Talking testing, agility and automation... and anything else.



16
Dec 11

Better Communication From A Distance

There’s an old joke in Bluegrass music circles that goes “Bluegrass musicians will drive hundreds of miles to jam with people from their home town”. It’s funny ’cause it’s true. While attending a ThoughtWorks workshop this past year, with a faction of my company’s QA team, I discovered this joke can also apply to software testers. Eg. it can take traveling hundreds of miles to get testers from the same company to work together.

At the workshop, it quickly became clear that many of the questions or pain-points expressed by individuals within our group, were at least shared by, and in many cases, could be solved by, other individuals from our group. With that powerful knowledge in hand, I paired up with a coworker to hatch a plan (over cocktails… ’cause we’re from Wisconsin) to leverage this shared knowledge and pain.

The plan was simple enough; set up bi-weekly QA meetings, at which a pair of testers would facilitate the meeting and make a presentation to the rest of the group. Fairly straight ahead but there’s some details to call out…

The meeting will:

  • Be one hour. Topics must be sized and focussed to fit.
  • Facilitated by a pair of testers. The idea being each will QA the other’s work, thus solidifying their concept and streamlining the meeting.
  • Be tool agnostic as possible (unless the a tool itself is being presented).
  • Include an example(s).
  • Attempt to ask and answer a question.
  • Concentrate on topics that affect the entire group. Questions will come up at the meetings themselves that can/should be tabled for a future meeting topic.

The overall premise for the meetings are for the presenters to “show their cards”, as it were. Show examples of what they are actually doing; not what some book says you should be doing. This is essental and it takes a lot of courage to expose yourselves in this way… especially to a room full of QA! I’ve found the fear/pain from such exposure can be lessened substantially by pairing facilitators and allowing them to come to a concusses before presenting. Strength in numbers! This has also proved to keep the conversations at the meetings focused.

We’ve been running these for a couple months now and the response has been extremely positive. I documented one of the topics from a meeting in a previous post… I’ll try to continue to do so.