About Giving Feedback

A Finn knows how to give feedback!

During the dawn of my studies I worked at Telering, selling Sonera’s phones and telephone subscriptions. A typical workday consisted of a bunch of sold subscriptions and phones. It was entirely possible that we also solved important phone settings problems for the customers, that is to say we also functioned as a support service.

Each day included listening to the worries of the customers in addition to performing these routine operations. Customers came and vented about whatever subscription or whichever phone. Customer servicers’ role is to listen, understand and help if possible. One Saturday in the July did stick in my mind quite vividly. It was an exceptional day.

A customer stepped into the store. I remembered him having visited us last week with his problems. Gloomy clouds had begun to gather over my head, since I so would have not wanted to listen to his problems again. The customer surprised us all by slamming a bagful of sweet rolls on our counter and thanked us for the good service he had received! The positive feedback brought a smile to everyone’s lips and the team’s customer service spirit was in the zenith for the rest of the day. And you know what? The sweet rolls tasted good as well. It was that Dallaspulla stuff, which has vanilla cream in its centre.

After this experience I remained to think about the power that came from feedback. Why does a Finn primarily give feedback only when something is wrong? When everything goes well, a Finn is silent. I dare say that Finns are very bad at giving feedback! That’s something to learn.

What does this all have to do with testing, then?

Joel Spolsky wrote in his blog with a headline of Why testers? The text opened a new perspective to the necessity of testing. A coder in fact becomes better in his or her job through feedback. The faster a feedback is, the better it can be learned from. Mistakes are still in fresh memory when the feedback is imminent. When you compile the software and find it functional, the coder receives the first piece of feedback. The second piece remains for the tester to give.

So, a high quality tester is a one who gives feedback fast. The feedback has to be straight and accurate, BUT:

One of the tester’s most valuable attributes in development work is giving positive feedback. You read it right: positive feedback. Just like training a puppy, it is more sensible to encourage good behavior with compliments and treats, rather than always punish for bad behavior.

A coder’s , just like any other human being’s morale, motivation and level of happiness can be improved and the central piece of it all is positive feedback. The person get a warm fuzzy feeling when someone once in a while pats on the shoulder and says:

“You’ve done daaaamn good job today! You’re a good guy and you’ve certainly deserved a cookie!”

Software testing

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  1. […] About Giving Feedback and its comments told us a bit about the challenge in communication in software development. Developers get frustrated, when the testers give negative feedback in the form of error reports. Testers need to think a bit about how to relay the message in a way that does not aggravate the developer. […]

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