Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Being More Agile Without Doing Agile - a #PNSQC2019 Live Blog

Can I share a possibly unpopular opinion? I am not a fan of "Agile".

Now wait, let me clarify. I love BEING agile. Heck, who doesn't? I don't have a problem with the adjective. I have a problem with the Noun.

Also a confession. I'm here mainly because Dawn Haynes is talking. I've known Dawn for years and the irony is that I have had precious few times that I have actually been able to hear Dawn speak. Thus I consider this a perfect blend of opportunity and attitude :).

I like "little a" agility. Again, the actions and abilities. Those are all good things. They are helpful and necessary.  I like being nimble and quick where I can be.

What I have found less appealing in "Big A" Agile. Mainly because I find that when organizations try to implement "Big A" Agile, they become anything but "little a" agile.

As a software tester, I have often found that there is an afterthought when it comes to testing in Agile implementations. More times than not, what results are teams that kind of, sort of, maybe do some Agile stuff and then retrofit everything that doesn't actually feel right into a safer space.

Dawn emphasizes that the best way to achieve the goals of "Agile" is to actually "be agile". In other words, forget the process (for a moment) and focus on yourself and what you’re trying to accomplish.

A Comfort Zone is a Beautiful Place but Nothing Ever Grows There

For teams to get better, they have to be willing to go to places they don't really want to go to. There is a fear that going into the unknown will slow us down, will send us down paths we are not thrilled about going down, may not even get us to our end goal quickly. So we put a lot of emphasis on what I call "the priestly caste" and "the temple incantations". I'm not trying to be flip here, I'm saying that there are a lot of rituals that we reach for when we are not 100% sure about what we are or should be doing. As long as the rituals are met, we see comfort there, even if the rituals are adding little to no actual benefit. Are retrospectives helpful? They can be if they are acted upon. If they aren't then it is an empty ritual. Granted, it may take time and commitment to see the results of the retrospective findings and real results may not be manifest for weeks or months. Still, if we do not see that there are actual improvements coming from those retros, what is the point of doing them?

One of the interesting developments on my team related to agility and moving more quickly and effectively was to allow myself to wear whatever hat was needed at the moment. I'm not just a tester. Some days I'm a part-time ops person. Some days I'm a build manager. Some days I'm a release manager. Some days I've been a Scrum Master (and, in fact, I was a dedicated Scrum Master for three months). I was still a tester but I did what was needed for the moment and often that meant not being a "Tester" but always being a "tester"... see what I did there ;)?

Are test cases necessary? It depends on what you define as a test case. In my world, I go through a few waves of test case development. Almost never do I start with some super detailed test case. Typically I start with a 5000-foot view and then I look to get an idea of what is in that space. I may or may not even have a clear idea of how to do what I need to do, but I will figure it out. It's the process of that learning that helps me flesh out the ideas needed to test. Do I need to automate steps? Sure, but generally speaking, once I automate them, if I've done it right, that's the last time I need to really care about that level of granularity. Do I really care if I know exactly every step necessary to complete a workflow down to the property IDs needed to reference the elements? No, not really. Do I need to know that a unique ID name exists and can be used? Yes, I care a lot about that. In fact, that's about the most important finding we can make (see my talk about "Is this Testable?" about more of my feelings on this :) ).

The key takeaway, care more about the work and about being nimble than bowing to the altar of AGILE. I find much to value in that :).

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