Monday, August 29, 2011

Next Weekend Testing Session? That Depends on "Who’s Driving"

So I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Weekend Testing Americas has been active and running now for 9 months. We’ve had a range of sessions running from very good to mediocre and everything in between. Some have asked me when the sessions take place, and why aren’t they more frequent (August being a notable exception; we did three sessions in August, and that’s definitely a spike that will be hard to duplicate).

Sessions truthfully happen about every three weeks, and they happen every three weeks for a very simple reason… it’s about the amount of time I can guarantee a Saturday with enough time before, during and after the event to put everything together as a facilitator. In short, the sessions happen on the days that I can actually drive the bus.

Often I get asked “so when’s the next session?” It’s obvious people enjoy the structure, they enjoy the events and they enjoy the way that the process works, even when we bicker a bit here and there about the way that the events get put together. Over the past several meetings, we’ve addressed methods for how to conduct sessions and the things that people need to know if they want to conduct them. So now it’s time to do the next thing… when’s the next Weekend Testing Session? That depends on who’s going to drive it… and for WTA-19, it will not be me.

WHAT?!! Heresy!!!

Nope, it’s a little bit of tough love and a realization that I’m trying to close the loop on a dangerous loose end. It’s soccer season. My daughter plays on Saturdays. I want to watch her play. My son’s a Boy Scout and I’m his leader, we’re heading into the peak time of scouting events before winter comes. There are several testing activities and conferences coming up that I will be participating in. In short, I can’t guarantee that regular availability I’ve had over the past several months. It would be a shame to shutter something that’s working so well for so many people, and truth be told, I don’t want to. I care enough about this program that I want to give a little EDGE love to others, so I plan to do that, and will help any and all who want the experience, but our next session will have another driver. I could pick about half a dozen people who I think would do a great job, but I’d prefer hearing from those people directly, of course.

What do I mean by “driving”? I mean that you would:

• Develop a testing mission and charter(s). Note: you need not do this alone; many WTA participants are more than happy to help develop these with you, as am I.
• Announce the session.
• Create the permanent link to the session.
• Email and Tweet session details periodically leading up to the event.
• Set up the group so that participants could chat via Skype and add users to the session.
• Announce the mission and test charter(s)
• Watch the clock and make sure that we keep on time.
• Encourage questions, and reach out to participants who may not be actively participating.
• Mentor new testers, those who may not have any clue how a Weekend Testing session actually works.
• Lead the debrief/discussion about the current session, and explore the ideas and challenges seen.
• Publish the chat session and an experience report, and then alert any and all interested parties in the existence of the final report.

And that’s it, really :).

It sounds daunting, but in reality, it’s fairly straightforward and it’s actually quite fun to do once you get the hang of it. I’ll be happy to be co-pilot, and to help negotiate the sessions (note: I wasn’t given the green light to fly these solo until I did a few of them under the watchful eyes of Ajay Balamurugadas and Markus Gaertner, so of course I would give the same guidance to anyone else who would step up).

As we say in Scouting… “see one, do one teach one” is a powerful concept, and it really is that simple. If you’ve participated, you know how it works. If you have helped anyone in a session before, you’ve facilitated. If you’ve facilitated, you have the skills to lead. Is Weekend Testing Americas worth something to you? Is it worth enough to ensure its health and longevity? If so, I’d really like to talk to you and arrange for our next session, but be sure, there will not be a next session unless someone else climbs into the pilot’s seat.

Gang, really and seriously… it’s your move :).


Lisa said...

You've done a heroic job facilitating so many sessions, so I hope someone else will step up! I'm also unable to do Saturday sessions. Does anyone have an interest in trying a Weeknight Testers, like they do in Europe? Maybe a shortened version? I'd try to facilitate one (though I never have done it before) if there is interest.

Michael Larsen said...

Lisa, I'm totally open to changing the format, the times offered, or any other details. I'm not stepping out or quitting Weekend Testing, I'm encouraging others to step in and participate. As a facilitator, *you* can decide when and where you would like to do it (day, time, etc.).

I'd be happy to help you do so and show you what to do :).

Lisa said...

Sure, I'm willing to try it, I'm a little worried about the techy aspects of how the session gets set up. Can we talk about it sometime?

Michael Larsen said...

Gladly, give me a few days and I'll get you a cheat sheet of the things you do to manage a session.