Playing the Pain Card

Deep Down, We’re All Problem Solvers

It’s true. Every day, people get up, go to work and go solve problems there. People get hired, and get paid money, to solve problems. They even come home and solve more problems.

We’re all problem solvers.

In the QA space, we have a specific problem set.

Uniquely though, QA is like a “hub” in a company.

If you’re in QA, you’re touching other departments, or at least aren’t more than a couple degrees of separation away from most of them.

Studies have shown that Business Pain is the #1 cause of job openings in your area.

This is a good thing, because it puts QA in range of a lot of Business Pain.

What’s Business Pain?

business pain.png
Help! Help! I’m being oppressed! I’m being oppressed!

“Pain” is a signal to your body that something’s wonky. It is anything that causes you to not be able to enjoy life as much as you can, or not be able to use your body to its fullest extent.

“Business Pain” is a signal to a company that something’s wonky. It is anything that causes a company to not be able to enjoy profit velocity as much as they can, or not be able to be productive to its fullest extent.

Studies have shown that Business Pain is the #1 cause of job openings in your area.

In the QA space, many pain points are visible. Business Pain is a problem. One that, as QA experts, we can help fix. And one way we can fix it is by Playing the Pain Card.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

When do you normally go to a doctor? Usually when something’s wrong, right?

If the doctor prescribed medicine before diagnosing a problem would you be apt to take it?

Would you take medicine for a problem you don’t know you have?

Probably not, right?

Much the same way, people don’t do things differently unless they have sufficient impetus to change their behavior.

A doctor can prescribe medicine for a problem, but he can’t make you take it. Having the medicine available, though, is a solution. And if you decide not to start taking it now, you probably will once the pain gets bad enough. Having a solution for you, so that you know you don’t have to suffer forever, is a way to get the solution to be used.

Another thing a doctor may do is push around on your body to locate the problem. When they find it, what happens? Owie, right? What’s she doing? The doctor is amplifying the pain to help diagnose and then solve the problem.

Sometimes as QA people, we need to play the Pain Card–present a solution for the pain, or amplify the pain–so that a change can be accepted by the company.

How to Play This Card

Playing the pain card is something akin to being a Jack Sparrow Tester. It’s directly doing something that has an indirect result.

One job I had had a product where hardware-level errors would crop up rarely, but when they did, they caused a mess. Playing the Pain Card was to set up a test harness to stress the hardware unrealistically for days at a time. I called it “ballbuster”. It got those kinds of problems to happen more frequently, where they could be debugged and fixed. The pain was amplified so that the problem was more apparent.

Another job had a pain point where manual test case maintenance was taking a lot of time, and we had automation separate from it. We needed to bridge the gap, using the manual test cases to instead drive the automation. I called that one “ConsoleApplication1” because it was a proof-of-concept and I was in a hurry. The painkiller was available for when the pain became too much to bear.

Hey Isn’t This Kinda Mean?

No. It’s just another tool in the toolbox. Would your doctor be mean if he found cancer by pressing around, and you were able to get it treated? We’re not being jerks by coming at solving Business Pain in this fashion.

I think of companies as organic critters. They really do behave like organisms–evolving, growing, shrinking, adapting. What would be mean is to ignore that pain and just focus on our own little section of work, hoping the problem goes away on its own. 

It’s not bad to come at your job with an eye toward Business Pain, instead of just coming in, doing your time (which frankly sounds less like a job and more like prison) and leaving for the day.

What Business Pain can you detect from your vantage point as QA, and how could you address it using what you read here today?


3 thoughts on “Playing the Pain Card

  1. Thank you for comparing QA to doctors. I was thinking and looking for some time already how to show other what I see. Your example with “mean” doctor could help me. Could you please illustrate another cases where it worked?


    1. Hi Kristine–Thanks for your comment.

      I can’t really think of any other specific examples of being the “mean doctor”. But a generic example is: when I interview, I always ask, “What kind of bugs do you have problems catching?” or, “What kinds of bugs do you find are fairly common?” And they’ll maybe say, we have database glitches, or sometimes our webservices go down at random, or we have problems with threading, etc.

      Testing for those kinds of bugs will make them happen more frequently, more repeatably, and when that’s the kind of bug they have the most of, they -have- to address the problem.

      Mean Doctor. Press on the owie, and they’ll make some life changes real quick. 🙂


  2. Nice article. From my day to day work sometime I can feel of not having enough usage stat of users using patterns, but most of the time I do not have enough time to find out these by myself. And it may be very complicate sometime to make others to feel the same.
    I think ‘Amplifying the Pain’ should work here 😀


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