In my humble opinion too many testers are too much focussed on knowledge of testing and not enough focussed on acquiring skills. Of course, every career is unique but still I see much people following a comparable path in there career. A well-known model for this is the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. The brothers Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus distinguished five stages in the acquisition of skills: Novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient and expert, see the Dreyfus Model.
For the development of knowledge I think the Dreyfus model is a very useful model but I think the model doesn’t cover the complete career path of quite of lot of people. Some professionals become a consultant, manager or coach somewhere in there career. If you become a consultant, manager or coach skills become extremely important and this is often overlooked. In my career I met quite some professionals who think that superb knowledge of testing is enough to become a good consultant, manager or coach.
Luckily I’m not the only one with this opinion. The management and leadership guru Ken Blanchard stated in a mail that 68% of the managers use the wrong leadership style for them in their situation (see here). I don’t know whether 68% is right, I don’t know the details of Blanchard’s research but I surely agree with Blanchard that quite often consultants, managers and coaches use a wrong style. Often because they simply they don’t know there are different styles! I experienced this myself when I started coaching a few years ago. I thought my knowledge of testing (or requirements, I also coach professionals in requirements) would do the job. And I was pretty successful with it! Well, to be honest, I was pretty successful with it in some cases. At that time I was convinced coaching was about asking questions.
About helping someone to draw the right conclusion; “they have to find it out themselves”. I thought that a football coach, yelling things in a very directive way to players was a bad coach. And I thought that a manager giving a task to an employee and wishing the employee all the best with competing the task was a bad manager. Then I met this trainer that thought me how to coach. He thought me different coaching styles and I found out that there are situations in which you as a coach have to instruct someone in a directive way, this is coaching as well. And there are situations in which a manager has to leave it up to the employee to decide how to complete a job. That is also coaching! I normally hate it when people say: “It depends.” But this is definitely true for coaching: the way you have to coach depends on the coachee, the work the coachee is doing, his or her experience, the time left until a certain result should be reached etc.
The think I like most about BTD is that it is not only the ‘Doing conference’ but also emphasizes on skills!
During my workshop ‘Coaching skills for test professionals’ (May 18th, 13.30) I will give an introduction in a coaching model. And of course we are going to do! We are going to use the model during cases and share experiences. I know quite some testing professionals who would like to become a coach, with this workshop I want to help them avoid pitfalls in which I fell when I started coaching. Because that is what conferences are all about: sharing experiences and learning from each other’s experiences.
See you in May in Brussels.
Jan Jaap Cannegieter
Vice President SYSQA B.V. and experienced coach
P.S. When you agree on my emphasis on skills but you don’t have the ambition to become a coach please come to the workshop ‘DEVELOPING THE RIGHT SKILLS DEPENDING ON YOUR CONTEXT’ which I’ll give together with Stephen Janaway on May 18th at 9.00!