I continue to be amazed by how team members in the same company can use the same words and still come to completely different conclusions. When I find myself in these situations I return to a principle that applies to any situation: Context is Key.
Take the time to understand the concerns of others and see where they might match your own. You’ll be in a much better position to unlock problems with that understanding.
I’m reminded of what Pete Schneider, a colleague of mine from F5 Networks, presented at the 2008 Google Test Automation Conference in Seattle. His talk summarized the findings of a cross-functional team he led in our Product Development organization that looked at how to reduce overlap in the 11 different test automation systems in use.
He described the challenges of looking for common ground among developers and testers in five different product groups. It was only after looking at the context that each person worked within that real progress could be made on the team.
With an understanding of the unique demands of each context, they were able to identify common concerns that needed to be addressed across all contexts: how were tests to be set up, results to be collected and reported, and what decisions needed to be made from that information.
Here’s a link to Pete Schneider’s talk “Context-Driven Automation: Building the System You Really Need.” You can access his presentation slides at this blog. It’s worth the time to view it as an example of how to bring context to you’re conversations. (Listen closely at 36:36 where two seconds of my 15 minutes of fame are spent.)