Posted in agile, scrum

Retrospective – it matters the most

Is it me only, who thinks that this blog becomes more and more Agile than testing? 🙂

Anyway.

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The other day I was trying to describe myself in front of big audience – and I thought that the best sentence would be : a software tester, who fell in love with … agile methodology! 🙂 A friend of mine asked me if I am more a tester or more an Agile creature. As everyone is Agile now – I’d rather  stay with tester’s mindset but Agile way of work. Does it make sense?

Speaking of which – what is the most important meeting for you (if you work in Scrum, of course)?

For me, when thinking about Agile, the most important and valuable meeting that comes to my mind is RETROSPECTIVE. You may agree or not, stating who we are without daily? BUT in my opinion, a retrospective meeting is unique portion of time, when the whole team sits together and tries to improve.

Team as a choir

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Let’s imagine that a Scrum team is a choir.

It has to practice, sing and perform together, exchange ideas, spend a lot of time with one another. They do work.
On the other hand, each of choir members practices alone. Each of them knows his notes by heart and can perfectly sing solo parts, but at the end of the day – they have to perform in front of the audience. The performance of a choir is not a bunch of gathered solo parts – it has to sound as one! All voices complement each other and act like human orchestra. Can you imagine your team acting as one organism?

When thinking about this kind of approach – it may become obvious that scrum team has to seat together and have a common goal. For me, a retrospective meeting is that period of time, when a choir meets, has a rehearsal, spends time to improve and acts together.
I do believe that as  voice rehearsals are the most important times of choir work – as daily meetings and retrospectives have the same roles in scrum team lives.
It is all about acting together in order to improve.

The need for ritual

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In one of my favorite books about retrospective meetings – Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great (you can find it on Safari or Amazon) – retro meeting stretches across the whole sprint.
It is not just a meeting, of which everyone would not remember the next day. It lasts. The need for ritual is essential in preparation, conducting and improving. It is always about those three factors. That’s why everyone is welcome to come with his own opinion, problems and successes to the meeting. It is not supposed to be a one-man-show but a choir performance (or just a rehearsal 😉 Everyone is involved!

Leave your negative energy behind

How to act as a choir during retro? How many retrospective meetings, on which one person was a dominant do you have behind you?
Most of us have plenty of negative experiences connected with retrospective meetings (especially in Poland, when everyone is more tend to complain that to cheer up 😉 – please watch this YouTube video by Mark Walters to acknowledge what does the Polish Face mean 🙂 ). BUT complaining should not hijack the retro spirit !!!

Negative packaging is the first things the listeners see. Complain energy is tricky to handle. That’s why each of you should come to the meeting with your own mind. That’s why scrum masters use “stupid” games, “ridiculous” colorful sticky-notes and act (sometimes) like children :). Simply, in order to avoid a situation when only one person, one point of view and one problem matters. Everyone should be influential and benefit from the meeting.

A developer

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A development team consists of… DEVELOPERS! Brilliant, isn’t it? And as we all know – developers are the most open, cheerful and ready-to-speak up people in the whole universe!
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So… sorry, Scrum Maters, Product Owners and all business-related people – it is not an easy task for you to make them speak during  retrospective meeting:)
How can you encourage a technical person to do so?

Honor the heroes!

Bring sweets!

Hear success stories!

Don’t push!

Capture and analyze metrics  (technical people feel more comfortable with numbers)

Bring more sweets!

Always look on the bright side of life

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Exactly. Speaking, complaining and honoring mean nothing if you don’t benefit from it. Sooooooooooooo – get it done!

Collect ideas in order to improve. As a choir during rehearsals:

practice, improve, repeat

Summarize your thoughts in an email, wiki or any other source of common project knowledge. Make your ideas and improvements visible.

Buy yourself a whiteboard, prepare a virtual Jira board. Do at least one thing to emphasize your conclusions, enable each team member to have an access to it.
The more you know – the more you are able to improve.
And remember – your conclusions from Reareo No1 might be a great beginning of Retro No2 and so on. It is a circle and a teamwork.

Good luck! May the retro-force be with you.

In case of any ideas – don’t hesitate to stalk me on Twitter or comment down below. Cheers!

 

 

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Posted in agile, conferences, scrum

How to become Jedi Master

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Lady Vader strikes again

My previous post was about Quality Excites conference in Gliwice. This time I would like to say something more about vivid conversation that took place during my discussion panel.

I had a chance to meet wonderful people and share inspiring ideas. It was an unique opportunity to hear about personal experiences and best practices worth to share.
As I wrote many times before:

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How to become Jedi Master?

I do believe that every software tester is a kind of Jedi Knight. He fights for quality and the Quality is his light saber.
Who is a Jedi Master though? A person, who understands agility, quality and has a need for working together.

My best example of Jedi Master, who should lead all Jedi Testers, is Master Yoda. The same one, who talks about Agile:

“You must unlearn what you have learned”

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Going further, I’ve asked people 3 – in my opinion important – questions about cooperation in an Agile team:

  1. How to communicate?
  2. How to introduce new people?
  3. How to share knowledge?

How to communicate

Nowadays, it is in job advertisements, small and large companies, everyone works in Agile.

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When scrum team sits together – it is a perfect situation.

My concern was if a spread team (team located in several cities or countries) is still an Agile one.

I – Kinga Witko – claimed that spread team is not a real scrum team.

No one agreed with me 😦 Fine. (Misa no wise)

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On the other hand, I need to underline here the one and only truth, that emerged as a discussion result:
Spread Agile team MUST use CAMERAS. And talk. Talk. Talk. All the time.

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This is the fact, which everyone put their attention on. I do agree with that. When we don’t sit together – we talk, ask questions, get angry and happy together. However, when we work together, but there is no day-today interaction between us, we need to stay as close as possible to one another. Talking, laughing (even swearing) are the team-building features.
We are all humans, we have better and worse days. All of us need attention and understating. It is not possible to be achieved via Skype chat or other Slack-ish tool only. Conversation is the key to success within a team.
There is no team without little chats or coffee breaks, sorry!

The other important thing in agile approach is a mindset. If a team member is not eager to cooperate, denies flexibility or talking – it is maybe not the right place for him (or her).

I do agree that agile approach to software making is not suitable for everyone and is not fitted to every project. It is fine.
It is also OK if you are more comfortable with working on legacy code, together with a waterfall approach. You don’t need to force yourself do be AGILE. There is a lot of space within software industry for every style and every tester or developer. Chill!

New team members

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In every Jedi Master’s life this day comes – he has to train young ‘Padawans’. Either a new team member, company member or a trainee.

Some time ago I was asked if there is a good way to introduce people into the project? The next question is – how will you know that the new team member IS READY to perform on his own.

Surprise! Surprise! (there is none)

People are not robots, it is not possible to predict what will happen. Going this direction – there is as many ways as Masters. The way you teach usually depends on your skills, empathy and understanding. And good will, of course!
There are such things as company values or project – related directions, but – AGAIN – conversation is the key.

People on my discussion panel suggested clever solutions, such as:

  • never imprison new testers with boundaries – let them explore your software
  • teach through example
  • less talking – more doing
  • provide documentation and lot of freedom.

Again, it depends on your skills and new-joiner’s abilities, what is possible to be achieved. Another point in this discussion is a recruitment process. If a correct person is selected, he’ll perform good testing in a short period of time.

People spotted also, that a new team member is fantastic benefit and opportunity for ourselves. In the position of trainer we are able to:

  • learn how much do we know
  • acknowledge our limitations (Context Driven Testing)
  • explore with a fresh look (Exploratory testing)
  • find unknown bugs
  • fix old bugs (for example those, that everyone got used to)
  • avoid knowledge silos.

Knowledge sharing

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Modern companies have lot of ideas to share knowledge. Most of the times, employees are able to run or attend cross-team / cross-technology workshops or presentations, take part in training or read books.

As I love to collect clever knowledge-sharing ideas – I’ve asked people “How do you share knowledge in your teams/organizations”.

Some of you may already know Michał Buczko – he encourages developers and testers to work in pairs (Pair people!) – it is a convenient way of broadening your horizons and extending knowledge.

In order to share knowledge, you may also “rent time”.
It may be an hour / day of a developer, tester or other team or company member.
How to do that? Just book a time with the person and take part in his / her day. You can exchange afterwards – it’s up to you.
I know that there are companies, which even “swap” jobs among completely different departments to FEEL the other person’s real working environment (I’m talking about you – Ocado:). All of those brilliant ideas may seem tiny, but they really work and empower people to do ingenious things.

Maybe some of those practices shall be a software company standard at some point?
I wish it to all of my test-buddies and to myself as well.

Should you have any comments, ideas, things that work fine at your company and you would like to share – comment down below or stalk me on Twitter.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the summary – see you all on my next discussion panel 🙂

Cheers!

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

You follow the leader, because you want to

when we honorthe earth, we honor ourselves

You follow the leader, because you want to…

you follow a manager, because you have to.

This very simple truth that I’ve heard some time ago might fit to your professional career as perfect as it fits to mine. Some smart guy said to me a few days ago that people join the companies, but leave managers. This is so true.

I always thought that joining the company and considering their values and principles as important are consistent with mindset of all people inside them. Apparently – it is not. Even when company’s values are perfect and eye-catching through recruitment process for you – the real values and day-to-day behaviors of their employees may differ as much as many people work within it.

However, it may not necessarily mean that employees harm company values on purpose. Sometimes people join certain companies, because some benefits such as: technology, brand or possible profits are equally or more valuable for them than the company values. Nobody gave me the right to condemn such behavior.
On the other hand, it might mean that your manager doesn’t share the company values, which are important to you. It might also mean that your manager would not be the best leader in the world. It happens.

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The Earth is not as flat as you initially thought it would be

Let’s assume that company A strongly believes that Earth is flat.

Accidentally – you – the great geologist – believe that as well. What a coincidence!

The Earth is flat – finally somebody said it out loud! You start your recruitment process believing that you’ll change the world and FINALLY the truth will be revealed to the rest of the humanity.

All goes well and you’re joining Company A. You start your geologically – centered work and at day 1 meet Jason.

Jason is your manager.

Jason joined company A, because it is a known fact that they pay well and this is what he was looking for. On the other hand, Jason is personally strongly convinced that the Earth is not flat, but it is a tiny cube. He didn’t revealed it through recruitment process and no one noticed so far.

Jason was promoted to be a manager in company A, because he was dedicated to his work, his professional experience was flawless and his passion to tell people what to do was great. His personal believes are now started to be more visible, but not as important for the company as his performance.
Pro: Jason is a great asset for the company.
Con: He starts convincing you that maybe the Earth is not as flat as you initially thought? Maybe it is more cube-like rather than being flat?

In Polish we would call it “Sytuacja ambiwalentna” – you’ve joined the company in the first place, because you’ve shared the same values and – at the same time – you’ve been given the manager who doesn’t share those values at all.

Sometimes it is not possible to change your manager or project. Surprisingly, it may be way easier to change the company.

I won’t say that this situation is common, but it happens. As I wrote at the beginning – you follow the leader, because you want to – you follow the manager, because you have to.

It was always funny to me all those LinkedIn’s pictures showing how the REAL manager should behave in order to encourage people to be more effective at their work.
Today, I think that meeting a real leader is important to everyone’s professional career – no matter if the leader is running the whole company and is simply an inspiring person – or –  is your closest manager. Being led by wise, hard working managers, who share the same values as you do means more than money or benefits. Everyone would prefer to follow people, who support them, show them how to achieve their targets.

We spend most of our working days at work. It is a lot of time. We could use it wisely or not. It’s up to us.

I wish all of you to meet leaders only. Be inspired by them and make the change.
Don’t let yourself be managed by poor managers.
Don’t stick with the companies who promote poor managers.
Grow.

The Celebration Continues!