Less Test Managers, More Test Coaches

One of the trends/shifts I experience in testing & test management in particular is the Test Coach as discussed initially here: The Shift-Coach Testing Trend (Oct, 2016). Recently (Aug 2017) it came up again in a Twitter thread, where Stephen Janaway stated the inspiration to the title of this blog post.

Less Test Managers and more coaches. That’s how I see it going.

Fittingly as he inspired the first post with his talk “How I Lost My Job As a Test Manager” presented at Test Bash 2015. This post is a further elaboration of the Shift-Coach test management trend. Here are some of my experiences:

  • I have been assigned to an agile development team to introduce them to 3 Amigos, Test data driven test automation and such things. The purpose of my involvement was to enable the team to continue the practices without me, and without testers besides the business analyst / product owner (See The domain expert is the tester) as they are doing Shift-left. Similar to an agile or scrum coach, my approach was to look at it as a change in the way of working.
  • Another project is an infrastructure project, there are no testers only technicians configuring Cisco routers that by software can replace firewalls, iron ports, VM servers and other network equipment. The project has to implement 80+ of these, so I setup both a test process and an ITIL change request process acting as a test and release manager – another quite frequent trend. I could continue in the project for the duration, but instead I setup guidance and leave when it’s sufficiently in place.

This might be similar to a test architect, a (internal) test consultant activity. It has nothing to do with diminishing testing. Rather I see it as more testing happening, something that would not have been done without the coaching from a test manager. It’s all about finding a test approach that is fit for the context.

Here are some things others have written:

The competence of the test coach is to have enough change management expertise (people skills) and test management expertise (domain skills) to know how to coach and facilitate the change. Should test coaches test too, perhaps when required, but not necessarily. The activity is primarily to up-skill the team to continue on their own.

The “Test Coach” is a trend similar to “shift-left” and all the other shifts in testing and test management. I see it as a pattern, and what I read from the threads and discussions is that many test managers gradually shift towards test coaches.

2017-07-03 13.57.42

Advertisements

3 Sessions of Security Testing

One way to collaborate in a team is to achieve shared knowledge together. An example of this is the online activity of “30 days of testing” that The Ministry Of Testing has been putting out to the online community to participate it. My test team has a “Work Group / Special Interest Group” with regards to security testing, so when a 30 day challenge for security testing came up, we scheduled sessions to learn from the topics provided (see below).

As we are testing consultants doing work for our customers, we scheduled 3 sessions – initially for an hour. At the start of the hour we picked 4-5 topics from the list, and worked our way through them in a prioritized order – within the time box of the hour. Come to think of it we might as well have used the Lean Coffee format. As we have team members two places in DK and one place in PH, it was a skype call using screen sharing. After the call I  summarized sending out a “link mail” to all in the testing group (DK and PH). Evaluating the sessions we extend our ordinary scheduled WG meetings to make room for collaboratively investigate additional security testing topics.

12 From the list: ZAP, Google Gruyere, threat models, HTTP proxies, posture assessments, tiger boxes, recent hacks (elaborated by Troy Hunt), OWASP top 10, OWASP SQL injections, adding data integrity testing into a test plan, share ideas for security testing internally and externally, discuss security testing with regards to EU GDPR compliance.

7 Not on the listNaughty Strings form GitHub, Bug Magnet plugin, How real persons names trick IT systems, how to be careful with custom license plates, DDoS attacks, IoT privacy failures, Chaos monkeys/Siamese army and little Bobby Tables:

exploits_of_a_mom
XKCD: Exploits of a mom

To sum up, we have learned about: what tools that can make testing easier, where to read about vulnerabilities and and simple exploits, understand how personal data and logins are used and stored, how to pitch security testing based on fear of breaches and safety concerns, testing the requirements for “by design” security.

30 Days of Security Testing
30 Days of Security Testing

Many Bits under the Bridge

I’ve been in the testing business for 14 years – when I started in late 2002 it was all about using HP Test Director 7.6 – in a browser… There was only one model of testing, v-model, and only one book of testing the ISEB (later ISTQB) vocabulary. And only one expected output of testing: Testers designed test cases, executed and perhaps wrote both a test plan document and test report document. Test process improvement was a thing, but even so testing was often a pointy cog…  

Many Bits under the Bridge Later

It is not about the test cases any more, it’s about being part of a team – that delivers an IT solution to the business. First of all, if it’s just about the test cases then it is a race to the lowest paid off-shore location, a run to the bottom in repetitiveness and mechanic activity. Checking! with more focus on crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. We have tools for that now – the plates are shifting.

When testing professionals puts “writing test cases” on their LinkedIn description. It seems to me that they are stuck in the testing world of 10 years ago. Standing still and not seeing that Testers are Knowledge Workers – not workers of producing artifacts. It is much more important to see beyond the visibleUncovering better ways and seeing testing as an activity to provide information to the stakeholders, based on experiments and observations.

Skill up and be smarter! And don’t listen to old tapes – it’s not worth it :).

See also this from QA Symphony & Ministry of Testing:

The Software Tester: Modern vs. Traditional [Infographic]
The Software Tester: Modern vs. Traditional [Infographic]

The Shift-Coach Testing Trend

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!

The superpower that things will sort themselves out

Amongst my secret weapons are intuition, square lashings, preparing for the unexpected

… and that things will sort themselves out.

For instance:

  • I had planned to step into the parents group (aka PTA, aka forældrerådet) in one of my boys classes. But the day of the election meeting, I was pretty stressed and missed the meeting. Now a couple of months later, there’s a free spot, and I could step in and be very welcome.
  • At work I saw my boss had assigned me a new project for next month. I missed to talk to him about it, but when came around to it – the project allocation had been cancelled.

So recently I have come to value: letting things sort themselves out OVER looking into everything. THAT IS while there is value on preparing everything, I value the first opportunity more.  You might think of it of being sloppy, unprepared and not even tester like.. your loss… What is your secret weapon then?

dad blackbelt

Can you see beyond the visible

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/

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).

2015-04-04 16.51.08

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.