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CAST 2012: Helping Thinking Testers Think (Markus Gärtner)

On July 16, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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At CAST 2012 Geordie Keitt held an introduction to the work of Elliott Jaques in Organizational Psychology.

Geordie Keitt provided an introduction to Elliott Jaques. Jaques developed the field of organizational psychology, and the concept of midlife crisis. Jaques noticed worldwide patterns of fair pay after world war II. Keitt introduced declarative, cumulative, serial and parallel processing patterns. These four patterns refer back to the four logical operators OR (declarative), and (cumulative), if-then (serial), and If-and-only-If (parallel).

As an example for parallel processing he provided wolves in a pack hunt. or elephants defending their young. They coordinate their efforts for the common goal. They communicate by doing certain actions.

For serial processing Keitt provided schooling fish, or migrating birds and beasts. Honeybees waggle dance is an example for Cumulative processing. For declarative – one thing at a time – you can find examples in ameba, unicellular organisms, and zombies.

US humans use recursion over higher orders of abstraction. We are able to combine these different patterns of processing. For example while building a house with concrete blocks, we can parallel processing in two groups, despite the individual efforts being rather serial.

The way our brains work is to categorize information in different levels of abstraction. For higher levels of abstraction we for example us intangibles as tests, features, requirements, oracles, product areas, or risks. We also have higher abstractions at hand like a business domain or the testing industry as a whole. Getting more abstract, we have ethics, justice, society, and culture. These are categories of categories of categories of intangible objects within systems.

Keitt introduced the Jaques’ concept of Applied level. He claimed that us testers face the challenge to process as close as we can to our maximum level of our work.

I got the clue when Keitt provided a picture of the seven levels as work role strata how Jaques called them. There are Procedural, Diagnostic, Managerial, Orchestral, Definitive, Integrative, and Strategic. The typical timespan of discretion usually varies from 1 day to 3 months on Level I (procedural) and 20+ years on Level VII (strategic).

Keitt described that the main challenge is to align the stratum with the right level to tackle it. In order to create a dream job, you eventually have to do that. Assign testers to roles where the stratum equals the tester’s level of maximum Applied level. Similarly make sure the tester’s boss is one level higher, for example working on strategical decisions while you are work on the integrative level.

Keitt explained the difference between the context and the stratum being on the right level, being too low, and too high. This forms a problems space, and drives out in essence the difference between a dream job, and a dissatisfying job.

In the Open Season Keitt challenged the participants to provide him other examples to work through.

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