søndag den 26. april 2020

Stop focusing on How, start focusing on Why... a testers reflections

A while ago I saw the TED talk from Simon Sinek about how great leaders inspire action. In the talk he introduces the golden circle, explaining the different perspectives WHY, WHAT, HOW - and how we should always communicate starting with WHY. Getting introduced to his golden circle got me thinking; Maybe some of the challenges we see in agile transformations could be prevented if we used that mindset?

We are so good at defining processes, describing swim lanes, creating templates etc. We train people in the method - the mechanics, but very often I think we forget to explain why. Do you know why your company is in the middle of an agile transformation? Has anyone explained to you why that journey was started, what value it will bring? have you read, and do you understand the 12 principles behind the agile manifesto?

If we don't understand the WHY, how can we then be good at the how and the what? A couple of examples.

I see companies that doesn't prioritize the continuous or at least the early focus on quality within their projects – on building quality in. Why do I want them to focus more on that?

Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

This is the first of the agile principles. How can you create early and continuous delivery of valuable software if you don't have the focus on ensuring that you are building the right thing... and building it right? How can you have that focus if you don’t’ focus on getting your foundation right? The user stories and accept criteria? How can you have a continuous focus on this if testing is something you do as a "finishing touch" done by the business?
Or another aspect; how can you have focus on value if the product owners chooses to define the user stories and acceptance criteria deciding the what and how, rather then explaining the value needed? The user story is a placeholder for a conversation – a conversation between PO and team, and the acceptance criteria is the input to the confirmation of whether we have created what the PO need. It is not a specification of what to create in detail, it is not the design.

Working software is the primary measure of progress.

Another of the agile principles. Who do you know if your software is working? you do that by executing the software - by testing it. Whether this is manual or automatic is another discussion, but you cannot say that your user story or feature is "done" if you haven't tried using it, focusing on both whether it works or not and whether it fulfils the needs of the users. Unit test, system test, acceptance test is still relevant in agile, just not as a phase but as a continuous activity across the lifecycle.

Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.

A major part of motivation is to understand the difference you are making, the value you bring to the team. This is relevant, no matter whether you are developer, tester, scrum master, product owner or something else – we need to understand the value we bring to the table, why we are there.
Sometimes we are challenged in creating that environment and support. Sometimes we just give the “title” of Scrum Master to the project manager and say “now you are no longer a product manager, you are a scrum master”. And the will then continue their merry way doing more or less what they used to do, just with another hat on. They will still manage, not being servant leaders for their team – supporting them in their agile journey. The stand up will be a daily reporting activity to the project manager rather than something we do to and for the team to ensure that we are on the right track and get the support needed.
And examples could be given for all 12 principles I’m afraid – but I hope you get the point from these three.
I wish we could start all transformation journeys with a discussion based on the golden circle, getting an understanding of:
  • Why do we want to do this?
  • Why have we chosen approach X?
  • Why can this support our business?
  • How does this support our vision and strategy for the organization?
  • How do we communicate the answer to the WHYs to the organization?
  • How do we ensure that our employees see the value and see their part in the transformation?
Do you know why your company is in the middle of an agile transformation?

søndag den 29. marts 2020

A Framework is just that - a Frame

Webster says about framework: a basic conceptional structure (as of ideas), or a skeletal, openwork, or structural frame.

If that is the proper definition of a framework, why do we then again and again see examples of frameworks being read as were they the universal answer to everything, a bible of sorts, and taken 100% literally? no room for additions, modifications etc?   The following focuses on SAFe since that is the framework in my focus these days, but I am pretty sure I could repeat this article for many frameworks - no critical thinking skills in used when applied...

Currently I am a bit frustrated when I see the way SAFe is implemented in many companies. The model is implemented literaly as the website says, professional change agents support the implementation and transformation and it is done exactly "by the book". But that book doesn't cover everything you need! remember .... it's a framework! you need to add/modfity/remove to make it work in your context! You might have things specifically for your company that needs to be handled - there are no such thing as a "turnkey solution" to a way of working, no one size fits all.

One of my favorite examples of that (since I am a tester) is "we need to really cut to the bone and only do the essential implementation - so we will not address testing in our implementation" (yep seen that several times so far). Another version could be; the framework doesn't say anything about the test manager role, so we will fire all the test managers (yep also seen that several times).

But implementing the test part in retrospect is really not the way to do it! Implementing supporting test activities should be a crucial part of doing a good agile transformation - no matter whether you choose to scale or not - remember the principle; "Working software is only measure of progress". And there is not a universal solution on how to do this, CONTEXT matters! If you have an extremely complex system landscape and a train covers many systems and large end-to-end workflows to support the business, then you need a very different approach to test than if you have a train covered by a more simple landscape and fewer systems and workflows. That is why we have this thing called a test strategy...

If you take an existing system of systems that has lived for a long time... and are not supported by a proper automated regression test suite, and doesn't have a solid unit test suite - then CI is not the only answer. Yes you need to prioritize getting automation started , but you also need to find a way to handle all the manual regression test.... again; test strategy.

If your development team doesn't have any testing competences (yes test competences is actually a thing, it is not something random people can do if you want it done well :-) ) then you need to find out how to give them those competences, or add the competences in the form of a tester who can then teach and coach the rest of the team.... need to say it again; test strategy.
And who is going to:
  • identify and implement the test approach across the train
  • Support and coordinate testing across the train
  • Ensure implementation of test automation suite?
  • Coach and teach teams in testing?
  • Ensure sufficient focus on non-functional testing across the train
  • Ensure that final acceptance is done if you have a contract with a customer who requires this?
  • and many other test "things" that doesn't just happen by themselves?
The System Architect? the Release Train Engineer?The Product Manager? the Teams?- well if they have the time and competences then yes that is a great solution. But often they are slightly busy even without those tasks, and not really into all that testing stuff, so that is maybe not the best solution. (I am NOT saying that the teams shouldn't take responsibility of the quality of their deliveries - they should! but there are MORE to quality than just what happens for the individual user story and feature.)

When I had my SAFe SPC training I asked that question, and the trainers recognized that the framework didn't say much about testing, and nothing about who could actually take the responsibility of this. They suggested that maybe the System Architect is not just one person, maybe it is a small team of architects with different focuses... one of them a Test Architect.
Or maybe you have a test manager on  your train - you can call him test master, test lead, quality coach - you can call him/her whatever you want (if you don't like the manager word) but have someone who focuses on the quality for the train as a whole, who can focus on the quality of the quality for the whole value stream! someone who can support the teams in improving their quality, and someone who can support the team in owning the responsibility for the quality of what they create.

And there are other examples of things not covered than just stuff about testing. People management, company specific requirements for reporting etc. The thing is; it is just a framework - a skeleton.

If you build a house it is not enough to put up a skeleton - the frame, you need a foundation, insulation, interior walls, exterior walls, heating, windows and doors. And you don't wait until the end with doing the insulation that will keep you warm, you do it as a part of creating the foundation and walls of the house, that is the most practical and effecient way to do it.