WTA07: Questioning the Mission

Posted by Albert Gareev on Feb 22, 2011 | Categories: WTAmericas

The very format of Weekend Testing sessions assumes “quick in / quick out” engagements, and, therefore, extremely simplified missions. However, facilitators face big and complex challenges trying to cover yet another facet of testing craft.
As a staging facilitator, I had a debriefing with Michael Larsen recently, and raised questions about one of the problems I observed: once participants get the mission, the rush out testing. If it wasn’t a paired testing exercise, everyone works alone till debriefing. It’s not only a lack of collaboration within testing team, but also the feedback loop of communication between testers and other stakeholders is being missed.

So, this was the problem I stated, and this was the problem addressed back to me to solve.

Where is the problem?

Weekend Testing had a variety of chapters: security and boundary testing missions, usability and requirements reviews, pattern recognition and mind mapping. It all begins with a mission.
What we needed then, was to state the mission so that it prompts questioning of itself.

And there it was.

The mission

“I’m hiring staff for my IT department. I was told that this simple program will help me finding the smartest candidates. Your mission: test the program and report how it suits my needs”

The session

In the previous session, I used Socratic questions approach to steer through the tasks. But this time questions were directed to us! We didn’t want them to be hanging in the air not answered. This is how a “stakeholder” came out to the scene.

Now, I have to admit: the “communication with a stakeholder” part was not pre-planned. We picked it up based on the context in the best traditions of exploratory testing. I started posting answers to the questions asked, not as myself, but on behalf of the stakeholder – the customer, who asked the group of independent testing experts to evaluate the product she was intended to buy.

At that point, we had exceeded the initial mission objective.

We got a burst of questions, the high power brainstorming, and a real-time communication with the “stakeholder”.

The outcome

Based on the feedback we received at debriefing, and comments on Twitter, the WTA 07 mission was a good one.

Shmuel Gershon[..] trust Albert to bring interesting things.

Adam Yuret: Yeah, seriously, one of these times I’ll actually test/find bugs etc in a WTA but I am sincerely grateful to you all for including me, it’s *always* different and always a learning experience.

Markus Deibel: I must say I thoroughly enjoyed just following the chat. I barely read the mission and did not touch the program. It is good to kind of get a meta-view on such a session and follow how the lines of thought evolve and build on each other. It would highly recommend to everyone trying this out at some point.

Justin Byers: Yes it was great. I was just in Calgary at Michael Bolton’s Rapid Software Testing course, so this was like an extension of that for me. Really great to be discussing with passionate testers again so soon.

Phil Kirkham: Great session, cannot recommend these sessions highly enough. Thanks Albert and Michael!

  • One response to "WTA07: Questioning the Mission"

  • Michael Larsen
    22nd February 2011 at 18:55

    This one will be remembered for a while, that’s for sure :). I really liked the interaction on the part of the “stakeholder” and the fact that it was an “on the whim” idea that worked very well. The funny part was that we ended up having such a vigorous discussion during the first hour that the second hour seemed a little, well redundant. I haven’t had that problem before (LOL!). Perhaps we should be willing to let the class out early if we have that happen again ;).

    Seriously, though, this was a great development, rather unexpected but a positive turn nonetheless. Looking forward to future sessions with you, Albert :).

    [ Albert’s reply: Thank you, Michael. What I enjoy in exploratory testing is such “whims”. That’s beyond automation :) ]

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This work by Albert Gareev is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported.