Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Volunteers needed for a FREE remote testing workshop concept

I am looking for two or three people to act as guinea pigs for a remote testing workshop concept I am working on.

The workshop will be FREE but require a couple hours of your time each week for about seven weeks.  I am hoping to start this workshop be the end of August 2015.

  • Ideally the participants will be fairly new to testing with less than two years experience. 
  • Able to work within UK timezone (Early evenings)
  • Willing to provide feedback about the workshop.
Why am I doing this?

I want to give back to the testing community, I understand it can be difficult for those new to testing to develop testing skills and techniques that they can apply directly to their work.  The concept of the workshop is that there will be series of self learning exercises and some challenges that they can apply to their testing in their current role.   Each week the group will get together using video conferencing to discuss what they learnt and share it with others in the group.

I currently have one volunteer and I am looking for 2 or 3 more, if you are interested then please reach out to me via twitter @steveo1967 and we can discuss in more detail.

**UPDATE - it is now full - please contact me via twitter if you are still interested and I can create a waiting list.**

Monday, 10 August 2015

Using Aspects of Lean Coffee to Drive a Retrospective

Those who have been following my blog may have noticed that I have not updated it as frequently as I normally would, or would like to.  There are been a variety of reasons for this, I am writing a book which is taking a lot of my spare writing time, I have not had much of interest to write about and finally over the past year my role within testing has changed to one of being a scrum master for agile teams.  It has been an exciting and challenging role which over time I may blog about.  It has been strange since people have commented that I appear to be a natural in this role and part of me thinks this could be due to my skills as a tester that helps in this role.  I am still trying to get involved in some testing and hopefully there will be opportunities for me to do this.

This post is about an experiment I attempted with a scrum team recently for the retrospective.  I am unsure if I obtained this approach from somewhere, or it was just an idea I came up with.  I have decided to share it  via my blog for others to see if they find it useful.

A common approach to retrospectives is to get the team together and discuss what they felt went well, what could they improve and to have some actions for the team.   The way I have run this in the past is we take each of these statements and get some feedback from each members individual perspective.   Some of the questions that can be used can be found here - http://www.benlinders.com/2013/which-questions-do-you-ask-in-retrospectives/

What I found was these retrospectives did not appear to be that engaging and after awhile became a little stale.  So I had an idea to change the dynamics by introducing a lean coffee (http://leancoffee.org/) format.  Lean Coffee is a structured but agenda less meeting, which consists of three steps:

(1) Set up a Personal Kanban

This basically means create a series of post-its to represent
  • What we are currently discussing, "In Progress"
  • What we have discussed "Done"
  • What actions have comes from the discussions "Actions"

(2)What to Discuss

This can be any topic  that you wish to discuss, for the first retrospective I ran in this way I used the following:

  • Shout outs
  • What was good.
  • What was Bad
  • Improvement Ideas

The first four were placed upon the wall and then I gave the team members a set of post-its and pens to write down their thoughts for each of these titles. One post-it per comment

Shout Outs:
Who do you know who went beyond their normal day to day work to help the team.  This could be someone within the team or outside our team who helped support the team.

What was good
What do you feel went well in the sprint.
What made you feel good about what the team did,

What was bad
What do you feel went wrong in the sprint
What made you feel bad about something in the sprint

Improvement Ideas
How can we improve what we do?
What ideas do you have to make the team better?

(3) Vote and Talk

Once we had done this everyone was encouraged to go up and look what others had written and at the same time we decided to group similar comments together. After this we had some cookies, always bring cookies to a retrospective, I moved the In progress post-it over to the 'shout outs' column and people started to explain what they have written,  It was interesting that it was someone outside our team that people felt had added value to the team.  From this we as a team sent an internal gift and a recognition for their work.

Once we had finished with the 'shout outs' we moved this column to 'done' and move the 'in progress 'sticky to the next column  'What was good', we followed the same approach and everyone had opportunities to discuss what had been written.  At the same time any actions that came from the discussions was added to the Actions post-it.  This approach was then done for the rest of the columns 'What was bad' and 'Improvement ideas'.

The dynamics of the team during these discussions was far greater than at any of the other retrospectives and I felt as a scrum master it worked really well to encourage the different members of the team to participate.  Part of being a scrum master is to keep the various ceremonies you have for the team 'fresh' and 'interesting' and in this case it appeared to work well.  Will it have the same affect the next time, I am unsure however it is one more tool I can use to help the team. Let me know of your approaches to keep the team motivated and encouraged.  Also if you try this approach let me know how it works for you and your teams.

In Lean coffee you would normally VOTE on the topics you are interested in using dot voting,

"Each participant gets two votes. You can vote twice for the same thing or for two different topics. Simple put a dot on the sticky you are interested in. Tally the dots. "

Update: I have run this approach a couple of times since the first trial and  it appears to work very well.  I have tried to prevent it from being too routine and have changed the questions that are posted.  I have used titles such as "What was positive about the sprint" , "What was negative" "If we could improve on one aspect what would it be".  It is important to create varieity in the retrospective even if you are using the same approach.  It helps to keep the team interested and motivated.  Cakes and cookies help too!