Last week we celebrated two exciting things on one of my project teams:

  1. Completing our 100th iteration (having used ScrumBut for most of it).
  2. Kicking off the switch to Kanban.

Two colleagues and I have been discussing the pros and cons of switching to Kanban for months.  After convincing ourselves it was worth the experiment, we slowly got buy-in from the rest of the project team and…here we go!

Why did we switch?

  • Our product’s priorities change daily and in many cases users cannot wait until the iteration completes.
  • Scrum came with a bunch of processes that never really helped our team.  We didn’t need daily standups, we didn’t like iteration planning, we spent a lot of time breaking up stories and arguing about how to calculate iteration velocity.  We ran out of problems to discuss in retrospectives and in some cases (IMO) forced ourselves to imagine new ones just to have something to discuss.
  • We’re tired of fighting the work gaps at the start and end of iterations (i.e., testers are bored at the iteration start and slammed at the end, programmers are bored at the iteration end and slammed at the start).
  • Deploying entire builds, filled with lots of new Features forced us to run massive regression tests, and deploy on weekends, during a maintenance window (causing us to work weekends, and forcing our users to wait for Features until weekends).
  • Change is intellectually stimulating.  This team has been together for 6 years and change may help us to use our brains again to make sure we are doing things for the right reasons.  One can never know if another approach works better unless one tries it.

As I write this, I can hear all the Scrum Masters crying out in disgust, “You weren’t doing Scrum correctly if it didn’t work!”  That’s probably true.  But I’ll give part of the blame to the Scrum community, coaches, and consultants.  I think you should strive to do a better job of explaining Scrum to the software development community.  I  hear conflicting advice from smart people frequently (e.g., “your velocity should go up with each iteration”, “your velocity should stay the same with each iteration”, “your velocity should bounce around with each iteration”).

When I was a young kid, my family got the game “Video Clue”.  We invited my grandpa over to play and we all read through the instructions together.  After being confused for a good 30 minutes, my grandpa swiped the pieces off the table and said, “anything with this many rules can’t possibly work”.

Anybody else out there using Kanban?

You don’t need bugs to feel pride about the testing service you provide to your team.  That was my initial message for my post, Avoid Trivial Bugs, Report What Works.  I think I obscured said message by covering too many topics in that post so I’ll take a more focused stab at said topic.

Here is a list of things we (testers) can do to help feel pride in our testing when everything works and we have few to no bugs to report.  Here we go…

  1. Congratulate your programmers on a job well done.  Encourage a small celebration.  Encourage more of the same by asking what they did differently.  Feel pride with them and be grateful to be a part of a successful team.
  2. If you miss the ego boost that accompanies cool bug discovery, brag about your coolest, most creative, most technical test.  You were sure the product would crash and burn but to your surprise, it held up.  Sharing an impressive test is sometimes enough to show you’ve been busy.
  3. Give more test reports (or start giving them).  A test report is a method of summarizing your testing story.  You did a lot.  Share it.
  4. Focus on how quickly whatever you tested has moved from development to production.  Your manager may appreciate this even more than the knowledge that you found a bunch of bugs.  Now you can test even more.
  5. Start a count on a banner or webpage that indicates how many days your team has gone without bugs.
  6. If the reason you didn’t find bugs is because you helped the programmer NOT write bugs from the beginning, then brag about it in your retrospective.
  7. Perform a “self check”; ask another team member to see if they can find any bugs in your Feature.  If they can’t find bugs, you can feel pride in your testing.  If they can find bugs, you can feel pride in the guts it took to expose yourself to failure (and learn another test idea).

What additions can you think of?

Ilya Kurnosov asked an interesting question regarding my Avoid Trivial Bugs, Report What Works post. He was referring to my statement:
"Instead of figuring out what works, they are stuck investigating what doesn’t work.”

Ilya asked:

Why did you use "stuck" referring to context of the other testers? Isn't "investigating what doesn’t work" more important than "figuring out what works" (other factors being equal)?

I love that question.  It really made me think.  Here is my answer:

  • If stuff doesn’t work, then investigating why it doesn’t work may be more important than figuring out what works.
  • If we’re not aware of anything that is broken, then figuring out what else works (or what else is not broken) is more important than investigating why something doesn’t work…because there is nothing broken to investigate.

When testers spend their time investigating things that don’t work, rather than figuring out what does work, it is less desirable than the opposite.  Less desirable because it means we’ve got stuff that doesn’t work!  Less desirable to who?  It is less desirable for the development team.  It means there are problems in the way we are developing software. 

An ultimate goal would be bug free software, right?  If skilled testers are not finding any bugs, and they are able to tell the team how the software appears to work, that is a good thing for the development team.  However, it may be a bad thing for the tester. 

  • Many testers feel like failures if they don’t have any issues to investigate. 
  • Many testers are not sure what to do if they don’t have any issues to investigate. 
  • If everything works, many testers get bored.
  • If everything works, there are fewer hero opportunities for many testers. 

I don’t believe things need to be that way.  I‘m interested in exploring ways to have hero moments by delivering good news to the team.  It sounds so natural but it isn’t.  As a tester, it is soooooo much more interesting to tell the team that stuff just doesn’t work.  Now that’s dysfunctional.  Or is it?

And that is the initial thought that sparked my Avoid Trivial Bugs, Report What Works post.

Thanks, Ilya, for making me think.

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