I am learning about systems thinking to help me test

I want to improve my understanding of systems thinking as this will help my testing. My friend John Holmstrom recommended the work of Peter Senge and so I have just read “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge. The book contains many useful insights about system thinking, learning and leadership. Some of the points about systems thinking that I have taken from the book to help me with testing are:

  • Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes
  • Don’t be your role. Don’t say “I am my position”. I am a tester and I should see beyond my role by using systems thinking. This way I can see what processes are influencing the feature I am testing and what processes will be influenced by the feature I am testing. Understanding these influences enables me to bring them into my testing and so test the feature in new ways, for example I can think about who the customers’ stakeholders are and how they use the feature.
  • The team I work in is not autonomous therefore it is not a closed system, so I should continually learn about how it is influenced by and influences other systems.
  • The diagrams in the book that showed how systems affect something can be used to create discussion about the systems that influence the success of a new feature.The illustrative diagram in this blog post is one I have created based on what I have seen in the book. The diagram shows how the benefits of the new feature are influenced by the customers existing systems and their use of the new feature. 
  • We should not ignore how our teams decisions affect others
  • Don’t blame external factors for failures as external factors are part of the system that you are part of.
  • Everyone shares responsibility

I have used systems thinking to help me think about how customers are using the product and am going to continue to learn how to use systems thinking.There is so much more to learn and so much more in the book!

Further Reading:

Published by Mike Harris

Mike has been working in testing for 20 years and is currently the lone tester for Geckoboard. He has been a Test Lead and has also worked as a part of waterfall, lean and agile teams. He is also Programme Secretary of BCS SIGiST. Mike has a B.Sc.(HONS) from Middlesex University and is an Associate of the University of Hertfordshire. He has set up and led a Testing Community of Practice and been part of a successful agile transition. He is Co-Programme Chair of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing. He also contributed to the e-book Testing Stories and has had articles published by the Ministry of Testing. Follow Mike on Twitter: @TestAndAnalysis

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