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The Surprising Thing Brand New and Highly Advanced Testing Programs Have in Common


common_660x440When a testing program is in its earliest stages, it is often the responsibility of a single hard working person to get a testing platform implemented, data cleaned, and earn even a marginal degree of buy in from others in the organization. At this point, few, if any, are stopping to ask whether an idea was or should be tested. Indeed, early stage testing organizations are typically still driven by gut-based strategy that relies on the highest paid person’s opinion.

Read more: Identify the five stages of testing with our guide.

Changing this mentality is critical to building a successful testing program but it requires a huge cultural shift. Only through careful communication, shared success, and executive support can an organization transition from a solitary testing evangelist to a successful, data-driven business. It can be a long process but, eventually, news of testing wins will spread, people will take an interest, and the question generated by each new idea or initiative will be, “Did we test that?”

As an organization moves through the second and third stages of testing culture, this question comes to dominate strategy—and that’s a good thing. When everyone is asking about testing, there’s evidence that the idea has taken hold and there is enough excitement for the cultural shift to continue to expand and endure.

Once this change takes place, something interesting happens: People stop asking whether an idea has been tested. This doesn’t necessarily mean the organization has started to slide back toward its intuition-driven past. Instead, it shows that the transition has been anchored in a way that makes testing persistent, natural, and universal. The question fades away because everyone, on every team knows new ideas get verified and refined through testing.

The basic question that dominates early stage testing cultures, however, does not disappear entirely—a more complex, more powerful one slowly replaces it. Advanced testing programs don’t need to ask whether something was tested or not, but take every opportunity available to ask, “What did we learn?”

A relentless focus on learning is what defines the best testing programs. When learning takes precedence, an organization is able to move beyond short-term thinking. Testing is no longer a tool for gaining marginal wins. Instead, these organizations embrace a strategy that develops the knowledge necessary for sustainable growth over the long term.

So what do organizations new to testing have in common with the most advanced testing programs? Neither asks whether an idea has been tested before launch. The reason, however, could be more opposite—and understanding this difference can help testing programs of any level continue to develop.