Do you spend too much time sitting in meetings providing or receiving status updates? Does your testing team receive a ton of emails and calls and meeting invites? Does your team provide a ton of detail to stakeholders, but they still don’t seem to be on the same page? Here are ten tips for improving software testing communication.
You need to increase the amount of context you deliver. Shared understanding comes from context. Whether you are speaking or writing, you need to provide more context in the form of:
In the context of software testing, these would be things such as:
Studies show that only 7% of information communicated comes from the actual words we say. The other 93% of communicated information comes through how we say the words. For example, non-verbal cues, tone of voice, context, and feedback.
These findings of are somewhat controversial. The one thing we can all agree on is that whether we are speaking or writing, we often misunderstand one another. This ineffective communication results in more meetings, calls, and emails. Context reduces the number of calls, meetings, and emails required.
You need to create a process for broadcasting changes to all stakeholders. A lot of misunderstanding stems from the fast-paced nature of our work environment.
In software testing, these would be things such as:
Some people are great note-takers; but, most people are bad note-takers. The bottom line is you cannot count on people to store notes in written form or in memory. You need to create a process for capturing the details of each communication. The process should include storing them in a central location.
Team members and stakeholders often change during the testing lifecycle. A repository of communication helps new members get up to speed. Luckily, this shouldn’t be too difficult if you have a process in place for tip number three!
If you want people to hear your message, find a way to deliver it via the tools people use every day. Expecting people to log in to your tool or a new tool is not a good plan. Have your communication reach the tools that individual stakeholders use.
The same is true for your testing team. Have messages that come from other teams delivered via the testing tools your team uses. Your team will spend a lot less time looking for information.
Your testers should make updates about their findings and progress. That way stakeholders remain aware of what they need to be doing. Your testing team will be better informed and able to spend more time testing.
I know I’m preaching to the choir, but stop emailing your team and stakeholders about projects. Email is a horrible way to communicate. Only a little more than half of people were able to learn the correct context and meaning of email.
Studies found that humans overestimate an email receiver’s ability to determine context. When we lack this context, we often fill in the gaps with stereotypes and faulty guesses.
Research has found that only half of your employees open internal communication emails. If you want your message understood, you should find another channel than email.
Your meetings tend to have a lot of very smart and capable people in them. Start using meeting time for progressing your projects. Make status updates before the meeting in a channel that is more effective.
In general bosses and high-level stakeholders don’t like surprises. Create a process for supplying the context they need so you don’t have to rely on meetings. Reports tracking capacity, dependencies, and progress against plan will ensure high-level stakeholders are comfortable.
Reinforce your important messages often if you want to keep keep them top of mind. For a person to commit a message to memory, they must hear it often. This goes for important details like changing requirements and higher-level messages.
Research has found that as teams grow beyond twenty members, collaboration decreases. Teams that are in different departments, regions, and roles further decrease collaboration. Enterprise software teams have people in different departments, regions, and roles.
That same research found that reinforcing the goal of working together improved large global team communication. It is critical that you do reinforce important items for large projects with multiple teams.
I hope this article has inspired you to take a closer look at how your team communicates. Communication is the springboard for improving enterprise software testing, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Check out this webinar to learn how to improve software testing.
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