Read for your kids – special interest edition

If you are a parent to (early) school children you should know that it is important to read  to your kids. Reading the words out trains vocabulary, recognition, imagination, wondering etc etc. So I read subtitles from movies… because

The boys currently have Star Wars as their special interest [1], and wanted to see the “people” movies. The have played the scenes via the LEGO Video Games (GC) and have a range of the LEGO sets – so they had the basic plot already. Feature movies like Star Wars are usually subtitled in Denmark – while animation movies are dubbed [2]. So in order both to keep up with “PG” [3] and helping them read the titles – I get to watch the movies and read the subtitles…

Poor daddy, it’s almost as hard as when he has to finish the ice cream they can’t 😉

In the last months the (soon to be) 9yo have cracked the reading code and have gone from LIX11 books to the shorter subtitles. The 11yo have rest covered, but some of the longer texts are tricky (I’m looking at you – opening Scroll).

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I tried reading Harry Potter (in Danish) but even if the story was very elaborate and detailed it didn’t catch their interest. Neither did classics from when I was a kid (Sorry Bjarne Reuter), so I had to rethink the acceptance criteria for “read for your kids“.

See these two boys are not as easily motivated – it has to tie into something they can see a direct interest in. Their autism makes them very picky on the choice of subject. What I try is to meet them where they are, expand their competencies and give them a lot of positive feedback until they master it on their own.

Links: The yardstick of mythical normalityAcceptance is more than what can be measured

  1. special interest, as in overly dedicated into the topic and cannot talk about anything else.
  2. The Danish “dubbers” are usually world class, luckily.
  3. Episode 3 is still to come, though.

Asking Open Questions

It has always been a good interview technique to ask open questions. Then the person being interviewed have to elaborate and talk in full sentences. In contrast to closed questions, that replied to in binary [1]: yes, no, 42 – the red pill [2]. Until now I really didn’t understand how simple yet powerful this questioning technique is in testing. I might have done it all along, for some time :-).

The primary eye opener was the Copenhagen Context 2015 [4] workshop on Exploration Under Pressure by Jon Bach. One of the treats was that he showed us a list of things to find on the ebay.com website. Not specific items, but information about the items. Finding the most expensive item, and by that stumbling over a live production bug in the max value field. Finding the number of blue shoes available etc. What a fun “online scavenger hunt” – we could battle to find the oldest, longest and most odd details etc.

Later the same week eBay Classified hosted a local meetup of “QA Aarhus” with a live demo of how they do testing sessions of their app. They had to host the session twice,  due to popular demand, and what we got was an intro to a setting of exploration, thinking loud and doing pair testing. And I got to try my new-found quest to ask open questions. To search for things – but look out of the corner of the eye for oddities and what-ifs.

But how could I apply this technique in my current testing project of migrating an HR solution for a large IT outsourcing company. I did today. A staff member allocated to the project to test during UAT [3] specifically the processes they use in the old system and to act distribute this knowledge back to the team. For reasons the testing scope in this are had yet not been established, so she didn’t really know where to start – but I did… open questions 

  • What processes do you have?
  • What kind of events do you need to register on an employee
  • Tell me more about vacation calculation
  • Where, if any, are your current processes described (I’m fallible)
  • What has likely changed comparing the old and new solution

I asked her to go as deep until no new learning could be achieved, but not to detail it in scripts or discrete steps. Because from here we have test cases – test ideas – “a question that someone would like to ask (and presumably answer) about a program

Eureka!

 

[1]: Binary replies can be checked, open questions are testing. Testing is “Testing is the process of evaluating a product by learning about it through exploration and experimentation, which includes: questioning, study, modeling, observation and inference, output checking, etc.” http://www.satisfice.com/blog/archives/1509

[2]: I have seen how deep the rabbit hole goes…

[3] Let’s pretend there is such a thing as a “user acceptance test

[4]  Disclaimer: I was part of the program committee, and by chance most speakers hosts their own testing conferences. See more on http://copenhagencontext.com/blog/2015/01/meet-jesper-at-the-copenhagen-context-conference-venue/

Lego Role Models for Girls

Who had the family’s largest LEGO set his Christmas – not the boys (age 8-10), neither the “boys” (age 40 and up) – it wasn’t me* – but the 11-year-old girl and her 8 wheel 42008 Service Truck – 1276 pieces, power functions, pneumatic, gears and 44 cm forcefulness. There was no boy band merchandize, no glitter or similar gender framing. Quite a project – as is the story about the “Research Institute” mini-figure set.

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FDA, Exploration and time to information

A key driver in implementing enterprise knowledge management is to reduce time to information (77% are seeing faster access to knowledge). But that goes for LinkedIn and Twitter too. Using twitter professionally helps you meet the famous people and help you see the communication layers at conferences. Case story: Today I was reading about test processes in a regulated environment, and got curious towards exploratory testing in that context. So I reached out to the #twitterbrain and asked the giants, whose shoulders I am standing on*:

  • Griffin Jones ‏@Griff0Jones, help clients struggling with regulatory compliance and context-driven software testing problems.
    • CAST 2011: Cast 2011 What Do Auditors Expect From Testers
    • What is good evidence – Let’s Test 2013
    • WREST – Workshop on REgulated Software Testing
  • Johan Åtting ‏@JohanAtting Chief Quality Officer -atSectra’s Medical Operation
    • turned the testing from a traditional scripted approach into a context driven approach and introduced exploratory testing.
    • ensuring that the company are regulatory compliant with e.g. FDA, MDD, CMDR, ISO13485, ISO14971 etc.
  • James Christie ‏@james_christie
    •  interested in testing’s relationship with audit and governance.
    • dedicated to the audit, control, and security of information systems.
  • Michael Bolton ‏@michaelbolton Program Chair of EuroStar 2013 and key guru pointed me to an article by James Marcus Bach ‏@jamesmarcusbach on the topic.
  • Keith Klain ‏@KeithKlain Head of Barclays Test Service retweeted on the fallacy on the evidence of scripted testing.
  • Claire Moss ‏@aclairefication (my favorite retweeter) and many others retweeted

Within 2 hours I had both relevant references, a debate on the pitfalls and base for further details. Follow the tread of this tweet: https://twitter.com/jlottosen/status/411473074312052736 

*: really, not to brag – I have met both Griffin, Johan and James, and they know me too 🙂

Software is a knowledge storage medium

Key takeaways from [ Presentation: “ǝnןɐʌ: Why we have it backwards” Track: When the Agile Manifesto isn’t enough  | Shmuel Gershon | GOTO 2013]. Special mention for the best hand-made/home-made slides – get them here.

Software is a knowledge storage medium 

Think about it – where do you have your know-how, your calendar, your to-do list, google it… IT is the digital tool we use to store our knowledge, to enable us to do the things we want to do. Shmuel has a great historic overview over the evolution of places to store knowledge. IT and software as of now has among other things the ability to be updated fast, to tell about the intention of the solution, the ability to self-modify and change the outside world directly. 

We can start using the word knowledge more:

Value is often to learn something new

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I killed an IT department

It wasn’t just a glitch or a bug, or a wicked hack. It is gone – there is no IT department anymore … Staffing and services will be transferred to the communications & knowledge department, but the hardcore business of developing IT solutions is closing. From now on we primarily use customization and configuration of standard tools: Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, Podio and email (sigh – still).

Yet IT is everything and everything is IT

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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,

I know it is your job – but thank you anyway

Praise people, recognize people, say thank you. The trick behind it is a simple application of behavioral analysis – you get what you recognize: Speak about the good deeds, ignore the bad – but set the line on the ugly. Simple example: If you give your screaming kids candy in the supermarket, they scream to get it next time. Say “no” if they take candy. But what ever you do – praise them for helping daddy shopping. And that goes for adults too! 🙂

I lead many kinds of people indirectly – I coach, mentor, suggest, encourage, question, challenge – and test:

  • Skilled people from India and Ukraine
  • Skilled people from the business domains
  • Support staff, sales staff, operations and telco technicians
  • Business subject matter experts and user experience specialist
  • Developers, Project managers and bosses
  • The young people helping out in the family household
  • The kids in the scout (FDF) group I’m a volunteer leader in
  • My two boys

The most important leadership tip I have is to say – Well done, thank you!  I know it is your job occasionally to work on weekends and nights and evenings – but thank you, it made a difference to me. I know you will be helping me for a day, and still have to do your “day job”. I recognize you – I see you. I know Suresh said “Jesper encouraged me to go beyond my regular assigned tasks and contribute more to the organization.” Thank you Suresh – I appreciate your effort. Boys – I know you are supposed to learn to do your home work, but good job anyways on completing it today.

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4 Reasons Why Culture Is More Important than Strategy | Om at kunne udsætte sine egne behov | Do what you say – say what you do | They are just people |

And thank you for reading 🙂

Establish yourself as an expert or thought leader

Being a thought leader is not about being a “boss” – neither is it about being a “manager”. Leadership is not only at monthly or weekly meetings. It is leadership to talk openly and often to those you lead, and go “visit their desk” – also just for a chat. Good leaders create a room for dialog, trust, mentoring and practice.

Leadership is about behavior – not attributes – nor properties. Management in itself is a structured process – perhaps very complex, but yet structured around planning, measuring and decisions. You can manage by Excel, but you can never lead by Excel.

Come to think of it, management can be somewhat automated, setup as routines, macros that verify and tricked by events. Management by bean-counting spreadsheets can be executed anywhere and can be setup as a commodity. True story – you can buy “Outsourcing management – as a service

Outsourcing management as a service would require strong blend of skills in areas of program management, service management and relationship management. PMOs must own “outsourcing management as a service” and evolve these skills to implement and mature the competencies, and to derive maximum value from outsourcing initiatives

Leadership in comparison is more bespoke, and require a range of tools, tips and tricks – based on context and on the people in the team. Similar to testing and checking, we need to consider both activities – but also learn the difference between them.

So stand up, apply a little courage and be a thought leader in your own right. Stand on my shoulders if you like – it would be my privilege to support you: Establish yourself as an expert or thought leader!

#BigSelfishPun – the title of this blogpost and the below screenshot is from an internal presentation by Henry Singer, http://henrysinger.blogspot.com/ from September 29, 2011 called “Blogging for business“, where my internal blog was used among others and an example of  good use of a global collaboration tool. 

Testing expert

Can you help me?

4 Powerful Words Employees Need to Hear | Inc.com | Dec 2012 ]

When you ask that way several powerful things immediately occur–especially for the other person: 

  • you instantly convey respect.
  • you instantly convey trust
  • you instantly convey you’re willing to listen

And then, best of all, you get to say two more incredibly powerfull words: Thank you

10 Things Extraordinary People Say Every Day | Inc.com, Jeff Haden, January 2013 ]

  • “Here’s what I’m thinking.”
  • “I was wrong.”
  • “That was awesome.”
  • “You’re welcome.”
  • “Can you help me?”
  • “I’m sorry.”
  • “Can you show me?”
  • “Let me give you a hand.”
  • “I love you.”
  • … Nothing.

And in the process you’ll show vulnerability, respect, and a willingness to listen–which, by the way, are all qualities of a great leader.

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