardless of age, education, or profession, asking the right questions at the right time sharpens the ability to think critically and decide logically. Questioning brings out the required information, breaks assumptions, and enables everyone on the team to give their perspectives for the greater good of the cause at hand.
It is important to ask the right questions at the right time. There is a certain time, place, and context for everything, and these are crucial to keep in mind when asking questions. Understanding the context of the discussion tactically and strategically so you can evaluate the true value of the question being raised is a skill that comes with experience.
Let’s say a meeting is in progress. Given the limited time on hand, it is best to weigh the value of the question you want to ask and how the response is going to benefit not just you, but the others in the meeting as well.
However, despite the benefits it entails, there is often a lot of reluctance to question and be questioned. Some of the reasons behind the hesitation include the fear of not sounding intelligent, the ego of thinking you know it all, and not wanting to challenge yourself critically.
The art of asking questions is an ongoing learning process. While time, context, and place are all important to keep in mind, the situation will not always be easy and straightforward. Tough questions need to be raised and answered to benefit all stakeholders. And sometimes, the questioning itself is more important than the answers.
The team members who don’t ask questions must be encouraged to do so. The ones who do in excess must learn to tone it down. Given the importance of this trait, let’s evaluate where we stand in regard to asking questions to benefit our critical thinking, and continue to build on this core skill to get better at what we do.