Navigating executive personalities can be challenging as you pursue software quality through testing efforts.
Post by May 28, 2024 11:23:50 AM · 4 min read

Handling Five Different Executive Personalities in Testing

A Guide to Navigating Executive Personalities

Over the past 23 years, I've worked at a few SaaS companies. I've encountered various executive types, each with its unique approach. Understanding these types and their motivations is crucial for effective practices. Let’s delve into each one.

The Speedster

Let me share a story from my time at Ultimate Software. We had an Engineering executive, a classic 'Speedster' who often instructed the QA team to test only 80% or 90% of the software. His primary goal was to expedite the release process, often at the expense of thorough testing. He did not know much about testing. His team was still doing waterfall and releasing twice per year. From his perspective, the only place to cut time was the last phase: testing. He drove QA crazy trying to push them to finish early.

While waterfall teams are rare these days, the Speedster type still exists, and for some reason, many still focus on speeding up testing. The Speedster comes from a sales-driven culture that focuses on the next sale and the subsequent sale after that. The Speedster sees testing as slowing down getting the next sale.

The Speedster does have a point. We need to sell to bring in revenue and keep the company going. Also, there is no reason we should not have a continuous improvement culture focusing on increasing productivity. The problem is that the Speedster waits until we are in the middle of the release to provide direction.

With their short attention span, Speedsters often wait until the last minute to provide guidance. To counter this, involving Speedsters earlier in the process is essential. While finding time in their busy schedule may require some effort, it's a worthwhile investment. Speedsters are usually eager to learn and help but need guidance on how to do so effectively.

If your team has a Speedster, demonstrating your agreement with the need to accelerate testing can pave the way for more meaningful conversations about the different tradeoffs. As the Speedster learns more about testing, they can become valuable advocates for your initiatives, potentially even helping you justify the purchase of innovative solutions like our AI autonomous software testing tool, Testaify. 

The Interrogator

Years ago, I worked with a director who knew little about testing and did not care about learning. Still, he had questions about the development process for every major release. The questions were always the same: Why does testing take so long? Do we need to test everything every time? It did not matter how we phrased the answers; we always got the same questions.

The interrogator's passive-aggressive approach is simply to make a political point. They want to ensure that no time is spent discussing their team and their issues. They want to deflect attention from their team to the development team and the easy scapegoat of testing.

Because the Interrogator is not interested in learning or helping, the best approach is to short-circuit them. You need to stop them in their tracks so you can focus on what is essential. Once, I recorded an Interrogator while asking their usual questions and provided my answers. Next time they try to play the same game, I just replay the video recording of the previous meeting in front of all his colleagues. You have to call them out and put them on the spot. If you do so, then they will stop playing games.

The Late Helper

Sometimes, when you find a significant issue or issues during testing that will seriously impact the company’s plans, you end up in an emergency executive meeting. You will meet the Late Helper at that meeting. They want to be collaborative and supportive. They will offer their team to help. The problem is that, as the name suggests, it is too late for them to help. The Late Helper will say, "My team knows the product well; they can help with testing.” Or they might say, “Our team has a lot of domain knowledge; maybe we can help you figure it out.”

Sometimes, someone on their team is an expert on a specific subject and might be able to help your team. The Late Helper has good intentions, so you should figure out if they can genuinely help in the short term. If they cannot, then the solution is to bring them into the testing process earlier to help you long-term. There is no reason why you cannot involve them. As with the Speedster, they can learn and eventually help you achieve your testing goals.

The Know-It-All

A few years back, I worked for a CEO in this category. I kept that experience as short as possible. You will learn in a moment why this type is the worst. These people usually exist in companies with bad cultures where bullying behavior is allowed.

This CEO has such a huge ego. He cannot fathom that you know something he does not know. Correcting the Know-It-All in front of others will guarantee that they will make your life miserable. In this case, this individual kept scheduling long meetings almost daily, ensuring I would only have a little time to work with my team. Sometimes, they attend your meetings to provide their “guidance” (usually useless). They love hearing their voice.

While this CEO was technically brilliant in subjects like sales and finance (I have never seen someone who can figure out a balance sheet as quickly as this person), he knew nothing about software development. You know the type if you know how Netflix culture refers to them. Like Netflix, I recommend severing this relationship as soon as possible. I know that is challenging for most. But if you recognize you are in this situation, you should start looking for another job.

The Learner

I have met several learners throughout my career, including VPs, CEOs, CFOs, and even a CTO. They are genuinely interested in learning and understanding. As the name implies, learners are naturally curious. They tend to be humble, too.

The good news is that many executives fall into this category. They know that they do not know everything but are open to learning. Either they were always like that, or through their own experience, they have become more self-aware of their limitations.

This personality is the best-case scenario. You can have more profound discussions and provide more nuanced and detailed information, enriching your conversations. It is important to remember that this might not be their job, so stay moderate. Still, Learners can help you validate your ideas and plans. They can help and support your efforts to improve your software testing practices if they have the time. You can have more strategic conversations with learners, and they can provide valuable insights through their comments or questions.

At Testaify, we hope learners surround you, but if that is not the case, look at our advice. It might help you pick a direction.

About the Author

Rafael E Santos is Testaify's COO. He's committed to a vision for Testaify: Delivering Continuous Comprehensive Testing through Testaify's AI-first testing platform.Testaify founder and COO Rafael E. Santos is a Stevie Award winner whose decades-long career includes strategic technology and product leadership roles. Rafael's goal for Testaify is to deliver comprehensive testing through Testaify's AI-first platform, which will change testing forever. Before Testaify, Rafael held executive positions at organizations like Ultimate Software and Trimble eBuilder.

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