Category Archives: A leader ships

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.

Q&A Deployment Plan Meeting Part 2

Facilitator: Thank you for joining in once again. Han Toan has already answered a lot of questions about Deployment Test Meeting over here. These questions were raised after reading his writing about his Deployment Plan Meeting.

Questions are still coming in. I’ve got green cards from numbers 38, 95, and 12. Number 38, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 38: Did you take the communication styles of the attendees in the meeting into account?

Speaker: During the preparation of the meeting I sent a concept version of the Deployment Plan to all the attendees. So the techies could study all actions and make notes on it.

The project leaders also brought their hard copy. They used it to note down important actions. I would not be surprised, that it was also used for time tracking: will all actions be discussed during the meeting? There were also managers carrying small notebooks.

One of the biggest advantages of the beamer was, that changes were shown. Next to verbal clarifications.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 95, and 12, and 23. Number 95, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 95: A Deployment Plan looks like a scripted test case. People say, that there is no need to make a test case, if it is used once. So why the hassle?

Speaker: I consider the Deployment Plan as a checklist of ordered and dependent actions. Still people might consider it as a time consuming artifact or test case.

Due to the complexity of the system and the number of involved parties it is handy to have some kind of script ready for use. Weeks before the deployment there was enough time to think things over.

Let’s assume I have the idea to have a dinner with my team. There are practical things like the location and time period. But there are also other things to take into account: is the food not too hot by the use of peppers? Or is vegetarian food available? If this is the first time, then it takes some time to arrange it.

 

Facilitator: I’ve got green cards from numbers 12 and 23. Number 12, you can ask your question.

Attendee number 12: At the beginning of the meeting I would start with introductions. I missed that part in your story.

Speaker: To me it is a logical step, so I skipped it in my writing. But I agree with you, that a round of introductions is needed. I think, that it is good to realise, that you work with human beings with needs and feelings.

 

Facilitator: Number 23

Attendee number 23: Were enough technical people attending?

Speaker: It was a prerequisite for the meeting. Technical actions had to be discussed. A manager can be helpful, but a techie knows the implications.

To be frank with you, I have to add, that one system administrator was not present. I talked with him about all relevant actions for him. Then I got the assurance, that I could call him during the meeting.

 

Facilitator: A yellow card from number 38.

Attendee number 38: Were all involved managers involved?

Speaker: Yes, they were. It was relevant to get fast approval for additional actions. During the meeting a techie could look at his manager for approval.

 

Facilitator: At the moment there are no more questions on the stack. This is your last chance. Okay. I see number 2. Number 7 and number 9. Number 2.

Attendee number 2: What was your Lesson Learned from this meeting?

Speaker: During the meeting I also updated the Deployment Plan myself. This way costed me a lot of energy, because I also wanted to see, how people reacted. The next time I let someone else update the Deployment Plan.

 

Facilitator: Number 7.

Attendee number 7: Why do you share this story?

Speaker: For me it was a logical step to set up a meeting and be a chairman. It looked effortless to lead this process. It was not completely the case. What is important, that I want to share the steps and actions I took.

 

Facilitator: Number 2.

Attendee number 2: Why do you share this QA?

Speaker: This is my way to exercise answering questions. It is a quite thorough one, because it can strengthen my story. Sometimes I use the answers, the next time I tell my story.

Furthermore it shows, how K-cards can be used.

 

Facilitator: There are no more cards on the stack. I hope you had some refreshing blog posts about a deployment plan and a meeting. Next time there will a blog post about more technical stuff.

Have a nice day (and fruitful Deployment Plan Meeting:).