Are you the Signal or the Noise?

There is an ongoing theme around Signal vs Noise in the organization, that originates from the Signal to Noise ratio in radio signals, and tells us about the problem of having too much noise hampering the effectivity of the signal.phaser spectrogram

I think many testers should try to understand this principle (the organizational one, and not the radio properties one) and apply it to the way they manage and communicate their testing.

In a nutshell, you need to separate between the Important SIGNAL and the Irrelevant NOISE.  Understand where to focus your efforts and more important what to communicate to the rest of the world.

The problem is that many times, when we communicate with the the people in our company, we do not stop to think what information is important and relevant to them (this is the SIGNAL) and what stuff is not relevant or important to them (this is the NOISE).

gold_panningThen we write a large report or even come to a meeting and start reciting everything in a big blob of information, that surely includes some gold nuggets, but are completely lost to the flow of irrelevant stuff.

Some things to keep in mind that will make a big difference

Always understand what is important to the people you are talking to.  This will depend on who you are talking to, what part of the project we are in, and what has been happening around the project at this time.

When you realize there is something important to communicate, don’t start screaming to every direction and in all channels.  Look for the most appropriate person who needs to take action.  If you don’t have access to this person, look for someone who may help you to pass this information along.

Always focus on the quality of the information and not on the quantity.

When you feel you need to write a large report please do it, but put the important stuff at the beginning and make it clear when you start talking or writing about less important stuff.

quiet pictogramIf there is nothing to say, keep quiet.  If there is something to say, say it Sharply.

Whenever you want to propose something, go to the person who will be interested in hearing your proposal.

Bottom line

Many starting testers and some starting team leads feel they need to ensure their value by generating tons of data and large reports.  This may be true in some organizations, but it is the opposite in most (and definitely on those I like to work in)

Don’t try to look professional with tons of Noise, be the one that provides the Intelligent Signal and helps sail the ship in this environment of foggy noise and uncertainty.

For more on Communication skills and best practices for testers I recommend also reading:

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