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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who am I?

Here's a bit from my resume ......

Founder and now Managing Director of Transition Consulting Limited (TCL), Stewart has experience from consultancy in the Defence, Gas, Electricity, Telecoms and Media markets. After completing a Masters Degree in Physics Stewart joined GEC Marconi CIS as a Graduate on a development programme to be a tester and has thus a relatively unique background in that he has always been a tester.

TCL now has circa 50 consultants, working with clients across Europe and Stewart is leading the development of the company, training and thought leadership towards its BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of becoming a world wide centre of testing excellence.

Stewarts first industry presentation was at StarWEST 2005 and has previously attended STAREAST and EUROSTAR.

And here's a suitably cheesy picture :)

More information on Stewart and TCL can be found at

What Value in Values?

The StarWEST presentation on Aligning Corporate values and Test Strategies brought out some thinking in my mind about values - particularly personal values and how they fit into every day life - and in the work place.

'Society as a whole has lost its focus' – it’s a statement in a lot of MBAs and a lot of articles in places like the Harvard Business Review. They postulate that for a lot of people – particularly in the west - there is no Church to centralise their morals, values or community. Nor does the state provide this function. In fact after school age there is very little out there except the company/corporation in which we work.

Now this poses a bit of a paradox. Corporations by their nature are set up to deliver shareholder value – not necessarily value to the employees so in effect what we do (and the dollar value of that) is more important to how we do it. But if these organisations are the last bastion of social integrity then surely the how, the moral, the ethical should be much more joined up than this? When considering this idea for each CEO the question will always be ‘what value are values?’ and for each of us the question is 'How do my values fit into every day?'

A first level summary is that effective team working is contingent on shared goals, and a key part of this being an alignment of values around those goals. Sharing positive values such as truth, trust and integrity will bring with it more open dialogue and effective communications. It will also open up the team to innovate and change – hopefully for the better – and create a more evolutionary organisation.

At a higher level it is important to recognise that we are spending an increasing amount of time at work, making sacrifices and decreasing time in other parts of our lives as a result. The time spent at work should therefore be something that we want to do, not just have to do, as well as enjoy. This isn’t going to happen everywhere, and it isn’t going to always happen as a direct function of the organisation. There is a lot we can do as individuals to make it real and make it work for us.

Now there are some people out there who would question a lot of this, and talk about corporate brain washing and the effect a 'McDonalds like mantra' can have on individuals. I feel that those people have a valid point, but have missed the essence of what I am trying to convey.

For me the value of values comes from embracing the positive side of your own values and finding an organisation that shares them. Then by proactively adopting those values each day within the organisation and encouraging others do so as well we create an environment that we are all part of, want to be in, enjoy and get something out of. We will be more effective as a unit, more passionate about our work and know that each day we are contributing positive energy to the achievement of goals. This means we are making the organisation work for us, not the other way around. There is no need for a McDonalds like Mantra unless it fits to your own values and goals to have one.

The longevity of organisations both large and small is dependent on this being understood throughout the cultural programmes and by everyone in their own way making conscious decisions about how they take their values to work.

I understand Edward de Bono has done some work in this area and am off to look for his book. If you have any really interesting stuff that would be useful in my research please let me know.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The TCL Vision

Transition Consulting Limited (TCL) has been founded on a vision, which has three constituent parts:
Core Purpose

The Core Purpose of the company is: ‘To Deliver World Class solutions in software testing that are Innovative, Structured and Professional’.

The Values of the company are denoted by the T.I.G.E.R. acronym which stands for:
T- Truthful
I – Independent
G – Good Willed
E – Energetic
R – Realistic.

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for the company is to become a world wide, world class centre of testing excellence by 2020. By this we mean that we want to be a centre of testing excellence that can (if required) deliver to any industry, in any country.

When the company was established, the share holders identified that true value to them was less delivered in fiscal terms but more in the work that they do and the enjoyment of the opportunities that it led to. This vision is therefore something that is very personal to the founders of the company and to maintain it during periods of growth is critical to the overall success of everyone involved.

TCL take the vision to the heart of everything that goes on in the company and to this end has set up an action team of Key Stakeholders and representatives from across the company to help define, document and action tasks that will contribute to its advancement. The team is managed by the Managing Director and output from the team is fed into an agenda item on the Management Team meetings. It is also published on the company extranet.

This Vision Key Stakeholder Team operates as a ‘think tank’ within the company with objectives as follows:

Clearly define the true meaning of the vision
Identify how T.C.L. can change
to align more closely with the vision
Run, and contribute to, internal
projects at T.C.L. to facilitate these changes
Carry the message of the
vision to each site and provide a conduit for information and feedback from
other members of T.C.L. and clients.
To understand the vision is to understand where TCL has started from, and where we intend to go. The clients we work with, the way that we set up our teams and deliver are all reflections of the vision and how well we are moving in line with it. The business plans each year reflect strategic objectives that will bring the company closer and closer to the 2020 goal. This should be defined and clearly communicated so that everyone can understand what TCL is hoping to achieve with each change and idea.

The biggest single key to the success of the TCL Vision is involvement. Information is published on the extranet, presentations are given at each party and the vision team themselves are present on site for discussions to take place. In addition to this, guests are invited to the vision meetings (monthly) so that additional feedback and contributions can be gained. More involvement is needed though and ideas are welcome from every part of TCL.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


STARWEST 2005 was brilliant.

About 900 people attended. Some for the whole week (like us) and some just for the main conference days. Everyone I met was interested in testing, open to learning and open to sharing experience, knowledge and ideas. BRILLIANT!

At this conference I was privileged to be asked to speak, and my topic was 'Aligning Test Strategies with Corporate Goals'. It was a topic close to my heart. An area I am very passionate about and it was incredibly exciting to get the opportunity to share my ideas with such a large group. I presented on first day of the main conference (Wednesday) on track W6. If you take a look at you can get some details on the presentation. If you want a copy of the presentation then send me an email and I'll see what I can do.

The primary message from the presentaiton is that Organisations seeking long term success need to create good strong team working. Team working itslef is contingent on achieving shared goals between the organisation and the people involved (in the team) and to do this is difficult. In taking responsibility for our position in the organisation as testers, we can look to the company Vision, Values and Goals to shape our testing effort and gateway criteria. This helps to join up the thinking around new products and services, generates the shared goal approach and also delivers targetted strategic value to the organisation in a way that senior managers, Executives and Board members can understand.

It was my first presentation at a STAR, and there are a number of lessons learnt from the experience - not least around the logistics and set up of such a large room. There were also lessons to be learnt around the idea that to present to a STAR conference, and particularly to large audiences (like at the Key Note speaches) you need to be part entertainer as well as a subject matter expert.

You also need to be open to debate and constructive criticism about your ideas. Only by accepting all of these can you hope to achieve what I regard as success: That someone comes up to you afterwards and says 'I feel inspired by what you have said and am going to give these ideas a try'. I was lucky enough to get this response from a number of people at this, my first presentation. But dont get me wrong, I would have loved it if everyone who attended had said it.

So, what else could I do? If you were there at the conference I would be interested to hear from you on the presentation content and style. Good? Bad? Constructive feedback all warmly welcomed.

So what are we doing here?

I have just come back from STARWEST 2005 in Anaheim, and while I was there someone asked if I was blogging yet? The answer was 'no', but I had no reason as to why that was.

Then I gave it some thought and realised there were two very important reasons as to why I should be and they are as follows:
  1. At TCL we have a set of values, which we hold dear and look for in everything we do. The foremost of these values is Truthful, and by opening up the thinking and discussions around the company to a public domain I can demonstrate the true commitment to this value
  2. Sharing of knowledge is essential to the development of software testing as a community. I enjoy the experience of conferences like STARWEST, and wanted to ensure that the sharing, confering and learning is continuous.

So here we are.

I have set the Blog up to cover Software Testing, TCL and the vision for the company. There's a lot going on in all three of those areas and I hope that you gain value from reading about things. I also look forward to comments, ideas and sharing that come as a result of this effort.


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