Tag Archives: teams

Improvement: My target may not be your target…

I was swimming slowly up and down the pool at the fitness centre this morning, and reflecting on how my attitude to swimming pools has changed over the last few years, and that to gyms has changed in the last month.

Life-long – since earliest school days – “swimming pools” and “gyms” have been a source of fear, shame and avoidance; the noise, the smells, the bullying – overt and implicit – all intimidating and preventing me even stepping inside.

In the last few years I have shed my fear of swimming pools to some extent, and although a poor and slow swimmer, I do go to swim fairly regularly. Still – if people are noisy, if they shout or splash, if the water is oozing chlorine, if the lanes are crowded with strong, intent, heads down swimmers, then it takes all my mental strength to stay in the water. But, in calm water, I enjoy myself.

In November I moved to a new house-sit, in a new town. Knowing that I was in a town for the winter, knowing that I would need exercise, I joined the fitness club that had a pool. So far, so good. Then – to my horror – they offered me a PT session. All my fears of gyms, changing rooms, and equipment resurged – gut wrenchingly. But, as part of my personal and professional development in the last year, I have adopted a spirit of “try it once” so I went. It was surprising good. The PT instructor was supportive, kind, and  encouraging.

One of the things we discussed was my fear of going into a gym, as I believed that other people would laugh at me, at my lack of expertise, my lack of fitness, my incompetence. The instructor helped me to see that no-one else in the gym was interested in what I was doing, and also that they fell into a number of categories none of which needed to alarm me.  These were:

  • the local professional rugby players. Huge, fit, and lifting/pushing/carrying huge weights – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
  • the body builders. Rippling muscles, serious demeanors, and lifting/pushing/carrying huge weights – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
  • the youngsters. Slim, beautiful, practised – cycling, running, on their phones, ears focused on their downloads – they are just in a different place to me, and focused on their specific training they won’t even see me as I slip past;
  • middle aged and elderly people trying to get fit – oh hang on…. even if they are fitter than me, now, they’ve come from somewhere…

Guess what – I can go in there, and do the things I want to do, at my own pace. And no-one is laughing at me. Even more – if I need help – for example to adjust a machine – everyone I have asked for help has been helpful.

The machines I am using now at the gym – they are mostly on the lowest settings, the smallest weights. And I realised this week – there is a reason for those smallest weights – it is because people like me have to start somewhere. And now I have started, I can continue along an improvement path as long as want, to the level I need, regardless of what anyone else is doing. My targets are not going to be the same as the body builders, or the rugby players, or the youngsters. My target is to move from 5kg to 7.5kg, not from 5kg to 25kg. That’s all I need to do for now.

Why is this post in my consultancy blog and not in my personal blog? Because my message is to those of you who are not quality and testing experts. You might be as worried about starting on a self-improvement path around your professional practice as I was about going to the gym for the first time. My message is: try it.

Maybe you want to improve your personal practice, but you are not sure how. Perhaps you want to learn techniques, tools, approaches but are frightened that you’ll be laughed at if you ask. Perhaps you want to speak at conferences but feel you are not good enough. My message is: give it a go. Ask for help. There are many of us in the industry who are more than happy to help if we are asked. Go to a conference, or a test bash,  or on a course. Talk to other people at the conference. Talk to the speakers. You’ll be surprised at how much you can already do know, and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn. Your target for self improvement need not be huge, just to make a small difference. Maybe to learn one technique, maybe to try one new approach.

Try these for starters:

UKSTAR, London: https://ukstar.eurostarsoftwaretesting.com/ 

  • I’m speaking at this one so you can use a speakers discount

Isabel_Evans_discount

STAREast, Florida, USA: https://stareast.techwell.com

  • This includes the free Women Who Test day on the Friday, so make sure to book for that as well.

On my personal list for 2018 is to get to Ministry of Testing event – I just need to get myself together and do it! Have a look at https://dojo.ministryoftesting.com/events

And also look at the online resources those conferences support – there is a mass of useful information you can get access to.

I keep a list of conferences where I am speaking on my website: confer with Isabel

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Book review: A practical guide to Testing in DevOps (Katrina Clokie) – get it, read it!

Headline: get this book! read this book! Link: https://leanpub.com/testingindevops

Katrina Clokie’s book “A practical guide to Testing in DevOps” is a “must read”, and not just if you are a tester encountering DevOps. As Katrina says in the preface: “This book is for testers who want to understand DevOps and what it means for their role. It’s also for people in other roles who want to know more about how testing fits into a DevOps model.” It is engaging, informative, full of useful examples, case studies and evidence, and gives pragmatic, thoughtful guidance that encourages us – the readers – to use the information provided to craft our own approach based on our own circumstances.

I’m particularly pleased with three of Katrina’s themes:

  • this is about people as well as technology – how people engage, communicate, cooperate, solve problems, achieve goals – together;
  • separating the activity of testing from the role “tester” – the activity is needed, the role may change;
  • the purpose of testing is to contributing to our shared understanding of, and delivery of, what our stakeholders, customers, users, colleagues require from IT: a subtle and changing mix of speed, predictability, quality and a great user experience.

I kept finding points in the book that are applicable for any project, any organisation. There are useful ideas in this book if you are working in a DevOps environment, of course, but I believe you will also find it a source of useful ideas and techniques what ever your project methodology. Katrina provides chances for all of us to review our current position, and just shake it up a little, to see if we can improve. For each of us, for each organisation, team, what we need to do is different. Katrina is rightly emphatic that there is not one right answer, instead she provides aides to thinking, communicating, problem solving.

I really like the way Katrina references and quotes so many colleagues across the industry – this really helps build the feeling of a community working together, sharing ideas, not always agreeing, but debating openly and constructively.

She encourages us to try ideas and propose changes on a small, experimental scale if we or our colleagues are nervous “…spend an hour to give something new a try…”

After an introduction to the concept of DevOps, the book is divided into six main sections:

  • Testing in a DevOps Culture;
  • Testing in Development;
  • Testing in Production;
  • Testing in DevOps Environments;
  • Industry Examples;
  • Test Strategy in DevOps.

I was pulled into the book straight away. Highlights for me in the first section are:

  • visualising the test strategy – what we think we are doing, what we are actually doing… and what we should be doing. Newsflash: get the people without “tester” in their job title to do the discussions, and as the “tester” listen, facilitate… and allow the others to challenge your assumptions!
  • blazing a trail – really good ideas, hints and tips for building meaningful multi-way conversations where we listen as well as speaking… Forging the pathways between groups, teams and individuals, and reinforcing those pathways by rich rather than fast communication.

I have made so many notes and comments, just on that first section – it sparked many useful ideas, reinforced some thoughts, and provided me with new tricks, tips and tools that I shall try out.

In the second, third and fourth sections, Katrina provides examples and evidence for how testing – the activity – takes place successfully outside Testing – the team or Testing – the life cycle phase. This is such a refreshing read; my own experience since I started in IT is that good, productive, thoughtful testing can be done by people other than testers, and during activities not called testing. Developers, Ops folk, Support teams, Sales, Marketing – many people in an organisation can do good testing, often with a focus that the “Tester” may miss.  She discusses the advantages and risks of testing in development, production and DevOps environments, showing options for how risks can be mitigated, whether by use of tools, experimentation, exploration, group activities, process changes, shifting left and/or shifting right.. I’m not going to share too much here, just encourage you to buy and read the book!

The fifth section, the industry examples, is useful because it provides a wide range of approaches. Not all of us will find the same approach appropriate; something essential to success in one organisation may be damaging in another. There is a good mix of methods, tools, approaches, and types of testing covered, in this section and in the others, so you should find something to use as a starting point for making your own model.

By the time I reached the last section of the book, I had a mass of ideas, notes, and things to follow up, and I would be surprised if you did not feel the same way.

In the final section, Katrina brings everything together to help you define your own strategy for testing DevOps. Your’s will be different. It will be the strategy that is right for your team, your organisation. In this section she helps us to think about our organisation’s appetite for risk: I also have found this to be extremely useful point to consider and discuss. Are my stakeholders risk averse, or risk takers? Am I aligned with them? At this point, should I challenge or support their stance? Katrina provides useful examples of the type of question to ask in order to understand appetite for risk, identify which risks are of importance, and from that decide what activities will mitigate the risk. Those activities might include testing – the activity – but there will very likely be other activities that will mitigate the risks just as well.  From this we can draw up a strategy for testing, acknowledging that it is part of but not all of the activity required to provide our stakeholders with the quality, speed, predictability, risk mitigation and so on that is right for their circumstances.

Whether you are working waterfall, V-model, W-model, Iterative, agile or DevOps – you’ll find some useful ideas in this book.

A good ending to an excellent book, which I have no hesitation in recommending. Thank you Katrina!

 

Book recommendation: “Creating great teams” by Mamoli and Mole

Here is a new, interesting, informative and easy to read book on forming teams. “Creating Great Teams: how self selection lets people excel” by Sandy Mamoli and David Mole takes the reader step by step through the process of building teams by enabling them to self-select.

This book is based on the “belief that people are at their happiest and most productive if they can choose what they work on and who they work with” – an appealing theory, but does it work in practice? The authors do not just present a theoretical construct, they describe a case study of an organisation where they were successful in implementing the self-selected teams method, and they discuss their fears, problems and blockers honestly, showing how they overcame obstacles. The refer to other organisations that have used the method, and provide qualitative and quantitative evidence in terms of anecdotes, results of staff surveys and company results.

The book is divided into short chapters, starting with an explanation of the ideas, then step by step through planning and preparing for self selection, the self-selection workshop, and importantly, the followup required to implement, launch and support the new teams. Each chapter provides checklists, guidelines, hints and tips, and practical experiences.

So – what is self-selection? When teams self select, instead of managers assigning people to teams, the teams choose themselves. Given the projects that are required, the people within the organisation choose which project they want to work on.

I was lucky enough to meet Sandy at Agile India 2017, and when she described the method to me I was excited by the concept, but at first sceptical. I could see problems: what if there were project no-one wanted to do? What if everyone wanted to work on the same project? What if there were people no-one wanted in their team – wouldn’t it all be a bit like sports lessons at school (where I was always chosen last…)? Sandy & David show in this book that they faced the same doubts, and they show how to overcome them. Happily, rational, intelligent adults react well to responsibility and choice.

In this review, I will not go into detail about the methods they use and the checklists they provide. I urge you to buy the book! It is really good value and will make you think anew about how you build teams.

ISBN 978 1 68050 128 5

https://pragprog.com/book/mmteams/creating-great-teams

Get it, read it, think about it, notice the effectiveness of the working method.