Category Archives: Management

Test Awareness

In my sight Out of mind
My kids were playing somewhere and I was relaxing. I did not have to entertain them. They were self entertaining. Then my wife asked: “Do you know, where the kids are?”
I took a good look. It was not possible to pinpoint them within a minute. Then my wife told their locations. I relaxed.

A few minutes later she posed the same question. This time I used a faster way to locate them.

Several quarters of an hour later “Do you know, where the kids are?”. This time I knew the last locations and the area to be scouted was a way smaller than the area I scouted the first futile time.

What’s going on?
In the past I was a test coordinator in waterfall projects. Some readers might remark that this is old fashioned. My answer is, that it depends on the context. For a few years I was responsible for performance tests. These complex tests needed a rigid string of tasks, but the durations were known in advance.

In order to coordinate 20 performance tests with my peers within a team there were the weekly meetings. These were real tough. It was a mixture of management and testing. There was a steep learning curve for performance testing. I got questions, which were incomprehensible at first. I was scrutinised on details in order to deliver good projects. I learned to do my homework and keep a good overview.

Out of sight You do mind
On a birthday party I was constantly turning my head and sh.. [word I cannot use without writing a disclaimer] to check my children. Then my wife remarked:
“The other grownups watch them.”
So I had to watch the kids in front of me. It sounded like a good deal while minimising the use of my muscles.

How are things going?
A call came in at the service desk. The agent answered the call of her colleague. By posing questions she tried to pinpoint the problem. Then she looked at me with the silent question:
“Would you please help me?”
I had tested the system; I had some inside knowledge of the system.

Another time another situation. The most boring part of an administrator job is browsing through log files. And I knew what to look for. Once in a while I had sneak view of the files. It was not a surprise, that I found some neglected situations, which I dutifully reported to the service desk.

Once I noticed, that I got a server error message instead of a proper reply after using a form on a website. It was a challenge for me to find another discrete channel to inform the owner. The reply on my notifying mail was most grateful.

Fortunately I worked with people watching me testing.

 

Does it fit?

Fancy restaurants have little delicious dishes and standard spoons, which might not fit.

Take that
“We cannot combine the automated test and the performance test.”, Scott stated. “They don’t fit. It’s a waste of time.”
Alice looked hopeful.
George brushed it away:
“Instead of testing you are talking. You’re the one, who wastes time.”
Scott was a man, who did not mind a good discussion:
“We’ll lose a lot of time, if we do not split the tests. ”
“My decision is definite.” George answered.
“Don’t you understand?” Scott shouted.
Alice started to look white.

“You can leave the room NOW.”
“You cannot run away from decisions.”
George stood up:
“You bet. I will have a little talk with HR right now.”
He went out the room and slammed the door.
Alice looked miserable.

The door opened slowly. George looked inside and said:
“That did not go quite right.”

Take Me To St Louis
“Scott, do you know a person you never shout at and who knows as much about automated tests and performance tests as your manager?” George asked.
Scott was silent for a few moments.
“My mother. ….!? Wait a sec. You are not involving my mom in this discussion!”

“Hi mom”, Scott began.
“What is the matter, son?”, George answered.
“I want to thank for the apple pie you made for me.”
George raised an eye brow, Alice smiled.
“Did you come to talk only about the apple pie? ”
“No, for my work I have to combine automated tests and performance test.”
“I am sorry, son, but I cannot help you with this. Just do, what they told you.”

Scott was shifting gears in his head.
“A performance test for a car is to look, whether it can handle the load.”
Alice put a thumb up.
“I understand: if I can put all ingredients for an apple pie in the car, then it can handle the load.”
“No mom, that is the purpose of an automated test. That one is focused on the functionality of the car: can I open the door, put the ingredients in the car, close the door, and drive away?”
George looked puzzled:
“What kind of load do you mean?”

George nodded.
Scott made another attempt:
“A load for car software are heavy conditions. Does the car ride well with four adults, luggage for long holiday on slippery roads in a dark rainy night?”
“I only fetch my apple pie ingredients in my car during daylight, when the weather is good. ” George explained.
Scott threw his arms up in the air.
A frown appeared on Alice’s forehead.

Take 5
“You are close.”, George assured Scott.

“You know, mom, that a car has a lot of software.”, Scott stated.
“You say so, son.”, George answered. Scott continued with:
“The dashboard must show the right information at the right moment, if I am speeding on the highway. In this case the computers in the car must work very hard. That is the purpose of the performance test.

An automated test can be used to check, whether all buttons and displays of the dashboard work properly. If I drive fast, I am not using every button on the dashboard. So the automated test and performance test cannot be combined. It does not fit.”
Alice put her right hand on her chin.

“Thank you for the explanation, son. You definitely earned an apple pie.”
Alice started laughing merrily. Scott joined in.

After Alice had stopped with laughing, Scott looked at Alice:
“Do you need more arguments, Boss?”

Alice sobered up. She got a focused look:
“You know, that there is a lot of pressure. So I tried to take a shortcut. I notice, that you have a lot of anger. I assume, that you have a need to be understood. Am I right?”
Scott just nodded.
“This basically means, that a choice must be made between quality and functionality. “, Alice continued.
“At the moment Quality has the best chances.”

Alice turned away from Scott.
“George, I really want to thank you for ..”
George’s chair was empty. He had left the room.

 

Fetching, fast and slow

Let’s start with a simple observation of the following sentence:

Do I communicate (without a mouse)?

 

If you were fast, then there is a high probability you were thinking: “The word mouse is used by the author instead of the word mouth. So the spelling is wrong.”

If you thought hard, then there is a high probability you were thinking: “The mouse is probably a computer accessory. So the question could be rephrased as follows: do I communicate (without a computer)?”

I once heard a great story from an experienced test manager René. He told me, that his project members were communicating with emails. It did not even change, when they sat in the same room. He just set a daily limit of 3 emails, which they could send. This lead to more face to face communication, which improved the project spirit and group cohesion significantly.

Breakdown
In the introduction I used a mind trick on you. This is a trick, which can be used to confuse people.  For the fast observations System 1 is used in most cases. This way of thinking provides fast, almost effortless way to digest information. Like walking to the office.

For the thoughtful observations System 2 is used. Doing complex operations like testing in the office. Both systems have been discussed in depth by Daniel Kahneman in the book Thinking, fast and slow. The title of this blog is based on the title of this book. And fetching is short for fetching coffee.

In March 2015 James Bach introduced the term testopsy. He analysed, what the tester did during a test. I thought about a post autopsy or blog post autopsy.  It is tempting to concatenate the strings post and opsy. But as a Dutch native speaker I do not take any chances. 

Just let me perform an autopsy for a blog post: how did I construct the blog post Do I communicate (without a mouse )?

Because I wrote the blog post, I have the original mind map, which was used as a basis. In the following picture I highlight, which System is used and the corresponding trends. System 2 is used in certain parts of the blog post and System 1 in other parts.

mindful-tester-mindmap-System1-Sytem2

A manager would say:
“This is nice. And that’s all. The relationship between the parts of the blog post and Systems is meager at most. ”

Time for a graph make over.

Graph SOS
There is a British car program, in which they deconstruct and construct a beloved car wreck. For people, who earn it.  And as a reader you definitely earn a better graph.

In case you did not read this blog post Do I communicate (without a mouse)?, please do. It makes the following graph understandable.

 

mindful-tester-timeline-system1-system2

In the graph above I show my usage of Systems 1 and 2 on the vertical axis. The horizontal axis shows the different parts of the post in reading order. So it is possible to observe, that System 2 is used less and less until the end of story.

A manager might be more interested in this graph than the previous one:
“So what you are basically stating, is, that people use System 2 for learning. And participating.”
Or even better:
“I wonder, whether System 1 is used during the meetings in my company .”

Breakdown 2
Over the years I saw a recurring pattern. Every time I boarded a project or got a new room, I had to change my coffee fetching list. And somehow I reduced the spent time. I eliminated waste: it looked to me, that I was lean. This story I carried with me for more than a year. Telling and retelling it to myself over and over again.

Then it was time to put it in a blog post. I started with the mind map with the condensed and descriptive title Coffee. The first branch contained the story. Then I added two funny anecdotes to add some flavour to the blog post.

In the meantime I had lost my favourite mug out of view: a bear, who juggles, while praising the owner of the mug. (That’s me.) After I had found the mug, I made a photo with my smartphone. The mug was on the foreground and my markers right behind them. Then I noticed my mouse: it was behind the markers and not on the photo. So I changed the view for the next picture: the mouse is on the background. Unreachable for normal use.

A few days later I noticed, that I was missing a photo with a funny text for the blog post. I needed something, that could be connected with coffee or tea. Then I remembered the picture of my mug, which was a major obstruction for using my mouse. A thought about communication entered my mind: Do I always need a mouse for communication? It was relatively simple to write an introduction from this point.

Most stories have a lesson at the end. I think, that it is highly predictable (and a bit boring). I wanted to give the reader a choice out of 3 lessons. But that was not entertaining enough. So I placed myself in the spotlights (again). If I could let my voices speak, then I would have a more recognisable situations instead of some abstract and concise questions without any explanation. I took the following voices:

  • The lean machine in me, cutting wastes on his way to the future
  • A woman constantly looking for her needs, while brainstorming and chatting
  • A service desk agent concerned about an implementation of a new functionality
  • A curious software tester looking for clues.

I somehow used a Dutch style form: the circle is round. I started with the title Do I communicate (without a mouse)? And ended with the same question.

Do you really need it?

Drooling about it
Paul knocked a few times on the door. And opened it slowly.
“Are you busy?”
“Yes, but I can make time for you.”
“We’ve got an open door policy, but your door was closed. So..”
Paul waited a few moments.
He gestured to George.
“George said, that I have to bring something to your attention. And ..”
George’s mobile phone went off.
“Excuse me.”
George left the room with the phone to his ear.

“Yes Paul.”
He looked to the door with a desperate look.
“I can wait.”
“What is that piece of paper? You want to show it to me?”
“Actually ..”, Paul started.
He showed it to his manager.
“That’s funny: the phone booth cannot be used.”

Paul pulled himself together:
“Within a month our company will release the car call service. So customers can call their cars and ask, whether enough fuel is in the gas tank.”
Paul’s manager nodded.
“At the moment we are focused on apps on smart phones. We are also testing normal phones. Why not test phone booths?”
“How big is the chance, that a business man calls his car from a phone booth?”
“Pretty small”, Paul admitted. “But there are enough people, who would like to publish a bug about the service on the Web.”
“So your point is…”
“Our slogan is: Your Drive Is Our Drive. People do not like to think about a slow walk to the gas station. Especially after a failed call from a phone booth.”

Ten minutes later George asked Paul:”How did it go?”
“Fine. I have budget to hire a phone booth.”
“How did your phone call go?”
“Nobody called.”
“You mean: no one.”
“Yes” George smiled.
Paul began with: “You are …”
“I am your coach, not your spokesman.”
Paul objected with: “I might not find the proper words to express myself or not find the right arguments. I might miss my drive.”
George just raised an eye brow.

Testing in it
During the training introduction of software testing I told the delegates about a special object in the neighbourhood.
“If you drive your car from Rijswijk to Rotterdam, then you see a huge building next to the highway near Delft. It is blue and yellow.”

I continued with telling, what most people thought. That it was just another furniture shop of a well known brand.
“It is a concept center. In this building ideas for this brand are developed and tested.”

How to Plan a Visit To Amsterdam

Board games are a great way to pass time with children. One of my favourites is Amsterdam. In this game you win, if you are the first one, who have visited 6 random chosen touristic places in the Dutch capital.

Planning as usual

At the beginning of the game my children and I had each 6 cards with touristic places to visit in Amsterdam. So I told them to find the places on the map. Then they had to plan their visit using the canals with a boat. This was more difficult. With some help from me they planned a boat ride by making a stack of 6 cards.

Replanning as usual

In the next step each player placed two bridge blocks, which can be compared with road blocks for cars. Six bridge blocks had a great impact on the planned tours. The ideal routes were blocked or even worse, touristic places were blocked. So the whole process of stacking cards began again. My children did not complain. 

Planning in progress

During the game the bridge blocks can be moved by players. So carefully crafted routes became obsolete. This time I was smart: I adviced my kids to plan a route within a small area of their boats.

Heuristic as a planning

After visiting a touristic place the player gets a yellow card. This can be a nice event like moving bridge blocks or distressing one like going to a boat of another player. My planning advice changed to: go to the touristic place, which can be reached by passing a minimum of bridges.

Planning as a service

So long planning saves time and reduces frustration, it is fine with me.

 

Management by mind mapping

A mind trick is a trick, which can be used to confuse people. The following mind trick I used, happened in the real world. I changed the names of the people on purpose.

The count mind trick
During one of my mind map workshops I asked the participants:
“At the count of three you mention the name of your team lead.
One two three.”
A lot of names were mentioned. It was hard to hear one clearly.

“At the count of three you mention the name of the boss of your team lead.
One two three.”
Fewer names were mentioned. Some names could be distinguished.

“At the count of three you mention the name of the your business unit manager.
One two three.”
Almost every name could be distinguished.

“At the count of three you mention the name of the your division manager.
One two three”
Only three name were mentioned: Peter Red, Tony Purple, and Helen Yellow. “

At the count of three you mention the name of the your CEO.
One two three”
“Jack Orange.”
People were a bit surprised, that the same name was mentioned.

I continued with:
“Last evening there was a meeting in the canteen with Jack Orange, Peter Red, Tony Purple, and Helen Yellow. Jack Orange used a mind map to explain his view on the future of our company. If you go to the canteen, you can still see the mind map.”

Breakdown
On the morning of the workshop I met participant of previous workshop Introduction mind mapping.
“Hi Han Toan, will you give a mind map workshop this morning?”
“Yes, this morning.”
“Derek of facility management told me, that there is a mind map in the canteen. Jack Orange, Peter Red, Tony Purple, and Helen Yellow and other hot shots were making a mind map in the canteen last evening.”
“What? Can I see it?”
“Why not?”

Tips

  • become known as the expert on a subject like mister mind map within and outside the company.
  • stimulate sharing of information about your subject.
  • know the hierarchy of the company.