Thursday, January 9, 2020

Show Business

What feels like a zillion years ago I wrote a few pieces for the Ministry of Testing's Testing Planet newspaper. Understandably, they've since mostly been replaced with much better stuff on the Dojo but MoT have kindly given me permission to re-run them here.


It was Irving Berlin who famously said that there was no business like it but, for me, there’s no business without it. Irving’s version scans better, I’ll give him that, but mine captures an essential aspect of pretty much all successful projects with multiple participants: demonstration.

On a project, at some point or points, you’re going to clue your collaborators in on what you’re doing, or what you’ve done or what you reckon you will do. And also what you aren’t, didn’t or won’t.  If not you risk confusion about important stuff like responsibilities, scope, delivery, budget and whose turn it is to make the tea.

Your team mates are a great source of test ideas and, whether they’re on the project or not, should be interested in what’s going on in the part of the product you’re working on. We use a wiki at our place for documenting test plans, exploratory session charters, test tours, test results and so on. People can subscribe to any page and so watch and comment on a piece of work easily. We also have a daily standup, peer reviews, pair testing all of which encourage discussion, sharing, showing.

Bug reports. An old chestnut. But never forget that they are a public document of your research and another way to demonstrate and collaborate. They expose to others how to provoke a problem, how you assess the application’s behaviour and why you think it’s relevant. Take the opportunity to explain these things well and you’ll benefit everyone.

Other stakeholders, or just interested observers, might like to be kept appraised of progress and it’s an important part of a tester’s role to be able to provide them with reports. These can take many forms, from a quick chat while you’re making the tea (your turn again?) where you’ll need to be able to filter out and explain the high-level headline news to a last minute request being to attend a management discussion where detailed explanation of some aspect of your testing and the risks it’s exposed will be required.

You’ll encounter these, and other, situations all the time at work and when you do bear in mind these five Cs and do it as clearly, correctly, comprehensively, consistently and concisely as you can. Now, let’s go on with the show.

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