A rapid feedback on the last day of the Agile Testing Days conference, that took place last week in Berlin.
On the agenda : 3 keynotes and an Open Space Technology through the day.
I could attend only two of them.
What does it take to be great? Isabel Evans
A very interesting topic and a very old debate… « … genius, inspiration, perspiration or renewal »
Isabel Evans discussed primarily the new skills of the testers and what is needed to acquire these skills.
Isabel Evans Keynote
rewards, self motivation, commitment, and HARD WORK!
Perseverance and motivation, a sufficient structure to promote grow
Key factors that not only apply to testers…
« You Have to fight to get inspiration «
I totally agree.
Isabel insisted also on two precious resources:
learning by doing
« we can change ourselves… if we make efforts … »
» most effective learning method is to try and make mistakes – others might laugh at you, but it won’t kill you «
Reflective practices is crucial for improvement
In summary, we need to enlarge the skills of testers.
« Reinvigorate your retrospective » by Jennitta Andrea
Jennita began his keynote with a little game : « 45 seconds to change 5 things ». The instructions: change 5 things while back 2 back to a partner, then guess what your partner changed. Then she introdued the « Jenga Game ». According to her, this game is a good metaphor for software development.
Jennitta Andrea - Keynote
So the keynote focused on retrospective, and as a coach and facilitator, it’s always good to hear other practices and potential new exercises.
Jennitta delivered her retrospective skeleton.
1 safety (5% of the global effort)
It’s crucial to align individual perspectives to the Same Goal. Jennitta likes to start in a big circle, and continues with appreciations.
« get everyone to say something within the first 5 minutes »
(this is the reason why I use the checkin exercise with teams ).
Safety, is essential for a team…
2 Discover (30 to 50% of the global effort)
Various exercises can be used for the discovery activity, Jennitta discussed the timeline exercise and the different ways to build it.
3 Analysis (20 to 30% of the global effort)
Continue, stop and start. What went well, what went bad, and what to try out but always within a balanced approach (diagnosis / appreciative inquiry)
4 Plan (15 to 30% of the global effort)
Where do we want to be? How do we get there from here. She discussed various forms of prioritization. According to me, the action plan is the main OUTPUT of the sprint retrospective. 5 Close (about 10%)
Nothing’s really new, it looks like my own retrospective structure but it was interesting.
How to evaluate if requirements specification are good enough for testing : the agile Inspection process and numeric exit by Tom Gilb
I needed to move to the airport so I didn’t attend this last keynote. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to hear Tom Gild view, in our Open Space afternoon session. He discussed the necessity to quantify requirements, to face the current and common issue with requirements… « they’re not focused on value »
… for the first time on the Agile Testing days.
You know that I like the OpenSpace Conference format very much. I like to organize the event, I like to facilitate it … and I like to participate. It is a special time to discuss the topics that are important to us.
I was interested in two sessions « Scrum of Scrums – Improvement communication in distributed large teams » and « Lightweight specifications ». Results: interesting discussions with a small number of participants. For the « usability testing » session, we were only two, Andreas and me but it was late in the afternoon.
In term of organization, the OpenSpace opening was good and done in the (famous) circle. A very good start:
with the description of the main rules, the 4 principles of the Open Space Technology
with highly motivated people who proposed various and interesting topics.
Then, it was a little more chaotic with a lack of information given to participants, and a apparent lack of preparation (rooms, schedules, facilitation). But sessions were good, and all the participants were very satisfied. It’s the most important.
Nevertheless, I think the OpenSpace day of the conference can be improved : maybe with « the good level of structure to promote grow » (in terms of information, logistics, timing and facilitation), and probably with a better coordination with lunch and keynotes.
Second day of the conference at the Seminaris Center of Berlin, and what a day !
Mickael Bolton’s keynote « Testers : get out of the quality assurance business »
Mickael Bolton is famous among the testing community and likes to define himself as an « Agile Skeptic » (in a positive way). He started his presentation by providing us with his personal view of what agile means: the agile manifesto and the adaptability. « Why to test? » « What is quality? » These two key questions allow him to clarify the tester activity, an activity primarily focused on adaptability and value, not on quality assurance.
« Our role is to test »
Mickael Bolton- Keynote
So, the tester’s role is actually to help people to consider various possibilities to solve problems:
« Testers are skilled investigators … we are sensory instruments »
« Testing is an on-going, continuously, re-optimizing process of exploration, discovery, investigation and learning »
Then Mickael explained his position on recurring questions: acceptance tests (that he prefers to call « rejection checks »), regression tests (« still the biggest risk with agile practices ? »), exploratory testing, automation (« only a tool »). His opinions were very clear-cut. Very interesting !
« Gojko, c’est de la dynamite ! »
Initially just a conference session « Top 10 reasons team fail with ATDD and how to avoid them ». The room was full…
Gojko Adzic Session
Then Gojko « dynamite » Adzic entered the arena using skillfully irony and second degree in a thunderous show of 30 minutes. ! Not much to add: rather watch these selected pieces!
Anko Tijman did it with a good session : « Mitigating Agile Pitfalls. »
He started his presentation with a description of some agile values: teamwork, simplicity, flexibility, feedback.
« If you don’t apply these values you’re missing the point of agile testing »
The critical issues he identified: customer involvement, testing as a team, test strategy, requirements and tools. This is what Anko discussed with the 5 Pitfalls of Agile Testing, and the various options to mitigate them.
Anko Tijman - Agile values
Pitfall #1: Not testing with the Customer
Pitfall # 2 : Not testing as a team
Pitfall #3: Unbalanced Test strategy
Pitfall #4 : Requirements (misunderstood) (with the following mitigation actions:
Well, not necessarily new, but things are said. Finally, Anko explained the elements that what make agile testing successful:
Build strong relationships
Focus on teamwork and collaboration
Afternoon keynote: Agile Testing Certification – How could that be useful ? (By Stuart Reid, founder of the ISTQB).
A hot topic in Agile Testing community. At this conference, a large part of the attendees had a certification in testing. The testing certification (ISTQB) seems very popular in Germany…
Stuart Reid - Keynote - Answer to Gojko 🙂 (Conference private joke)
Stuart started by saying that the title of his session was a question and that he just wanted to open the discussion. He first gave an overview of existing certifications (both agile and testing). 2 or 5 days Agile Alliance certifications « took a shot ».
« Certified ScrumMaster … Certified… Master in 2 days … Profesionnal in 5 days »
Then Stuart spent the 45 minutes to discuss the who, when, why, how of new (potential) agile testing certification and course… To be honest, I’m not convinced by the speech and not convinced by a new agile testing certification.
Two sessions for which I expected more …
Descriptions of the sessions « The secret sauce of agile testing in Distributed Teams » and « Implementing collective ownership test » interested me.
For the first presentation, my opinion is that the real discussion about « agile testing with distributed teams » has been slow to arrive without being really detailed.
Based on a project success story, Cirilo introduced the challenges he had to face (skills, culture, communication but also distance, infrastructure and language). Nothing really new, but this kind of feedback is always interesting. The closing:
« Now for The Sauce …
Testers make a killer proxy!
Testers speak the functional language
They Know The Domain
They have a user view
The have a birds view
« It boosts communication ! »
The presentation of Eric Jimminck left me a bit perplexed. It started well with relevant reminders on ATDD and its core principles.
Eric Jimmink - ATDD process
Collective test ownership means maintaining all the tests as a team, throughout the process in a cross functional approach
« Learning More About Each Other’s work and Speciality »
Eric’s conclusions on the organizational impact of such an approach were interesting, however the three examples described did not convince me. I did really not understand what he wanted to demonstrate. Key benefits? Key points?
But, I totally agree on the necessity to transform the way we do requirements on a project, and the necessity to practice ATDD
« ATDD is not an optional practice »
And a very good keynote: Janet Gregory « About Learning » (for testers)
The last keynote of day lived up to its promises. With precision and effectiveness, Janet first made the parallel with childhood, where learning and curiosity are KINGS!
« The motivation (to learn) that kids have is pure »
« Testers need curiosity »
Janet Gregory Keynote (you see Lisa Crispin and Linda Rising)
Why people want to learn? What skills do they need ?Janet insisted on these general but critical skills: problem solving or system thinking. But, she did not forget two agility core values: Feedback and Communication.
« If it’s constructive the feedback is received so much better »
And I agree completely on the crucial role on these two elements for the agile teams.
Agile principles (delivering value, learning from mistakes…), specific skills like automation, vocabulary, test design, metrics and tool usage were also discussed
When, how and where to learn ? this was finally what Janet Gregory shared with the conference attendees. Some core ideas:
« Learning by doing »
« Lots of tools in your toolkit makes you prepared to solve any problem appropriately, not always use the hammer »
« Sharing the knowledge to learn… teaching is the best way to learn »
Tuesday 5th October was the First day of the Agile Testing Days at Seminaris Center in Berlin. About 300 participants ?, 26 nationalities ? attended the conference (José Diaz will be able to confirm…)
The greatest Agile testing experts were given appointment to discuss a crucial topic on any Scrum and agile projects: TESTING.
Great Keynotes !
No less than 3 keynotes for this first day with 3 women in the spotlight: Lisa Crispin, Linda Rising and Elizabeth Hendrickson.
Lisa Crispin was in charge of the opening keynote: « Limbo Lower Now: an agile approach to defect management. »
A great talk on a frequent subject of our agile coaching intervention : the defect management system (DFS).
Defect Management Tool, YES or NO? advantages? Drawbacks? contexts?
Lisa Crispin used the limbo analogy for defects management : teams have to lower the bar for defects:
Limbo Dancing from Lisa Crispin
After having presented the traditional view for defects, Lisa described other perspectives : the agile and lean view.
Key points :
« Defect queues are waste… It’s inventory »
« You find a defect, fix it because bugs are technical debt »
Lisa described the 5 steps of an agile approach :
« Understand the problem
Do what works for your team
Focus on one goal : BUG PREVENTION
Explore alternatives »
Defect prevention must be the only goal of the team.
« Make it a team problem »
Concerning metrics, Lisa said that trends are more important than number. The rest is a matter of context, and the ability to experiment several options (for example, start without DTS, set simple rules such as no more than 10 defects at once, fix all bugs, treat bugs as stories, use color-codes cards and stickers …) to finally keep the one that fits best.
« Do That works for your team »
And the only way to do that is to make frequent retrospectives (« Inspect & Adapt »).
Second keynote with Linda Rising « Deception and estimation : how we fool oursevelves ».
With humor and finesse but supported by a cognitive psychology background, Linda Rising shows how humans are wrong with their estimates.
« We deceive ourselves in the estimates we make daily »
« We’re hardwired to deceive »
Too bad 🙂
Examples of everyday life and the ability to play with her audience make the demonstration very effective. The link with IT projects was easily made: bad estimates of course !
« We tend to believe we’re better than we are »…
… so we tend to overestimate our ability to do anything (analysis, Development, testing, deployment…).
« Agile to the rescue »
And this is where agility came to the rescue to make it good enough. Small steps, openness, teamwork and the opportunity to experience and learn from its mistakes (retrospective) really help in our estimates. But only to mitigate our human defect !
Last keynote of the day with Elizabeth Hendrickson « Lessons Learned from 100 + Simulated agile transition. »
Elisabeth Hendrickson… a show, an extraordinary dynamism to report the observations and conclusions gained from 100 + simulated agile transitions, via Wordcount. WordCount is a simuation game that she has used with teams to simulate agile transition.
Elisabeth presented what makes the difference between a team that struggle and a succeeding team.
Teams that struggle have the following characteristics: no exchange with the customer, no visibility, nothing done, everything in progress, separate work areas…
Succeeding teams seek customer feedback early and often and are not afraid to demo something before it’s done. Customers provide examples and teams reinvent key engineering practices around feedback and visibility. They reshape their physical environment.
Results also shown behavioral patterns:
People add their own complexity and time pressure
Any transition results in Chaos (for a period of time)
The cry for control « things are out of control ! we have to get this under control »
Tools serve as an alignment tool
The use of communication solutions for visibility problems (you can’t see what is going on so you talk about it !)
At the end, Elisabeth provided also facilitators and coaches with a last advice:
« Trust the group »
Get out of the circle, give them the information they need and then step back. Don’t tell the team what to do.
The sessions = confirmations
My morning sessions were dedicated to ATDD (Acceptance Test Driven Development) with a focus on Robot Framework, a tool for test automation, through sessions of Thomas Jaspers (« Testing Web Applications in Practice … ») and Pekka Klarck (« ATDD using Robot Framework « ).
ATDD using Robot Framework with Pekka Klarck
On the agenda: the willingness to show the excellent integration of Robot Framework with Hudson and Selenium in the first session, and good examples of test cases (BDD syntax or not) during the second session.
Interesting … Robot Framework seems to be the automation tool that much of the testing community seems to push. This tool is also popular here at Valtech Technology France : afterwork , tutoriel, blogs or conférence …
Confirmation in the morning, confirmation also in the afternoon with Geneva Murphy’s session, « Requirements in the agile world ».
Her session was dedicated to requirements … and HP tools 🙂
Agile Requirements - Image or Text
4 axes for the session:
« Be lean, Iterate, Visualize, Collaborate «
Lean: think about the value of each asset to the team and the organization and how they can be reused. Organize the backlog and eliminate waste. Try to standardize.
Iterate: Incite feedback, promote collaboration and help find defects earlier
Visualize: With prototypes, screen mockup, business process flow and DEMO
Collaborate: Involve multiple stakeholders in the definition of requirements. Actively seek contributions of others. Negotiate and share information
… I agree! That said, I had the feeling that we stayed on the surface without addressing real expectations of the agile teams that I am coaching.
More interesting, the session of Ray Arell, « Waterfall to an agile testing Culture » with special attention on the role of the « cultural » dimension on an Agile transformation project.
Ray made a relevant comparison with the Thru-Hiker, a person who hikes a long distance trail from end to end (for example from Mexico to Canada, trekking 20 miles a day.
Agile Testing Culture - Ray Arell
The agile developer / tester and the Thru-Hiker both work to a monumental goal and do their best to insure that goal. They do iterative planning and execution. They’re both focused on incremental success. Same sustainable pace, same reasonable plan, same sense of risk avoidance.
In summary, without an Agile culture and its key elements (trust, collective ownership, sustainable pace, just enough process and proactive learning), it doesn’t work. I firmly agree, you need an environment of trust.
Scrum is currently a buzzword. I observe that too many organizations today want to do agile, for the benefits, but without making efforts and without questioning the organizational culture. Defacing agility and you’ll just get … poor results!
Here is my personal view : only efforts pay off; to get results, you have to work again and again … and make efforts! Agile Transformation is not an exception.