Mapping testing Competencies

[ Recognise and Acknowledge Your Skills  | Ministry Of Testing – The Testing Planet | June 2013]

The below model is directly inspired by the Vancouver Agile Quadrant introduced in “Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams” by Crispin and Gregory 2009 based on the original matrix from Brian Marick in 2003. It consists of four primary branches – as seen on the illustration. It is not a matrix or a table, but four directions with each their cloud of buzzwords. For specific contexts a mind-map will be a better choice of illustration – try drawing your own competencies.

Tester Skills Matrix
Tester Skills Matrix

TYING IT ALL TOGETHER…

[ Recognize and Acknowledge Your Skills | Ministry Of Testing – The Testing Planet | June 2013]

What you know and what you do is an important part of being you. Often it is required to rethink: What do I know? What are my skills? How strong are they? It can be about you personally, or it can be about your organisation or testing unit. I have used the below approach in the context of identifying “testing competencies” among 120 testing professionals and in relation to my own skills in times of refocusing.

Acknowledge the level of your skills

First let me tell you about the skill of tying a square lashing to connect two poles of wood. It is a fundamental building block of the scouting activity Scout Pioneering. Tying together poles let you build all kinds of scout camp equipment: tables, benches and other constructions.

To make a square lashing you tie a loop knob around the first pole. The rope is then taken around the two poles, crossing them first one way and then the other – thus making a cross diagonally across the poles. The end of the rope is tied to the other pole using a specific fastening knot.

I have specifically selected this to find something that you have probably never heard of – to illustrate how to approach skill levels. Prior to reading the description and seeing the illustrations you probably never heard of it, you were at level 0. But after reading about it, you have at least heard about the term – or perhaps searched the web for it. From here (Level 1) you need training and mentoring to tie any of the knots. When you can tie a square lashing without help – independently, you can up your rating one more level (2). Later on by writing books about lashings and knots, you can become a mentor, a trainer of others (Level 3). Ultimately you may master the skill at level 4 – you wrote the book, but also studied the craft to know where even the books are insufficient.

This 5 level rating of skills is nothing new, and perhaps you use a rating with more or less steps in your context. Perhaps it’s very detailed, with very discrete steps – or perhaps it’s just a guideline, a floating value between “a little” and “a lot”.

If it squeaks it will hold

Yet even master builders forget to keep the skill alive. For doing the square lashing and riding a bike, it’s usually up and back on track in a few rounds. Some of the tricks come back quickly, others require a hint or a “now – how did we do this” moment in order to recall the theories and practices. There are various means of doing this within the software testing field and elsewhere:

Heuristics: In the Rapid Software Testing course the term heuristic is introduced, as a fail-able method to aid in decision-making. Scout pioneering have a very used one: If it squeaks it will hold. That is applying pressure and weight to the lashing, if the lashing makes small noises it will usually hold.

Backtrack: Another way to get back on track in skills formerly used (at levels 1-4), is to step one level down. If you used to write the book on the topic – practice. If you knew how to do it confidently and individually – ask for help and training. Scout pioneering builds constructions in triangles; they focus on building a solid base first. Returning back to basics, and building a good base in software testing is equally important.

Just Do It: Jump onto the bike and learn. There is a learning curve building back skills again – it might as well be tested, tried and experienced. My experience is that recalling knowledge will come back instinctively and faster than expected. It doesn’t matter so much how long ago it was. As long as the brain is stimulated, it will come back instinctively. If the brain gears start squeaking – it’s usually a good sign.

Recognize and Organize Your Skills

In Scout Pioneering as well as software testing, there are many heuristics – and many areas of detailed knowledge that can be learned: Knots, techniques, theories and applications. These are the competencies and the skills – and we have to name them in order to manage and develop them. It is important to find out what we know – what we know as a company, group and personally. We live in an age of abundance of information – the key driver of introducing knowledge management systems is to find out “what we don’t know we know”.

[WayBackMachine: https://web.archive.org/web/20131109225946/http://www.ministryoftesting.com/2013/06/recognise-and-acknowledge-your-skills/]

clove hitch

Look for Minimum Viable Testing

How much critical mass will the product/project/service need to allow for (software) testing?

Recently I participated in a local “coffee shop meet-up” along with photographers, coaches, entrepreneurs and start-ups. We could agree that coaches as well as testers give indirect value to the business – but while staff coaching could be individually sold to carpenters and hairdressers – (software) testing could not. Afterwards I challenged my self to think otherwise!

Good testing is an information and exploration activity – to find risks and present information to the stakeholders. Usually it’s easy to find the known risks to entrepreneurs – but good testing can test for unknown unknowns – even if there is no product or “just” a minimum viable product:

The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The definition’s use of the words maximum and minimum means it is decidedly not formulaic. It requires judgment to figure out, for any given context, what MVP makes sense.

Similarly minimum viable testing is an effort, that allows the team to collect tacit and explicit learning about the solution, given the context. Go look for it in your context – Testing can add business value to any project state

tractor

Related: Acceptance is more than what can be measured , You call that testing – how can that add value,

Yes, non-tech people can be testers

Why You Should Consider Non-IT Professionals for QA Roles | Posted on 10/08/2012 | http://blog.utest.com by Jamie Saine ]

Combining traditional QA practices with non-traditional players helps companies test products from all angles. 
 Two attributes are critical for good testers regardless of academic background, which non-IT persons can develop and receive training, he pointed out. … The first is domain knowledge, …  the tester must also understand the SDLC processes or models for the app as used by their employer, such as agile, iterative or waterfall, he said.

Software testing is a skill of many skillsJesper Ottosen on the EuroStar blog ]

Business skills or domain know-how … Application skills or technical know-how … software testing itself and the skill of software testing tools … Project management or task coordination know-how … Notice that the above skill areas are very “hard” skills as compared to “soft” or personal skills. All kinds soft skills come into play in software testing for me to single out anyone. Some situations you have to be flexible, others stern. Some situations require results orientation and some situations require attention to all details. I can see the skills of all personality in play in software testing – as software testing is a skill of many skills.

Testing AND Checking]:

You apply both your left and right side of the brain – you check and test – you do tasks and seek value – you apply routinized and bespoke activities. You can use the distinction to guide you to a context-driven testing approach. 

2013-01-04 11.01.50

It’s not the lesson – it’s the learning

It is not the GOTO talk on “Embedded Systems – Embodied Agents, Robot Programming in Java for the LEGO NXT Mindstorms” or the LEGO Lab, University of Aarhus class that’s important. Neither is the GOTO talk “What is Value” important in it self – the key lesson is in what you learn and bring home.

The students in the LEGO lab (at my alma mater 🙂 will try out the LEGO Mindstorms NXT series to learn about robots. First the industrial ones, that have a deterministic program, secondly about self-controlling agents. Compare it to the difference between an industrial robot in and assembly line – and a toy seal for psychological care treatments for trauma patients: One is sequenced and in a known environment , and the other reactive and don’t know the environment in advance. Reminds me of routinized and bespoke activities,  Testing AND Checking left and right side of the brainComputer Science students in this course struggle to control the robot environment, but quickly learn that the real world is not ideal. They have to test and experiment, calibrate and think outside the LEGO box.

Similarly JEZ HUMBLE, talked about “What is value?“. A huge whiteboard of prioritized and estimated SCRUM tasks is not customer value in itself – it’s a tool to discuss the value for the client/Product Owner/Sponser/ the-guy-paying-for-it. Awesome is value. To get awesome – set a business model hypothesis and test it. Make the smallest viable product (When “minimal viable product” doesn’t work, the story of apple). But remember they are people too – even oracles can be wrong, and set up a measurement that will be counterproductive. Management only focus on “cost” because it’s easier to measure – test the business idea and what you care about: delivering valuable software solutions.

It’s not the talk, it’s the learning.

It’s not the CS class, it’s the experience.

It’s not the test, it’s the idea.

See also: , dealing with uncertainty

 

[Disclaimer: I had press access to GOTO-Arhus2012 on behalf on GOTOCON]

Get moving

After Linda Risings talk on “Problem-solving and Decision-making in Software Development” I had the opportunity to talk to her on her key messages of today’s GOTO training.

MOVE – Humans are not meant to sit still, we need to get up, walk, run, stand. Some companies have thread mill desks! Pilgrim walks are the talk of the town – and instead of having a 1-1 meeting – try walking. A walk after a family dinner is good for both health and social chit-chat. The same is true at work – talk a walk, MOVE!

“Get moving or someone else will move you – especially at work”, was  another topic we discussed. If your job is not making you happy, if the agile and innovative practices are being cut. BE BRAVE and boost your competencies. In these days you can either go with the downwind of companies cutting the wrong costs or go with the upwind of places that walk-the-talk.

See also: If In Doubt – Learn!Eating wicked problems for breakfastInnovation is about the unknown – deal with itSoftwaretesting is only dead, if it stands still

[Disclaimer: I had press access to GOTO-Arhus2012 on behalf on GOTOCON]

Testers are developers too – and the other way around

[ GOTO Aarhus 2012 – Is it time for developers to move beyond unit tests? | Rasmus Møller Selsmark | August 27, 2012 ]

Now I’ve got the chance to participate in a GOTO conference, which seems to be a true developer conference, by not having “Tester” as an option in the Role field when you register – I registered myself as “Other” 

 

So apparently for GOTO – “Test is not an option” not even for Software Developers in Test (microsoft) or Google Software Test Engineers – we have to go by “others” – go undercover (DK only link).

But the thing is – is when you think about it. Many testers write code – the whole test automation is BIG (see StarWest, StarEast, EuroStar …) – and yet an old story. (We need new testing ideas , http://angryweasel.com/blog/?p=449). Also even more developers test – as Rasmus points out, many many developers more beyond unit tests. Consider the Software testing pyramid by Watir that is gaing a lot of traction.

Dear developers and testers, and all in between – we have a common goal: If your software doesn’t solve the problem it was intended to solve, it does NOT work — even if all your test cases pass.

See also:

(Official blogger for GOTO Aarhus 2012 )

Use SCRUM for your testing

  • Put (testing) ideas in on the backlog
  • Define an amount of ideas (use SBTM?)
  • Do the work
    • Some things work
    • some things don’t work
  • Present/ship the findings 
  • Get new ideas
Agile v Traditional Housekeeping methods
Agile v Traditional Housekeeping methods by cartoontester

See also Exploratory Test in a nutshell

Do what you say – say what you do

You can get as much overboard in metrics and processes for agile – as in metrics and processes for waterfall projects. Business context demands it’s share of the delivery culture, but don’t confuse being agile with being unstructured – or with waterfall being overly structured. If you do what you say – and say what you do, you are more trustworthy both as organization, team and as person. Hot air, slide-ware and good intentions will quickly be seen through (and you might not even notice…).

[ What Metrics Do You Use in Agile? | FEBRUARY 23, 2012 |  ]

First, I only use metrics to get a 50,000 foot view on what’s going on.
Second, I do not use metrics to compare teams or individuals.
Third, I am much more focused on qualitative than quantitative measures.

Babies 0: Bathwater 1 |  December 28, 2011 | Iain McCowatt, Exploring Uncertainty ]

The common denominator is not the label, it is the team dynamics

Process and documentation can at least provide some base level of information sharing. Rip these out without replacing them with people talking to one another and the baby has gone out with the bathwater. Regardless of methodology and other labels: effective sharing of information helps teams to succeed. Whatever your methodological preferences, please look after your babies.

See also Tracking your testing progress and 4 Reasons Why Culture Is More Important than Strategy

The dog ate my homework
Homework Evidence by GlenNZ

http://www.threadless.com/product/690/Homework_Evidence/tab,guys/style,shirt