I had an interesting experience last week. As I was going through what was effectively a monster of a change related to our product, the product owner and I almost got into a shouting match. It wasn’t really a shouting match, but there was a ratcheting up of mutual frustration. We felt like we were talking past each other. As I was trying to show what I was doing, the answer back was “no that’s not what I mean”.

As  I kept trying to clarify the information I was receiving, I felt my frustration levels rise, and I started asking “is there something I’m missing here? Can you tell me where I’m mistaken?” I said this with a little bit more bitter of an edge than I intended, but that’s how it came out. I was frustrated, the product owner wasn’t making sense, and I was doing what was asked… until I heard one little statement. “Go to your profile page, now do you see the two icons next to the user name? That…” and that’s where it all trails off because in that moment, it clicked. All of the confusion melted away. I understood what was being said. What’s more, I understood that my design and my approach was wrong. I was so caught up in the thick of the changes and the interface that used them, I had completely forgotten about the legacy manner in which we did the same procedures.

Lone testers and the Army of One have to shuffle a lot of things. We have to juggle a lot of balls at the same time. To that end, communication is vital. When we fail to communicate, or when we get too caught up in the immediacy of our testing, we run the risk of becoming myopic, and losing sight of the bigger picture. The good news is that this was relatively easy to resolve technically. Inter-personally, it required me to step out of the office, get some food, and then politely apologize to the product owner for getting out of hand and not being able to see what they wanted to have me see. We both realized that we were talking past each other, so that was certainly a situation we were able to resolve quickly, have a laugh about it, and get beyond it.

Still, it reminded me that, when I’m on my own and doing the testing on my own, there isn’t another tester to confer with and make sure I’m not being dense. I have to watch out for those moments. If I’m alert and ready, they can be handled quickly and carefully. When we don’t prepare for them, well, a chat over a plate of humble pie might be in order.