The Shift-Coach Testing Trend

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Shift-Coach is when testers and test managers trends towards being coaches and facilitators of the testing activities. Shift-Coach is more about leading the testing than leading the testers to paraphrase from @DevToTest Joe DeMeyers blog post.

The ground breaker for this trend, is to me, the talk “How I Lost My Job As a Test Manager” presented at Test Bash 2015 by Stephen Janaway. Stephen explains how reorganization of the test manager role forced him to be more a facilitator than embedded in the teams. Similarly many other great test managers talk more and more about people skills and coaching, especially in agile projects. I want to define shift-coach around the facilitation testing activities, and place testers that doubles as scrum masters in the Shift-Deliver trend.

In traditional (v-model) projects testing has often included people that were not professional testers; – in user acceptance tests this has often been business subject matter experts. The testing was done by someone with the best knowledge of the topic, and that may not have been the professional tester. That more and more projects do this – more and more, is a big challenge for many testing folks. But it is a significant trend in testing world of 2016.

Shift-Coach trend is visible when Alan Page  talks at Test Bash Philly 2016:

You’ve heard the rumors, and you’ve seen it happen. An organization or development team decides they don’t need testers, and you have big questions and massive concerns. Is quality not important anymore? Are they irresponsible or idiotic? Are their hats on too tight? Do testers still have jobs?

Alan Page is a career tester who has not only gone through the “no-tester” transition, he’s taking it head on and embracing it. Alan will share experiences, stories, strategies, and tactics (and failures) on how he’s taken everything he’s learned in over twenty years of software testing, and used those skills to have an impact on software engineering teams at Microsoft. Whether you’re going through this transition yourself, think it may be coming, or just want to tell someone what an absurd idea this is, this is the talk for you.

This trend goes along with Shift-Right, Shift-Left and Shift-Deliver discussed separately. I discussed these trend labels at Nordic Testing Days 2016 during the talk “How to Test in IT operations“ and coined the labels on the EuroStar Test Huddle forum.

legocoach

Drive the Testing – Coach!

Connected online

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Apparently my Internet habits are very teenage like… I miss my WiFi and cannot leave the phone in the pocket. What I am is a digital settler, connected to my processional community.

I realized this at a training recently, where it was noticed that I had my phone out DURING CLASS. Was it FOMO – no, I just had a thought about testing to share on twitter. As I would usually do during conferences and my working day. We had a good laugh about me always needing my internet and my phones. I took it as a compliment, as that would mean that I was a YOUNG digital rookie, sharing and collaborating. .. like only the cool kids would do.

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When I model  myself to the Teaching Trios model – I am a digital settler by age/ introduction time. But collaborating and having an online professional interaction is not based on age, nor should it be frowned upon. Online community interaction is done by all ages, diverse and really nothing new. It’s past hype, and not ground breaking. There are models now of how communities evolve and function. And the business, career and personal benefits explained over and over again.
Yet I have more followers on twitter than the company I work for. Sometimes when someone else at work shares curated testing papers, I have seen it already and have met the people who wrote it. (Read Meet the famous people)
When I model myself towards Simon Wardley‘s three-stage model (Pioneers, Settlers, town planners). I don’t jump anything brand new, but I do want to take the groundbreaking and turn it into a framework for others to succeed… So to my kids Netflix is TV, and my mom follows me on Facebook to see what I’m up to. (no good, I swear).

Testers are Knowledge Workers

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Treat your testing people as knowledge workers, not rote industrial resources. The later is a spiral to the lowest value, the former is about giving the business valuable knowledge. A modern tester is a knowledge worker – whose prime area is finding information, filtering information, relating information and presenting information. It is a non-linear process, that requires a touch of both creativity and consideration.

The best testing tool is the brain, and the knowledge worker ponder the problems both consciously and unconsciously. She can work without using the hands or legs, but not with a simple headache. It takes a lot of thinking and collaboration with the stakeholders to identify what questions about the product has value to the business. The (context-driven) knowledge focused tester focus both that it works, and that it adds value to the business.

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The business focus are far from the classic mindset of testing established around the millennial (2000). where testing is about finding defects and going through the motion of deriving test cases from specifications. – I know I’ve been there. That era is long gone, even dead at some time to Whitaker and Alberto Savoia. Be provoked or even insulted, but it’s the future.

But wake up – it’s not where the testing world is today. The old tools of design techniques and coverage metrics makes less and less sense to the business. They are old-school and classic approaches, in the not so cool way. The cool kids on the block are poppin’ tags – getting new stuff, sharing and exploring. They know that change is the new normal and that what works in one situation doesn’t work in another. Their primary concern and focus is getting knowledge to the decision makers. They are the knowledge workers

What is the purpose of meeting?

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If all you bring to the meeting is what you have prepared in advance – what new do you learn by meeting?

I once was at a company that should have the motto “always prepared”, “semper fi” and “errors are not an option”. Every meeting had a check sheet, a resume form and a registration of preparation time. Because if it wasn’t measured it didn’t count. If it wasn’t in the play book it didn’t count either.

So one day we sat at the meeting reviewing a development story – the developer, an architect, me and the other roles required by the check sheet. Some had prepared written comments: everything from simple rephrasing, code changes and test case headlines. Some had not prepared a tangible thing – I had not.

So the interesting question came up: why meet at all, if the only purpose of the meeting was to go through the written changes. These could be sent directly to the developer or discussed bilaterally, and not heard by all five. The answer to this was not in the play book, and the meeting was puzzled.

I had prepared nothing in advance, yet I had prepared myself in advance to listen, think and wonder during the meeting. To me the purpose of meeting* was the joint collaboration of the participants.

The sum of the whole. That 1+1+1+1 can be five.

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*: meetings can have other purposes. Sometimes I hold orientation/elaboration meetings, when things cannot be elaborated sufficiently digitally.

I wonder if

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I wonder if… the Norwegian and Swedish texts are correct on this picture:

2015-10-29 21.38.35

I wonder if is surely among the things that I as a tester say  or think a lot. You will also hear me cheer when we find a critical bug. Every defect / bug / observation  / issue / problem / incident we find is our chance to learn about the product. It’s a natural part of the game to find things and then to handle them. Defer them if so inclined, mitigate the risks, fix the bugs, update the  processes – but always take a decision based on the new knowledge you have.

awesome

Here are some other things I often say:

revert_thatsodd  strange

Originally at the Ministry of Testing Facebook page,  but the twists above are mine.

The Expected

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Many test processes and test tools mention that you have to establish the expected results to every test. It is at best risk ignorance not to take the notion of expected results with a kilo of salt #YMMV.

If you can establish the result of your solution in a deterministic, algorithmic and consistent way in a non-trivial problem, then you can solve the halting problem. But I doubt your requirements are trivial.. or even always right. Even the best business analyst or subject matter expert may be wrong. Your best oracle may fail too.  Or you may be focussing on only getting what you measure.

When working with validation in seemingly very controlled environments changes and rework happens a lot, as every new finding needs the document trail back to square one.. Stuff happens. Validation is not testing, but looking to show that the program did work as requested at some time. It is a race towards the lowest common denominator. IT suppliers can do better that just to look for “as designed” [1].

Still the Cynefin framework illustrates that there are repeatable and known projects, and in those contexts you should probably focus on looking to check as many as the simple binary questions in a tool supported way, and work on the open questions for your testing.

Speaking of open ends – every time I see an explicit expected result I tend to add the following disclaimer inspired by Michael Bolton (song to the tune of nothing else matters [2]):

And nothing odd happens … that I know of … on my machine, in this situation [3]

And odd is something that may harm my user, business or program result

Significantly…

But I’d rather skip this test step  and work on the description of the test and guidelines to mention:

And now to something completely different:

See also: The unknown unknown unexpressed expectationsEating wicked problems for breakfast

1: Anyone can beat us, unless we are the besttodays innovation becomes tomorrows commodity

2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAGnKpE4NCI 

3: I’ve heard that somewhere…

Can you see beyond the visible

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As mentioned in “Diversity is important in testing” my view is that the best testers are those that know that testing can be done in many ways. “Testing practices appropriate to the first project will fail in the second. Practices appropriate to the second project would be criminally negligent in the first.” ( http://context-driven-testing.com/) There is no “one way to do testing” (despite what standards tells you). Granted there are – in context –  best practices.

The best testers are those that can see beyond the current project and company framework. Those that realize that there is a fundamental difference between life-science validation and modern enterprise IT projects – and for agile projects even more. If the company frameworks fails to keep current and allow clear tailoring, then “life finds a way“.

There will be contexts where UX is not very interesting, where there is no software as such, where they release directly to production (so what we have TitW). There will even be contexts where structured software testing has very little business value. As well as, there will be contexts, where it’s one-shot only and testing and dress-rehearsals are done, over and over again. (consider though that for space launches superstition and good-luck charms play a very large role).

But don’t confuse your one context and what you have seen in some domains to be directly applicable in others. See beyond the visible, extrapolate your testing knowledge and approaches for different contexts, and you are the better tester.

Iceberg Factory. Torsuut Tunoq Sound and Kulusuk Island. Southeastern Greenland. http://www.mikereyfman.com/

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