Where To Start Part 3: Team Evolution

Part three of my where to start with BDD post. The first two parts can be viewed here:
https://thoughtsontest.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/where-to-start/
https://thoughtsontest.wordpress.com/2017/07/04/where-to-start-part-2/

So at this point your team has started using WIP limits and BDD.
Does your team now have a surplus of one role, maybe there are 2 or 3 testers who are not covered in you WIP limits as they are not developers.
Maybe its time to evolve a little and try blur some of the roles, or how about experimenting with your WIP limits?

Let’s talk through these two ideas.

ron

In an earlier blog I talked about having WIP limits set to the number of developers in the team. So when a story is in test the developer is in slack time.

This is where we can start blurring the roles a little bit. Personally I like to invite the developer to test along with me. If our examples have already been automated then we don’t have to worry about testing them. Now we get to do some fun creative exploratory testing, this is great as a paired activity. Once developers see how you are thinking, they can then start doing it themselves.

For exploratory testing I tend to think of the least technical person I know and pretend to be them using the system. This is my dad (sorry dad). He has managed to find the most interesting bugs and get the best viruses over the years, and his answer is always the best for a tester, “Ohh yea I clicked on that cause I could”. If your system has a flaw no matter how small or silly you think it is, a user WILL FIND IT.

But pairing works both ways. After the 3 amigos session when a tester is in slack time, why not pair up with the developers. You could start doing a joint TDD exercise. The tester writes the tests and the developer writes the code to make the tests pass.

Eventually you could swap that up completely and have the developer write the tests and the tester write the code. You will have a true multi-functional team, where everyone can do everything.

So how does experimenting with your WIP limit work?

Well how about decreasing it. So if you have 4 developers, make the WIP limit 3. This frees up a developer to help the team. This means someone is always free to jump on code reviews, or to do some of that tech debt you can never find the time to get to. You can swap up that developer each story. It also encourages more pairing, as two developers can work together on a story.

There are loads of different things to try, use retros to see how they are working. Just don’t make too many changes at once, it will be hard to know what worked and what didn’t. (I’ve made this mistake before)

If you have any suggestions, or have run some experiments on your teams let me know.

Just make sure your team keeps evolving by trying new things. To quote Eddie Vedder, “It’s evolution, baby…Do the evolution”

PJ-ev

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How I Can Help You Today?

I once had a boss who in my first ever performance review meeting shocked me. Now I had been through some review meetings before starting in this company and I always DREADED them. As this was my second job out of college, I was still afraid of the process. But this guy sat me down looked at the “goal settings” page and said, “ignore that, its HR bullshit, how can I help you today?”

This blew my mind. The last company I was in, all my one to ones had been micromanaging sessions telling me I wasn’t doing my job well enough. All that did was ruin my already low self esteem as I was fresh out of college and to be honest terrified. One simple question changed all that, how can I help you today?

Honestly I didn’t know how to answer him. I was expecting to be told the work I was doing wasn’t good enough and that I needed to just get better. I kind of just sat there for a minute or two and then said something like, “how can I improve what I am doing?”

Instead of telling me what I was doing wrong, he told me what I was doing well. Then said maybe you should improve in X area. Then recommended a book for me to read, and booked me in on some training in that area. So when we caught up the next month, I was able to show what I had learnt and how I was able to improve my work. Also because I was totally disarmed and not afraid, I was perfectly willing to approach him with any problem I had.

He also taught me how to self learn. He did this by introducing me to the wider testing community and brought me to a conference. It was here I learnt that it’s not just the companies job to train you, you need to train yourself. So I started reading blog posts and attending meetups, and looking for new ways to improve and new things to try. This all started with that one little question and a genuine interest into my personal growth.

It also made me realise that junior folk will not know this. They have to be taught how to self learn. It is important as it not only helps the company but builds up the person’s self esteem. Instead of making me feel bad and dread a catch up meeting, I looked forward to them. It made me enjoy my work, which is super important. Your job should be fun for you.

It reminded me of something my granddad used to say when he rang me, “are you wanting for anything?” It was not do you need something, but, what do you want and how can I get it for you? It was a level of kindness that everyone should strive for.

Now I am human and by no means perfect, but i try to ask that simple question when someone asks me something, “how can I help you today?”

I will leave you with some wise words by one of my favourite musicians Frank Turner:
Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind”.

beMoreKind

Clear The Clutter

A family friend of mine used to be a  serious hoarder. I mean TV show worthy level hoarding. I was once asked to go help her clean her house, so she could move.

Every single room in the house was packed. There where maybe two seats that where not covered in books, magazines, news papers, hats, coats, shoes, if you can think of it, it was probably somewhere in that house.

My dad rented a skip and we set about removing the junk. Our friend usually had to be removed from the scene as she had a habit of picking stuff out of the skip and bringing it back into the house. She thought that one day she might need it. Thankfully after a few weeks the house was fully cleaned out and our friend was able to sell it and move.

hoard
This story popped into my head when thinking about old tech debt and bugs every company seems to manage to build up.

Why do we keep them? Ever go through those still open bugs and stories? How old are they?
If its 2 years old, why is it still there? Cluttering up backlogs and making it more confusing to see what real work needs doing?

How can we class it as a bug, if its out in production for years and nobody complained about it? Maybe fixing It could even ruin our current customer experience.

I once went to a talk where the subject of old bugs came up. This company went about closing all their open bugs, this managed to upset their customers. It seems that since the bugs had been in production for several years they where actually being used as either features or work arounds had been build and now stopped working. So fixing an old bug had actually changed how the customers where using the software, hilarious.

bug:feature

Are we just like my friend holding on to these stories and bugs thinking one day we will need them? Clear out the clutter, ask yourself this question: Is this stuff adding any value?

If the answer is no, DELETE IT!!!

If it’s really important it will come up again, but I’m sure if nobody has looked at it in a year or two it wasn’t very important anyway. Now you can focus on a cleaner backlog with stories that will actually add some value and make some customers happy.

Plato’s Cave

Recently I have been listening to a podcast by Blindboy Boatclub of the the Rubberbandits. For anyone who doesn’t know them, they are an Irish rap duo famous for wearing plastic bags on their heads and singing songs about owning horses.

rubber

Blindboy has recently become famous for his views on psychology and politics. He will show up on various Irish talk shows wearing his bag and discussing issues with politicians on various subjects, mostly about the state of male mental health in Ireland.

You can find his podcast here: https://www.acast.com/blindboy

If you don’t know him I highly recommend you check him out. His podcast is a wonderful listen and makes my Wednesday commute to work a delight.

Recently he was talking about something that made me think. He was talking about Plato and his allegory of the cave.

I had never heard of it before and maybe you haven’t either. So let me try explain it:

Imagine a cave where people have been imprisoned from birth. They are chained in such a way that they can’t move their heads and can only look at a wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a walkway with a low wall. People can walk behind the wall hold puppets up above it so the puppets cast a shadow onto the wall in front of the prisoners. The prisoners can only see the shadows in front of them and are not aware of what is happening behind them. The sounds of the people behind them echo off the walls in such a way that the prisoners think that the shadows in front of them are talking.

All these prisoners know is what they see in front of them. If they see a shadow of a book, they fully believe thats what a book looks like and their whole world is just 2d images. In reality of course a book is a 3d object, but they have never seen anything else so have no idea.

plato-allegory-of-the-cave

If we stop here for a moment, we could relate this to teams working in isolation. Now I think everyone realises at this point that its good to have multifunctional teams working together, testers, developers and BAs all work together for a common goal. But what can then happen is the team becomes the prisoners. Yes they are all working for a common goal, but they don’t know what the goal is, or why they are working on it. Their reality is just what they see and they may be afraid to question this. Or worse they may not know they can question it, thus working on something with zero value. 

But fear not Plato goes on to give us some hope. One of the prisoners escapes. That freed prisoner goes on to discover the truth about reality outside the cave. This however takes time and is painful as he has to relearn everything about his world. Eventually the prisoner goes back to the others to explain to them about reality. The bad news is it on his return to the cave to help free his fellow prisoners, they refuse to believe him.

This could be where you fit in. Maybe you are on a team much like our imprisoned cave dwellers. You could start to question your work and your teams goals. Much like the freed prisoners journey, this might prove to be difficult at first. You may have to learn some new skills, also your team mates might not believe you at first.

Unlike the cave prisoners though, you can help show how putting value first will help your team. You could even start this be sharing what your team works on with other teams. Maybe organise a showcase weekly or monthly, for a member of each team to share their work. This will allow everyone to have a better understanding of what each team does. Also make sure your team has a very clear goal that will make the company some money when complete.

There are loads of things that can be done to help find value in our work. Let me know how you get on trying some, or even some interesting ideas you might have.

Don’t Be An Agile Beatnick

How many retros are you involved in?
Usually a lot right? Most teams have one at least every two weeks.

What usually happens? Do you do the usual stop, start, continue?

Do you come out of your retros feeling uplifting and motivated to get some cool new stuff done?

I never used to, the retro used to be a thing that I hate, “ohh this shite again, there goes another hour of my life”.

Turns out my attitude was horrific, I had become an agile beatnik.

Now what is an agile beatnik you may ask?
It is basically Ned Flanders parents from the Simpsons, remember them? If not see the picture below.

Ned-Flanders-Parents-Hurricane-Neddy

They where awful parents, “we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas”. That was me in retros. I was just complaining and not trying anything to fix problems. What used to happen after a retro, I would continue working the exact same way making the exact same mistakes and complaining about the exact same things in the next retro.

What was I doing wrong here? I was trying NOTHING new. Trying literally anything to fix the problems is better than just complaining.

So what can you do? Well have a think about your retro before hand. Write down all the stuff you want to complain about, and give it a google. You will be surprised that your problems are probably not unique. You may find some cool ideas to fix the problems, jot them down.

Now when you head into the retro stick up your problems, once they are up for discussion you can bring up some sample solutions. Now the fun begins, you get to suggest trialing something new for a few weeks. I suggest making one maybe two small changes and seeing what happens. Making too many changes can cloud the outcome. You wont be able to tell what worked and what didn’t, and this can very easily lead you back down the same old path. After you have decided the change to make as a team, try it as an experiment for a few weeks, at least until the next retro.

Now you are in a much better position. Make sure to keep an eye on the problem you are trying to solve with your new experiment. Also don’t get discouraged if your experiment fails, this is normal, learn why it didn’t work and change it. The important thing is you are trying something.

So try something, try anything, but don’t sit around and say you are all out of ideas when you have tried nothing.

Let me know how your experiments get on.

Why I Hate Story Points

Story points, everybody’s favorite scrum activity. I understand they are meant to be used to help size stories. What usually happens is they are used to determine a team’s velocity.

A sprint goal suddenly becomes lets get 20 story points done this sprint, not let’s deliver stories that have business value.

Also what happens to unknown work that ends up needing to be done, but wasn’t pointed? Well it still has to be done, but if you are judging a team on only story points, then they won’t get any credit for it. So maybe the team failed the sprint goal as they only got 10 points done, but in reality 10 stories only 2 of which had been pointed. Those 8 stories were totally unexpected work, we all know that happens from time to time.

So the standard system seems to be, backlog grooming in which planning poker happens, and stories all get sized by a guess.
A sprint is then planned on how many story points we can do. Where this falls apart is it is nearly impossible to guess how long a story will take from just reading some acceptance criteria.

So what’s my solution? Well in the past I have talked about specification by example as a means to split stories, but where does this fit in a Scrum world?

Well how about in your backlog grooming sessions, instead of just reading the acceptance criteria and voting, use examples.
By using examples here, we can usually see how big or small a story is, the idea being to get a story done in close to a week. So the rule of thumb is usually 4 or 5 examples per story.

Maybe you get a story that has 10 examples, well we can split it here. Now we have two stories in the backlog ready to go. If for some reason some managers still need story points, grand we can just make sure all stories are roughly the same size. If each story has roughly 4 examples then pick your favorite number, 3 for example. All stories are then 3 or smaller.

The idea being to focus on delivering the value of story and not wasting time trying to guess points. Adding up the amount of time spent guessing these numbers will show you how much time we are wasting on this exercise. It reminded me of this Dilbert cartoon.

dilbert

Eventually your team will get really really good at sizing stories using examples and since all the stories are 3 points anyway, points will fall away.

In a previous blog I talked about the three amigos and discuss and distill. This is basically moving the discuss part of the 3 amigos into backlog grooming to help split stories. You can still keep the 3 amigos lanes on your board, as we can still use the examples as test cases, and here we can double check and make sure everyone understands everything before starting work.

OK you might ask me, well how do I measure my team’s velocity? Well you can measure the cycle time to done.

Say a new feature has 10 stories in it, and these ten stories have been groomed using specification by example. We can then say that each story should roughly take a week. Then the feature will be ready to go in roughly 10 weeks.

By getting better at our story sizing (which happens with practice) we can become predictable instead of trying to guess how long something will take.

Give it a go and let me know how you get on.

Agile Tour Dublin Notes

Firstly I must apologize for the lack of attention this blog has been getting recently. It has been a busy few months for me.
Secondly this post is yet again not going to be BDD part 3. I recently went to the Dublin agile tour, and have to share my notes. As always it was a brilliant day, with loads to be learnt, and a great after session which left me feeling a little sore the next day.

Agile Innovation – Colm O’hEocha (@ColmOhEocha)

Colm started the day by talking about how agile can lead to teams innovating. He said that every line of code we write represents cost, and the traditional development view is to do everything the same way every time. This may work for cakes, but we are not baking cakes, we are actually making recipes. So why would you make the same recipe over and over?
What we need to start doing is ship less code that delivers more value. So how do we do this? Well Colm suggests we change our way of working. Focus on maximising the value delivered not just on shipping code.
Innovation is about learning fast. So we need to create an environment where we are able to learn fast. Colm explained that waterfall is a bad environment to learn in, as we only learn at the end. Agile works well as it is all about learning. We try to figure out the problem via user stories and reviewing them. We create solutions to try and fix the problem. We use tools like the three amigos to create the best solution. Then finally we implement and deliver the problem fix. We do this in small increments and thus gaining fast feedback.

Knowledge is validated learning, so we need to try something to see if it is true. Fast feedback is so important as we need feedback to prove our ideas. If you want to learn a lot, do something that has a 50 percent chance of failing. We need to create a common goal for the team. Have everyone working on the same problem, not just ba first, dev in the middle and test at the end. We need to have rules set in place to show how we are going to work together, what is the team’s definition of done?
Innovation will happen when we learn by doing something, and then change what doesnt work. We need to create an environment of creative chaos, agile and scrum support these environments. You need something that challenges people, but doesn’t overwhelm them. For an innovative environment people should have more information than they need. To create a new idea, you need to have knowledge to combine. If you starve yourself from good information you are restricting yourself from innovation. Our teams need to have trust, the more trust the more we will share information.

 

The 7 Deadly Sins Of Scrum – Fran O’Hara (@OHaraFran)

7Sins

Fran started out by saying Scrum is the dominant agile framework. So he would like to share with us 7 sins he has seen to help improve our agility.

Sin 1: Taking our eyes off culture.
Agile is about people, and people tend to resist change. So we need to embrace people. Don’t be tied to a plan, we need to embrace change and follow people. Don’t use contracts as a stick to beat people with. It is not simply, we do standups we are now agile. We need to get senior management buy in. Success is more much likely if we align with our stakeholders. If the people doing the work don’t buy into it, it won’t work. You will get a blame culture, the testers blame the devs, the devs blame the testers, etc. So we need to hire staff who enjoy working in an agile environment, does HR know this? Are they training staff, and looking for people with the correct skills?
It is all about people, remove fear and build trust. How you communicate change should take into account how it will affect people. You need to create a team culture. Encourage people to have a mix of roles, to be cross functional. The hardest part is getting people to work together.

Sin 2: Push versus Pull.
Only the team should pull the scope of the sprint. Not a PM or an SM, it’s the team’s job, the work should not be pushed on them. If you start to increase scope by pushing in work, you will cause problems. Technical debt will build up, people will start hiding work, quality will drop as people cut corners to get work done. Make sure to have a WIP limit, it’s a pull system like Kanban.

Sin 3: Planning Sins.
Our planning either daily or sprint, should only be done by the team. Sometimes daily planning just becomes a status report. It should be a self organising team planning the day’s work. Make sure the whole team is involved in sprint planning. It is not just planning, it is joint design so we need the whole team.
Our release planning needs to be light and adaptive. We need to have a test first approach. Don’t call it a plan, it’s not a set in stone commitment to deliver on X date, its an adaptive forecast. Try and figure out the biggest risks, focus on fixing them.

Sin 4: Product backlog refinement.
We need to make sure we have valuable items in our backlog. We need to have the whole team, otherwise we will need another meeting to explain everything to the team. We need to focus on story sizes. If the stories are too large we will end up with mini waterfalls.

Sin 5: Definition of done.
A lot of teams don’t have one, or have one and ignore it. It should be ever changing. We should use retros as a place to change it. Ask how are things really going?
The definitions can be too vague, tests are passing, but what does that really mean? What tests? Does everyone on the team know what tests, and what passing means? We need to have transparency and trust. Do all the teams have one? Does our organisation have a standard, if so make sure it is not too descriptive. We want teams to be able to adapt and change the definition of done to suit their own needs.

Sin 6: Sprint backlog.
We need early testing integration, this stops mini waterfalls. TDD is a big practice, early testing is good. We should have story level test practices. Test cases are only valuable if validated by the developer and business analyst. The devs can then write code to make those test cases pass. The worst thing is having test as a verify column, testing should be at the start and integrated.

Sin 7: Scrum master sins.
Scrum masters should be a team servant. They should not act like a team manager. Not focusing on teams culture is a big problem. Another problem is having a part time scrum master, this will damage a team. Also the scrum master needs to learn to use the power of a retro.

Testing In Devops – Vincent Pretre

Vincent started with a question. What is the best thing we can get from a devops world? Speed. We can minimise the total time through the loop, thus we get faster feedback. We need to make sure what we want to deliver will help our users.
Why do we want to change how we work? We want to challenge business assumptions, we want to make sure what we are delivering will have value.
We need to create an intimacy between our users and our teams.

Tools like BDD can be used to capture the software’s behavior. This creates a shared understanding of how the software works using examples. Everyone in the company should be able to understand these examples. Once the examples are automated they become a living document of how the software works.
But automation is expensive so do not fully rely on it. Use the testing pyramid, we should have more unit tests.
The next step is to write code to make all these tests pass, then to make the feature available. Roll out the feature once the implementation has been validated.

We want availabilty over pure correctness. We want the feature available for customers to play with.
We then iterate. Maybe the feature can be changed or removed? Back to step one we go, find the value of the feature.
What are the values to working in a testing driven devops world?
We get testing done up front, increasing the features value.
We can work incrementally and focus on the customer’s needs first.

We now have an environment which allows for experiments and new learning.

Our Move From Scrum To Kanban – Hugh O’Donoghue, Gordon McGuirk, Colum Kelly

What were the problems that made us want to change?
Scrum was just focused on keeping people busy. The delivery of work was very unpredictable. Tester were under serious pressure. Two weeks of work had to be tested in 2 days and the end of a sprint. We were doing loads of things, but nobody could tell if any of them were valuable. We had scrum processes in place, but none of the them were giving any value.

So what did we do to change this?

We created a plane to change things. We did a lot of training. We brought in outside coaching to get teams up to speed. To create a sustainable organisation we needed to make a deep change. Everybody had to understand what and why we were changing our process.

A big thing to watch, was trying to stop old bad habits from coming back. Make small incremental changes, don’t change everything at once.

The first change they made. Create a board, make sure all the work is visualised. They learnt they were doing A LOT of work at the same time, and A LOT of it was bug fixing. There was too much work being done at the same time, way too much context switching.

So they stopped that, they added a WIP limit to the board. By limiting the work in progress they increased their flow. Eventually they noticed that sprints feel away, as by doing less work they were getting more done.  

But some problems still showed up.

There was very little movement between lanes, devs did dev, qa did qa, there was little collaboration. So they created explicit lane policies, encouraging collaboration. Also they started gathering and using metrics, they became metrics driven. This allowed them to focus on different areas and use experiments to change things, using the metrics to see if the experiments worked.
Every team was different, so did not have to move at the same pace. That was a very important realisation.

Some other things that helped with move to Kanban. Playing games with the teams to highlight WIP limits and explain Kanban. They even hosted meetups including our own ministry of testing meetup (thanks again lads). This allowed the teams to share their discoveries with the outside world, and find out how other companies work.

Agile UX and Testing – Magda Targosz (@AgileMagda)

Magda started by saying that all we want to do is deliver a product to our customers. But not just any product, something that they want to use. What tends to happen though is as our product evolves the customers use changes. So what does the customer need?

Everyone might think they know the answer to that, but will have different answers. So Magda says we need to discover what our product is before we start building it.

So how do we do this? Well we need to work with our customers. Figure out their needs, and we can find out how to solve them. Magda suggests there are four key steps: Discovery, design, development and deployment. If we miss one of these steps, the other steps get more complicated and wrong. We need to ask who our customers are, create personas to capture how they think and use our product. Figure out what attracts them to your company, and what makes them tick.

Magda suggests bringing in the whole company and creating a goal, create a high level concept design. Start by answering the questions, found in the below picture.

questions

Make everything visual, humans like to see before we create. Create a hypothesis and test it. Make wire frames, these are light weight as most will probably be thrown away, but will get us started.

Magda suggests using impact mapping and story boarding to bring the project ideas to life. Impact mapping and design phases become much easier as the team has been involved in all the previous steps.

Magda recapped by saying we need to learn who our customers are, find out what they want, and test our ideas BEFORE we start to develop them.

Make my team great again – Mary Walshe (@mary_walshe)

Mary started out by playing a small game with us to teach attribution theory. She should a picture of a badly parked car, said it was our car, and asked why did we park so badly?

Everyone wrote their answers on post it notes and they were collected. The majority of the answers were external problems. Something made me late, somebody else parked badly etc etc. Mary then showed a similar picture and asked, someone else has parked like this, why did they do it?

After the post its were collected, we had a new set of answers. These were all blaming the other person, the person is lazy or stupid. Mary explained we describe behavior in two ways, internally and externally. Internally is for us and our friends. They did bad as something was out of their control, they are good people, they did not mean it. Externally is for people we do not know, they are stupid, probably bad people, therefore they did bad as they are idiots.

So, how does this affect our teams? Well if we don’t know each other, we can tend to explain problems away externally. Those testers are idiots, those developers are idiots etc.

Marys answer is to get your teams collocated. We need to get everyone on the same page, if people are sitting together and working together, there is less of a chance to fall into us versus them.
Mary suggested making our lane policies explicit and making sure everyone on the team understands them, this will get everyone on the same page.

Everyone is coming to work to do a good job, so we need to make sure our team has an environment where they can collaborate, instead of blame.

After the talks I attended a KanBan pizza game. This allowed teams to learn the principles behind KanBan by making pizzas. Overall it was a fantastic day, I recommend everyone come along next year.

Netflix – Less Is More

I know, I know I said I’d write part 3 of the BDD post. I promise I’ll get to it.

But recently I started watching a new Netflix show that got me thinking. It’s called Castlevania. It completely appeals to the Dungeons and Dragons playing geek in me, everyone should watch it.

But what I thought was interesting was how the show aired. I was told about this show by my friend, he was complaining that as he was just getting into it, IT ENDED.

Netflix has trained us to binge our TV, we can’t wait week to week anymore. They drop whole seasons at once, they even autoplay the next episode. That’s what I thought was interesting about Castlevania. They only made 4 episodes.

Now recently Netflix has been cancelling some of their shows. So I thought that maybe only releasing 4 episodes of this was a kind of taster. I found a cool quote from the CEO of Netflix Reed Hastings on cancelling shows. He said, “I’m always pushing the content team. We have to take more risk. You have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall.” This is amazing lean thinking, keep trying new things, fail often and learn from it.

After watching the show, I totally agreed with my friend. So I took to facebook to see what everyone else is thinking. I found this:

Pasted image at 2017_07_25 02_51 PM (1)

Loads of people demanding more of the show. Don’t believe me, give it a google. Check out the reddit page, or the rotten tomatoes reviews. Now I am not claiming to understand why there was only 4 episodes. I know that kind of animation is hard to produce and takes a lot of time. But after reading the CEO’s comments, I would like to think this is a minimum viable product of sorts. Get your users addicted to binge watching TV, then only release a few episodes. Then just wait for feedback. If nobody replies, you have only wasted the time it takes to make 4 episodes. But if people demand more, well you can start working on more.

It looks like it worked. As you can see if the screenshot above Netflix are making 8 more episodes. So what can we learn from this?

Fast feedback is the key. Are we building a big feature currently? Does it really need everything? Would it make more sense to have something simple that just shows the basic idea? It doesn’t need to look pretty (my designer friends will hate me for that). Once it shows off something new, it can be used for feedback. All the rest can be done with the customer who is interested. Maybe the cool new feature you are building is actually not going to sell, it would be great to find that out early.

Let me know what you think.

Where To Start Part 2

This is the second part of my original where to start with BDD post, which can be found here: https://thoughtsontest.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/where-to-start/

Alright so now our team is a bit more collaborative. We have a multifunctional team, with some developers, a tester and a BA. We are also visualizing our work, and limiting it so there is work being finished and not just started. Now we are in a position to introduce BDD.

So at this point we should have some form of KanBan board. Work starts in the “To Do” lane and continues to the “In Progress” lane. Something interesting to think about, are there many bugs being found in the testing lane? In the last post I talked about developers not picking up new work until all the bugs found in the testing lane are fixed. But how can we try to prevent those bugs in the first place?

no-bed-bugs

This is where BDD fits in nicely. For those that don’t know, it stands for behaviour driven development. I have previously talked about what it is and why I love it. It allows for a conversation before any code is written. Personally I have found most bugs come from missing or misunderstood requirements. So if we can agree on acceptance criteria together then there will be less confusion in requirements and less bugs.

The easiest way to start is by adding a new lane to your board. After “To Do” and before “In Progress” add “Discuss”. So what happens in this new lane? The answer is simply a conversation. This is where the 3 amigos fit in. A tester, a business analyst and the developer who has just picked up the story. The most important aspect of BDD is this conversation. We can now talk about the requirements, and the expected behaviour of the software. This conversation should remove confusion in what the value of the story is.

This is easier if we just start with a user story and no acceptance criteria. The AC will be written as a group. Each person will bring their own unique viewpoint, if there is already acceptance criteria then confirmation bias can make us miss something. As it is easier to just not think and accept was is already written down.

What I have found works is specification by example. So start by trying to capture the behaviour using examples. John Ferguson Smart recently ran a workshop in which he talked about example mapping. I loved it and his ideas can be found here: https://johnfergusonsmart.com/feature-mapping-a-simpler-path-from-stories-to-executable-acceptance-criteria/

Using examples can also be a great judge of story size. Usually if there are more than 4 examples I recommend splitting the story. Keeping stories nice and small reduces complexity and helps get fast feedback as they take less time to get to the customer.

BOOM we now have examples. Now its time to add a new lane, call it “Distil”. This is where we turn our examples into automatable acceptance criteria. The examples become “Given, When, Then” steps. These can then be automated as failing tests. The story can then progress into the development lane and can be started on.

To make this a little more clear, in my next post, I am going to go through a practice story.

So like Led Zeppelin famously sung we don’t want any “communication breakdown” driving us insane. Give this a try and let me know how you get on.

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Test Bash Belfast – Afternoon Session

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One thing I enjoyed was that lunch was provided. This means nobody had to leave and we got to meet and talk to fellow test-bashers. My favourite part of any conference or meetup is meeting folks. You can learn from talking to fellow testers just as much if not more than from some talks.

On to the afternoons talks.

Shift Left, Shift Right, And Improve The Centre – Augusto Evangelisti (@augeva)

Gus started off by saying it was ok to sleep during his talk as he had the after lunch death slot. Of course Gus is way to energetic for anyone to fall asleep.
He started out by busting some myths about continuous delivery (CD). Such as:

  • CD does not work for complex things
  • CD teams have buggy software
  • CD can only work in non regulated industries

Gus went on to mention various companies such as Facebook who proved these wrong. We tend to complain that our software is too complicated for this to work with, but we would be lying if we said we are more complex than Facebook.

A team should be able to envision, analyze, monitor, and support software. Teams can do this, in three main brackets, left, right and the centre.

Shift Left:
Reduce the complexity of the code. Chunks of code should be small, Gus said about the size of your head. This makes it easier to review and maintain.
Using BDD as a collaboration tool will help keep work focused and uncomplex. This leads nicely into test automation. Pair programming can help reduce complexity and ties in well with code reviews. Another cool idea was mob programming. Maybe trying it for one or two stories and seeing how it works. Of course impact mapping is also a brilliant way to question the value of features, before any code is written. Gus then mentioned improving testability but thanks to Rob from the morning did not have to delve into the subject. Another good shift left activity mentioned was WIP limits, this allows a team to focus on tasks and actually start getting work finished not just started.

Improve The Centre:
The centre is usually where we live as testers. We are used to exploratory testing and getting bugs found and fixed. But Gus says to help improve here, we can teach others. We can pair up with our team mates and teach exploratory testing. We can help everyone to get thinking like a tester, and at the same time improve our own dev and analysis skills. Pair exploratory testing is a great way to do this. Even showing some testing in the demo can help explain how we think, and help share ideas.

Shift Right:
Right shifting is all about finding the value in what we do. This is where we engage the customer. Gus suggests monitoring the customers use of our software. We can then see what is used and what doesn’t work. This allows us to use customer feedback to design new products. A great way of doing this, is by using canary releases. For those who don’t know what this is, here is Martin Fowler’s explanation: Canary release is a technique to reduce the risk of introducing a new software version in production by slowly rolling out the change to a small subset of users before rolling it out to the entire infrastructure and making it available to everybody.

As testers how can we help do this? Gus answered by saying we need to develop three core skills. These are:

  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Influencing

A Test Pyramid Heresy – John Ferguson Smart (@wakaleo)

John says that test automation is like any other tool. It is either a benefit or a hazard. So we need to ask ourselves, how much are our tests worth? Three questions we can use to figure that out are, why, what and how.

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What are we trying to test?
  • How are we going to test it?

Without asking these question the testing pyramid can very easily turn into the testing ice cream cone. Don’t use a web test when a service or unit test could do the same job. My favourite point John made was about writing unit tests. Writing unit tests after the code is written is largely a waste of time. Unit tests that are written after the code, will perfectly test that the code is doing the wrong thing. If we write the unit tests first we can guide how the code is written.

Tests come from different sources. There are three main areas:
Business tests – Typically acceptance criteria and created using BDD (feature mapping/example mapping).
QA tests – Usually exploratory and found manually.
Developer tests – These are usually unit and integration level tests.

Instead of focusing on writing loads of tests, start by writing examples of how the API should work. Tests should have three main roles:

  1. Discovery – Using tools like impact mapping to help figure out what features are valuable.
  2. Describe – BDD tools to help describe and document the software.
  3. Demonstrate – Tests should show the code does what you expected it to do.

Testing In Production – Jon-Hare Winton (@jonhw87)

My first thought when I heard this title was, this man is insane. Testing on production is pure madness. But I decided to put my bias aside and see if there was some method to the madness.

Jon started by saying we do most of our work very far away from where our users are. Test environments are not an accurate portrayal of live. OK he has a point here. Jon then says what’s wrong with our test environments. We test something, make a mess, don’t clean it up and move on. This leaves us with a really messy area to test. They are lower in importance to our dev environments so don’t get the same level of maintenance. They are inaccurate and full of weird test data. Are they really a good environment to use the software the same way as our customers?

Feature toggling was Jon’s recommendation. What has worked for them is toggle something off to the customer, but start testing on live. Jon was saying they started slowly, just manual testing, just a little bit. Eventually the automation was run on hidden live environments. So once the feature is tested on live it can then be toggled on and the customer gets to see and use it.

I was sold on the idea. I now want to try it. Testing on production, maybe not such an insane idea after all.

The End

This is where my notes ended. My head was about to explode with all the information I had taken in over the day. I decided to just listen for the last two talks. So I must apologise to Sharon McGee, and Simon Tomes (@simon_tomes ), for not having any notes.

Luckily though it has taken me so long to get this second post out, the talks have since been put online. I highly recommend everyone get over to the dojo and watch the talks, especially the last two, they were fantastic.
They can be found here: https://dojo.ministryoftesting.com/series/testbash-belfast-2017.

You can also look out for me messing up a 99 second talk, by not being able to make a solid point in 99 seconds (shocking I know).

Roll on Test Bash Dublin, watch this space for more details.