Testing under pressure

Every tester feels the pressure and stress of being in QA. While a certain amount of pressure can drive us to great accomplishments, too much and we might crash. Not only can stress be detrimental to the quality of your work, it can affect your health as well.

Today’s reality of fast paced agile practices, CI testing, and quick release cycles only seem to increase the sense of pressure. So handling ourselves correctly is also becoming increasingly important.

Is there anyone of us who hasn’t heard, at one point or another, statements such as:

  • “How did you miss such a trivial bug?”
  • “C’mon! It’s only a small fix. You surely don’t need to test it for so long!
  • “Trust me, that feature is not dangerous at all…”

Or the most aggravating kind of statement: “I don’t care how you do it, the system has to go out today!”

We’ve all been there.

What are the sources of this pressure?

Before we get to the solutions to this problem, we need to understand where it comes from. There are many sources of testing pressure. To name a few:

  1. Uncertainty in testing – The amount of testing is always limited by time and budget, so there will never be a comprehensive testing process. Other uncertainties are due to lack of visibility into the testing process, or lack of technical knowledge to understand how changes will influence the testing. Even given all of the above, without the ability to use correct test management tools, QA is and will always be a risky business, which can create pressure.
  2. Scheduling & changes – Bad time assumptions, changes in a project that were not updated in the test plan; or the fact that testing is viewed as “the last link in the chain” even if you’re agile, of the development process. Everyone else’s delays will accumulate making us the ‘bottleneck’ before the product’s launch/update etc.
  3. (Fake) sense of ownership of quality – Testers are not the gatekeeper of bugs. It is our role as testers to find and report bugs so that product/project stakeholders can make the right decisions – we supply information.
  4. Shadows from past mistakes – Past bugs that were missed, which might have cost your company a client, or delayed a launch. These mishaps will continue to occur and tend to haunt you in the present as well, adding a ‘shadow of pressure’ to not fail again.
  5. Pressure is part of the company’s culture – An external source of pressure, when your company encourages working under stress because putting on the pressure gets results. This can be seen when your workplace admires those who ‘put out fires’, by finding that crucial bug at the last minute before release, rather than those who have been doing great work all along.

How should you handle all this pressure?

It is most likely that there is no one cause for the pressure you feel on the job. Rather, it is a combination of unhealthy work habits of yours and generally unwelcome workplace practices. All of which can be addressed and modified.

To find out more, download the latest PractiTest white paper: Testing Under Pressure here.


Edited from press release by Cecilia Rehn.