All posts by Mindful tester

Can we scale down the tests?

The harmonica is a music instrument to carry with you easily. It has a disadvantage. If you have one with E scale, then it is difficult to play songs in another scale. You miss tones and it is harder to change tones. There are different solutions to this problem: you could bend tones or just buy a chromatic harmonica. But it will still be awkward to play tunes in another scale. So it is difficult to scale down.

If a manager walks into your cubicle with a suggestion to scale down tests, then it is time to get the big picture before the decision to skip tests. Let’s go back to George, my favorite fictive tester, and his fictive testers, whom he coach, and their fictive technology.

No real reason to scale down

At eleven o’clock in the morning George joined the meeting of the software testers.
“Hi every one, you had a nice weekend?”
“Yes, I just got back from Texas”, Pete said.
“The last time you advised me to sneak in testing terms instead of clarifying the test definitions and their benefits. Especially after a kind manager request to scale down the tests.”
George nodded.
“So I went to my boss and I said:
“The customer wanted a leather steering wheel. It is advisable to do a regression test: can you still steer the car in the right direction?”
My boss got the point and arranged, that I could join the car test team in Texas with the latest version of the leather steering wheel.”

Pete started fiddling with his smart phone.
“You really have to see this.
Jack, could you please open a port on the projector, so I can stream this movie?”
The screen showed a picture of the latest car model under test in a desert. The reactions of the other testers came directly:
“Nice headlights!”
“Great design.”
“Hey, I tested those side mirrors.”
George noticed: “This footage looks professional.”
Pete answered: “This is a standard procedure. There are 4 cameras recording. The one, whose images are shown on the screen, is from the observer at the start.”

“That’s me.”
On screen Pete came walking with a filled bottle of Vodka.
“Now you have to watch this and listen.”
Pete said on screen: “Hey guys, as promised: I will lose this bottle, if I do not find a bug.”
Chuckling was heard from the speakers and in the room.
Pete put the bottle on the ground and started the car.
He drove a small circle around the bottle.
“Yes, your bottle is still there.”
Another circle followed by another one.

A commanding voice was heard from the speaker:
“Enough playing around, Pete. Head to the track.”
The circling continued and the car started to gain speed and slip.
“Pete, stop the car.”
The sounds of the car became harder.
“I repeat: Pete, stop the car. ”
After 10 seconds
“Okay, hit the emergency button.”
The car stood still and Pete got out of the car dizzy.

On the screen a man with a red cap wearing a head set and a microphone came in view. He went straight to the bottle. “The seal is broken. You drank.”
Pete protested: “That’s not true.”
He pulled out a breathalyzer test from his pocket and blew hard on it.
The man with red cap snatched the test from Pete´s hands and observed the test.
He continued meekly:
“So you are sober. But what went wrong with the car?”

At the background the voice of a mechanic was heard.
After a shout of pain he said: “The steering wheel is real hot under the leather. I almost burnt my hand.”
Pete said to the red cap: “I found my bug. Give me high five.”
Before the red cap knew, what was happening, he gave a high five.
“So what is your diagnosis, tester?”
“Did you burn your hand, when you gave me a high five?”
The red cap looked astonished to his hand: “Of course not.”

“In this car model a special form of servo assisted steering is used using sensors, so car drivers do not have to grip the steering wheel. A car driver can move his hand above the wheel and the car will automatically turn.“
The red cap nodded.
“While you were preparing everything for the test drive, the leather steering wheel started heating up in a closed car in the desert. Because my hand is cooler than the leather, the sensors ignored the movement of my hand. But the sensors determined, that my hands were in another position based on the temperature measurements. With the consequence, that the car made small circles.”

The red cap was impressed.
George looked also impressed: “The next time they will pay more attention to the product risks than to the solved issues.”

Am I lean, doctor?

This summer I went to an extraordinary museum about cars. In the Louwman Museum in The Hague cars, which are landmarks in the history of the automobiles, were shown. The range was from motorized carriages to more familiar cars on the road. The owner had also a special interest in strange cars. I discovered, that electric and hybrid cars were already used at the beginning of the 20th century. Then a piece of furniture drew my attention: the desk of Dr. Toyoda. He worked for Toyota, which has a special approach for Lean Management.

Plans 2.0

For the test project I had two iterations, which took 3 weeks each. My planning for an iteration was simple: two weeks for the functional tests and the last week for the user acceptance test. To be more precisely 40 hours in the last week for 3 end users. I mailed the test plan to everyone and I got polite decline from the end users. In a normal week they had each 8 to 12 hours left in a week. So ideally 36 hours of testing would be filled in. But it was still too short. Overwork was no option. It was time to reschedule the activities.

A few months before I had bought The Toyota Way. It was mentioned several times by experienced Lean practioners, so I bought after browsing it. Heijunka, Level out the work load, came to my mind. If I somehow could move the testing hours of the end users towards the beginning of the test iteration, then the planning problem would be solved. Suppose function A was successfully tested during the Functional Acceptance Test (FAT), why should I wait to let this function tested by the end users? If FAT went well, then the first functions could be tested by the end users in the first week of the iteration. So I made new calculations: in worst case I have 3 end users, who have 8 hours left in 3 weeks, then I come to a total of 72 hours of testing. The new test planning was easily accepted by the end users.

How to convince your manager with a door handle?

“How much time do you need to test this? “ my manager demanded.
“I cannot give an estimation, because I do not know, how it has been corrected.”
Annoyance came in her voice:
“Han Toan, what are you talking about?”
A pressing silence followed.

I looked around for a simple object to make my message clear. A powerful trick I learned from a senior business consultant. My eye fell on the door.
“Suppose, that this door handle had been broken. The supplier fixed it.”
She nodded slightly.
So I continued: “What would you test, if they only replaced the door handle?
The door? The room? The floor? The wing? The building?”
The atmosphere changed in the room: she understood it.

At that moment I did not need to use plan B:
“If the building has been replaced, would you test the structure of the building before testing the door handle?
If the complete wing has been replaced, would you check the water pipes and electrical wiring before testing the door handle?
If the door has been replaced, would you also check the lock?”