Category Archives: A leader ships

House Rules For Rules

A few years ago my wife asked me to attach some tubes to the wall. I noticed that there was little room for a wrench. So I used a ratchet wrench as shown in the picture.

There is an unwritten rule to use a wrench for a nut and a bolt.

There is no rule for the type of wrench.

Proof in the pudding

In the kitchen one of my kids was stirring in a pan:
“30 seconds should be enough, but I think it is not enough.”

I stopped with my actions:
“Is that not long?”

“Last time it went all right.”
I tried to remember the taste, the structure, and the smell of the dish. But I had only positive thoughts.

I remarked:
“First you follow the rules. Then you must change them.”

“Must?” was the reaction.
“I mean: if you think it will make things better.”

“Your boss will not be happy.”, my kid remarked.

“If you stick to the rules, then you will not become better than your teacher.
Otherwise everything will remain the same.

Not all experiments will go right, so you need some room.

My boss is also experimenting:
“I have this product.”
Customers will give feedback:
“We would like to have another product.””

Hide or Seek Outside the Comfort Zone

You can only listen
Aaltje Vincent about Twitter

The day after Christmas I saw a question from Kim about test types on Twitter. She could not find the desired information. I remembered a long serie of Jean-Paul about test types.

I did a quick search on the internet and found some useful definitions. On my reply a most grateful reply returned. Twitter can be quite helpful. In deed.

The truth is out there.
Special Agent Fox William Mulder

In order to prepare my tests I use Gherkin to describe my test ideas. Okay. I slow down a bit.
In the defect registration system I can add comments. I use Gherkin, because it is a high level language. It saves me the pain of dealing with all kinds of technical details. Which can change of course. Which is out of my control.

The devops in the team use Gherkin for their unit tests, so they can use my test ideas in case of jumping in. One devops tends to browse my scripts with test ideas. So it actually saves me time and I can do more exploratory testing. The unit tests are quite thorough.

One day I was looking for test ideas for removing items. It was simple and therefore deceiving. I did my run with SFDIPOT.
O stands for Operations, how will it be really used?

I imagined the users looking at the same item. What would happen, if two users would delete the same item?

I stood up and saw the devops who had the best overview of the system. I walked a few meters and started a chat about the simultaneous removal actions. He listened and agreed that this should be taken care of.

My scrum master joined in with a minimum of words: “Race conditions”.
Back on my desk I searched for race conditions.

I felt comfortable when I asked my question. The 2 words of my scrum master increased the safety. For me and the others

Ask yourself, “What would my cheerleader say to me right now?”
Denise Jacobs

One of the best things about the testing community is 30 days of testing. On twitter you can find a lot using the search term #30daysoftesting. The hash tag is a label which can be used to find relevant information or questions. E.g. #testing, #softwaretesting.

One of my best Twitter months was July 2016. There were small and big challenges in 30 days of testing and participants were encouraged to share their progress on the internet. Testers over the whole world participated.

I liked the atmosphere. Trying to create strange tweets which still fulfilled the challenges posed. Some of my tweets got likes and I became more comfortable with Twitter. It was possible to share my thoughts about testing. With people I never met.

I think #30daysoftesting is great. Thanks for making it happen
Bret Pettichord

“Just name two people who are quite influential in the test community about complexity.”
“Let me guess.”
“Hey I was first. To let you guess.”
“Dave Snowden and Nassim Taleb”

“Why those two?”
Snowden made Cynefin. For me it is a model how to handle in certain situations. Nassim Taleb made INCERTO. He focuses on becoming anti fragile.”

What was I struggling with?
Is there any relationship between Cynefin and INCERTO?

So I used Google and another search engine. I could not find something on the web which addressed my question. With a bit of luck this is the first one with a first step.

The same day I answered Kim’s question I looked to the tweets from Dave Snowden. He was busy with the principles of antro-complexity. He welcomed questions. For three days I had been polishing my question.
So I tweeted my question how these principles did fit in the genealogy of INCERTO.

I got a reaction.

Without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness.
Stephen Covey

Test Creativity, Inc.

Using the book ‘Creativity Inc.’ as a basis for this blog post, I made a mistake. I tried to craft a compelling story, how creativity could be used in every phase of software testing. But the post became a struggle for me. Then I realised that the book was not about creativity or management. It was about leadership. Let me write about it.

Learn, Struggle, and Tell

During one of my workshops about mind mapping I talked with a colleague, who was specialised in project support. She told me, that she already had been taught mind mapping during her master class. She was quite proud about the nice mind map as a deliverable of one master class group project. She described the beautiful details, but I sensed some reluctance to use mind maps for her daily work.

One of my kids had to give a talk. In the US it is called Show and Tell. An object is shown to the class and the pupil tells about it. The teacher of my kid would give a penalty, if no mind map could be shown.

Where’s the fun?

Flow and Tell

What I like about mind maps, is that they are playful in use. I can get in a flow, during which I can add and modify information in a continuous way. I can focus and defocus. With a single delete action I can remove a complete subtree of information.

A mind map makes a TODO list more interactive than a standard checklist. I can make sub tasks and move them around. It shows me, which things need my immediate attention.

This is useful fun for me.

Use and Tell

Years ago I used to work for a consultancy firm. This company had a special program for consultants between projects. One of the workshops was Introduction Mind Mapping, which appealed to me as a knowledge worker. The reasons to attend my workshop were different:

  • “I am curious, what mind mapping is.”
  • “I heard good stories about this workshop.”
  • “It might be useful for my work.”

During the years it became a feel good workshop. I found the right mix between practice and entertaining stories.

In order to maintain the quality of the workshops I was requested to collect filled in evaluation forms. Once I even scored a 10 for the whole workshop on scale from 1 to 10. You guessed right: 10 is perfect. For Dutch people this is quite exceptional. Most of the time I scored 8 or 9, which is good.

The feedback about the use of mind maps after the workshop was quite limited. One consultant used a mind map in a presentation, which I attended.

Another consultant had a long call with me to look at the use of mind maps as a vehicle for knowledge management. And there were a few more.

Show and Provide

There was not enough time to make a test plan. My project manager was quite strict: you have to do your job with the available resources. So I asked my project lead to use a mind map. The reaction was like “Sure, why not?”
I confirmed my request:
“You won’t get [word processor] doc, but a mind map.”
“That’s no problem.” she answered with a smile.

I went back to my computer and made one of the most compact test plans ever. I mailed the plan to her and started playing the theme of Mission Impossible in my head. I succeeded.

Later I heard that the plan was converted to a document. This was not entirely my intention.

Show them & They Tell me

Another time another mind map. This time I presented the test plan mind map to the stakeholders. It was scrutinised and becoming better after each feedback. Weeks later I requested information from a colleague, she answered with:
“I looked to your mind map and […]”.
Just imagine that smile on my face.

A few weeks later I got questions from another colleague. I opened my mind map and talked about the options. It was highly constructive. Test ideas were reframed with new facts and questions. The focus was on the content and not on the form.

There’s No Business like Show Business

There are many people, who already use mind maps like me. So my creativity is not that high. The use of test plans for management is standard in many companies. But the constructive discussion about the tests to be executed was quite unique for me. My test plan mind map was discussed, adjusted, and used to give a direction.

Am I a leader, because people follow me? Maybe they are chatting and not paying real attention. Maybe I am a leader when I tell the right direction in the back of the group. But they might follow another group or be led by some else in the group.

Real leadership is granted and not imposed.

A stoic view on the Circle of Influence

This is a story, which matured over the years. Lingering in my thoughts waiting to be told.
So behold.
(Yes, it is time for a rhyme.)

Circle of Concern

At the end of the workshop Introduction Mind Mapping I told, that I was working on a workshop about ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’. Two young colleagues reacted immediately. All smiles and eagerness.
“I want to come. Where is it?”
This announcement was a typical case of skin in the game. I could not stop now.

I kindly informed the programme committee about my intentions. Also now I had strong reactions: offices were fighting for my workshop. I picked the first office, which had reacted. After the announcement other consult giving colleagues on projects reacted with:
“Are you willing to give the workshop in the evening?”

During my time as a consultant I visited the office regularly between projects. People had finally time to wind down after a busy period. There was also time to study books. The book of Covey was an intriguing one. It was hard to grasp and it was a must read. This was a real dilemma.

The first time I told about my plans. A friend reacted with:
“You are all smiling.”

During the first day of the workshop I introduced the Circle of Concern.
“The Circle of Concern contains things you bother about.”
A compelling example was easily chosen: that very evening a manager might call team members, that they were fired.

Circle of Influence

I also pointed out, that not everyone or everything in the Circle of Concern could be influenced. So I signed a Circle of Influence inside the Circle of Concern.
“Can you call some persons you cannot influence?”
After a suggestion I placed a dot with Manager inside the Circle of Concern, but outside the Circle of Influence. More options were discussed and more dots placed.
Particularly in the Circle of Influence.

On my way home I received a call from my emotional manager:
“I have to call you, because you are fired.”
I protested formally and the call ended.

That very evening I  concerned people by phoning them, that I was fired. Looking back at this period my wife said:
“You were really confident to get a new job.”
Due to the exercise I knew exactly what to do. There was no grief, only determination.

Interlude

In the days after the dreadful call I was kindly requested to stop all my activities including the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Attendees protested to no avail. What I had planned as a viral workshop, was put on hold.

Looking back to this course of circumstances I might challenge the reader to point out a Circle of Concern and a Circle of Influence. There are multiple. What I want to write, is to give a philosophical view of the story.

Stoicism as a Service

I still remember the discussed options in my Circle of Influence. They gave me a direction to move. There were no emotions at that moment.

While writing this article I somehow became emotional. I tried to trace it back to its roots: I was reflecting the emotions of my manager and my co-workers.

Once I heard a family member quoting, that being fired is one of the most emotional things that can happen to people. The actual message of the firing did not influence my emotions. I somehow reflected the negative wave.

Until a week ago I did not give much thought about it. A common thought would be:
“I take this as a grown up. I won’t budge. No cry.”
But then I had no superman feelings at all.

Some people might say that I was past the denial phase. Or was it “Walk your talk”?

I was rational at that moment. Bad thoughts were not bugging me. I had a stoic attitude during those days. I viewed the loss of a job as a broken shoestring. I just needed a new 1.

Is a stoic approach not a bad way of living? A denial of emotions and focusing on the current steps. I once read a book about stoicism and one of the lessons was to shield myself against negative thoughts and let the positive feelings in.

I still remember that great feeling, when my young co-workers were excited about announcement of the workshop 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Or feel the excitement of my colleagues on projects. Or that warm smile of me, when I heard “You are all smiling.”, when I told my plan to a friend.

Does this Circle of Influence make me bullet proof against bad feelings? No.
During the writing of this blog post I felt the loss of my former manager and the disappointment of my colleagues. As a tester I am still busy to keep my emotions under control. And I think, that it can be useful to show, that I am not pleased with a particular situation.

I am a testing human being, not a testing robot.

a Test Fuga On 2 A Flat Screens – Part 2

A single note might be forgotten; a melody might be engraved in one’s memory.

Words can be compared with music notes. In most cases a single word does not make much sense for a tester. Performance is too vague, good too ambiguous, funny too personal. In my previous blog post I described, how I had gathered useful information and created test ideas using mind maps. Now I had some groups of words, pieces of a melody. Time for music!

Let’s have a look

Now I had a lot of test ideas. The best way to combine them is to use a test charter. The first test charters were not exciting like “Explore the interface by finding the right buttons for the functions”. This sounds silly, but I could not explore, what I could not find.

So what about the two screens as mentioned in the title? During my test I had two computer screens in front of me. On one screen the Application Under Test was shown, on the other screen my Word Processor. With a turn of my head I could switch between the application and my notes.

Let’s make notes
At the start of my test session I noted relevant information like day, time, version, and test database in my document. Sometimes I described actions I had performed. I did not write all my actions, which would slow down the tests or my flow of thoughts. In case of possible bugs I would go back and describe other relevant steps for a proper repro path or reproduction path of the bug. Print screens were also useful to accelerate the note taking.

The programmer had warned me, that it was not possible to schedule the data exchange. So I only tried to look at the buttons. I found a button and clicked on it by accident. (A typical case of an automatic target seeking index finger.) This was a waste of time. But the application was still stable, so I assessed the situation. I had started the ad hoc operation.

I switched to the Windows Explorer. Maybe some traces of my action were still visible. In a subdirectory for temporary files I found interface files, which had been created shortly before. This was a bug: temporary files must be deleted after use. And a great opportunity to dissect the files.

Let’s cover

The structure of the interface files was relatively simple. So I chose a mind map to record the coverage. For every file a branch was added. For every type of record a sub branch was added to the branch of the file. If the record had passed the tests, I placed an OK icon on the branch. Otherwise a NOK icon was placed.

In case of files with many combinations I once used a spreadsheet to describe the coverage.

Let’s debrief

After the first test charter I noticed, that I spent more than the planned 1 hour. On the other hand I had started testing the most important part of the interface, the files. The one hour limit was too short for a good test session, so I extended it to two hours in later test sessions.

Then I updated my mind maps. I used a partial filled circle icon to indicate, how much I had completed the test charter. Furthermore I used similar icons to mark the progression of my test ideas. So one screen contained my mind map and the other screen my document with my notes.

Let’s ask

Whenever I had any questions, I added those to the mind maps. I marked the branches with question mark icons. A question could be like “How many attempts are made to transfer the files?” After I got the answer, I would put it in the mind map, removed the question mark icon, and updated the test charter mind map, if necessary.

During the test I asked the programmer, whether I had to test both the ad hoc service and the scheduled service in depth. He assured me, that the same code was used for both services. This saved me a lot of time. The heuristic Avoid duplication of code had been used.

Let’s update
Every day I would look to the test ideas to be tested. Then I looked to my test charters. I focused on the test charters with the highest product risks. On a daily basis the mind maps were updated with every piece of information and progression was tracked.

In the meantime the option to schedule services for the interface was gradually implemented. I started to add branches in the information mind map to describe the proper steps to start up the services. Because this process changed regularly, I modified my mind map accordingly. I noticed that my fellow testers also were struggling with services. So I put this information next to the mind maps in the knowledge management system.

Let’s use markers

During the tests I used the two markers TODO and BUG in my notes. After BUG a short description of the unwanted situation was given most of the times accompanied by a print screen. TODO was used to mark down situations, which needed further investigation. If I ran out of ideas during a test session, then I searched for TODO. At the end of the session I would file bug reports for situations marked with BUG. Afterwards BUG was replaced by the defect number and short description.

Over time my use of keywords changed. My notes were a chronological list of actions and print screens. New notes were added at the end of the document. Sometimes it was hard to reproduce bugs. So I used hash tags like in Twitter like #DoubleTime. I replaced the marker BUG with my own test tag. At the end of the document I placed #DoubleTime. Then I started to make notes to reproduce the bug. Of course not all strange situations were reproducible. I noted that and marked it with #Remarkable. In the future strange situations could be found by looking for #Remarkable in the content of the files using Windows Explorer.

This system was still awkward. Now I had two places in the file referring to the same strange situation. Then I started to use indent like this:
01-okt   Invalid value shown on screen

15-okt    used 2, 3, and 5. Not reproducible

Let’s look forward

At the end I stored the latest versions of my mind maps in the knowledge management system of my company. Because the files had been created by a non-standard program, I added images of the mind maps as well. This saved some mouse clicks for the interested reader. I also updated the steps to install the services in a proper way.

It was a nice job. I had experienced exploratory testing and learned a lot. Now it is time for me to move on.