Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hard to Test

I attended SoftTest 2018 last week and really enjoyed it. The vibe was good, the people were friendly, and the low-price, one-day format is right up my street. I've already posted sketchnotes and the slides from my own talk so here's a few words about the presentations that I saw.

Conor Fitzgerald talked about the benefits of learning about other industries, disciplines and domains. Part career history — from "confirmatory checker" to exploratory tester — and part a list of resources he's found useful over the years, he covered how studying business and economics grew his testing perspectives; how heuristics, oracles, and a ready supply of questions help testers cover both breadth and depth; how burnishing your social skills helps to make and maintain interpersonal relationships (examples: don't blame, assume goodwill, be kind); and how explicit modelling and data gathering and analysis can guide and drive discovery and understanding.

To create a high-performing team first create a culture in which the team can operate in comfort and safety, that's Marco Foley's message. Based on Daniel Pink's concept of Motivation 3.0 he defined Management 3.0 and contrasted it with Management 2.0 — a carrot and stick culture where managers dictate the work and then reward or punish the workers. Management 3.0 is about intrinsic enjoyment. As in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, the basic idea is that once baseline requirements (such as salary) are met, people are motivated by the intrinsic enjoyment of a task; they seek an environment in which autonomy, mastery, and purpose (again due to Daniel Pink) are present, an environment in which they are free to do the right tasks at the right time. A manager can help to facilitate this by providing opportunities for failure to take place safely and to be viewed as learning, so as to encourage more trying and hence more success. (Note that although the name is the same, Marco's content hasn't come from Jurgen Appelo's Management 3.0.)

This was my quote of the day:
If it's hard to test, it won't be tested
Rob Meaney said it, in a talk on Testability where he described his CODS mnemonic: Controllability, Observability, Decomposability, Simplicity. Systems which have these properties designed in are likely to be easier to test and Rob walked us through the application of CODS to a system he'd been working on in which the team built a new component alongside an existing monolith (decomposability, simplicity) with extra logging (observability) and an interface which let it be tested independently of the rest of the system (controllability).  An earlier version of Rob's talk is available at the Ministry of Testing Dojo.

How can we testers show our value when there's no tangible "product" for others to observe as an outcome? Mags Dineen asked the question and then answered it: align ourselves with business needs and priorities. Of course, it's on the business side to be clear about them, and then back to us to make the effort to understand them and the intent behind them. Once present and grasped, they can become oracles for choosing a direction of travel and bringing others along with us. While we're about it, let's try to get the idea that quality is owned by the team not just the testers to be more widely understood. We can do that by being collaborative and open, by being canny about how we influence things (for example, consider the benefits of influencing an influencer), and collecting and exploiting data about our products, processes, and ourselves.

Claire Barry-Murphy and Darryn Downey described a team re-organisation where the existing process was known broken: slow, lots of work in progress (WIP), impenetrable specs, and lengthy standups. They embraced BDD, introduced WIP limits, added lane policies to their Kanban, used 3 amigo reviews, and wrote stories in a spec by example fashion. One of the points that stuck in my mind was that developers "drive" the tickets across the board, pairing along the way. This is very much not handovers, but rather ownership and purpose.

The closing keynote was Gwen Diagram's observations on how traditional management is broken and her personal prescription for fixing it. It was nice to see themes from talks earlier in the day reprised, and fun for it to be laced with anecdotes and bonus swearing. There was a serious message too, though; Gwen's management medicine tastes something like this: treat people like people, and don't talk down to them; work together for solutions; lead, don't manage; provide motivation; remove fear; give feedback; remember that everyone can be excellent; aim for happy employees.
Image: Discogs

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