Effective Communication and Testing

Posted by Lisa Corkren in Functional Testing| June 24, 2010 Effective Communication and Testing

Effective communication is an important part of testing. Conveying your findings and exchanging information should always be done in a professional manner. There are six categories of communication to consider: courtesy, clarity, conciseness, concreteness, correctness, and completeness. Successful communication is a planned effort that starts with developing a clear and complete message that the reader can easily understand. When a reader knows exactly what you are asking or stating your message will maintain and promote goodwill. Speak to your receiver courteously, respectfully, with empathy and state your objective simply and clearly. (Miller, 2005)

Courtesy helps maintain goodwill by showing concern for the reader. Courtesy can be described as diplomacy. Everybody makes mistakes. Imagine yourself in the receiver’s position and try to empathize with the reader when communicating findings of bugs, defects or failures. Always remember that two sets of eyes are better than one; something you missed that is found by your colleague deserves a sincere ‘good job’ comment. Develop credibility by using positive words, remaining neutral, and focusing on the facts. There is a lot to be said for maintaining a neutral tone. Don’t take criticism personally, instead take the criticism and make constructive improvements in your project.

Clarity can be accomplished by writing messages and reports that are easy to read and easy to understand; you can create your own template or use templates that are included in many defect tracking tools. Check messages for clarity by selecting appropriate words, and keeping sentences short. Place words in an orderly fashion, subject before verb is the clearest sequence.

Conciseness means saying what needs to be said in as few words as possible. Critique your writing and make every word carry weight and eliminate unnecessary words. Select action words and efficient words. Write in an active voice and use a conversational tone.

Concreteness is conveying a message with precise terms. When reading, we build a mental picture of the actions taking place in the message. Your personal experiences, culture, education, and occupation influence your perception of the message. Words have different meanings for different people. If you said, “That bug is a showstopper,” a zoology enthusiast would think you found a unique insect; a tester might think you found a bug that could potentially crash their site. If you said, “The car had a hot engine,” a race car driver may think that the car is capable of winning a race. Another motorist might think that the engine has overheated. It is important to establish a connection with the reader. Also avoid opinions or generalizations and provide specific details.

Correctness means including accurate details in the message. Details should be divided into two categories- content and appearance. Correctness should include proofreading and the use of reference tools; spell-check is readily available and the internet has many dictionaries and thesaurus tools to help you make your message readable. Always verify spelling, punctuation, and check names, dates, places, times and amounts thoroughly.

Completeness expresses a thought that is built on the answers to the questions who, what, when, where, why, and how. Who is the intended reader? What is your objective? When should the reader respond? Where should the reader respond? Why should the reader respond? How? Have you encouraged a positive response? Does your message promote goodwill?

Include the categories, courtesy, clarity, conciseness, concreteness, correctness, and completeness will help you to communicate in a professional way and promote goodwill between both the sender and the receiver. Keeping the avenues of communications open allows each party to work together for the greater good of the project.

Lisa Corkren is the coordinator of operations for DeRisk IT Inc. She specializes in project planning and test project management. Along with her management position, she is known for continuing to work in all levels of testing to ensure the project is a success for clients. She has a strong amount of experience in all platforms utilizing SmartBear’s TestComplete and Software Planner.

Source: Miller, Clarice. Pennebakerm, Michele Goulet. Effective Communication for Colleges. Beaucville, QC: Neil Marquardt, 2005. Print.