After the fabulous, incredible Agile Testing Days 2021, I wanted to stay in touch with a lot of the new friends I made, and one idea I had was to start an Agile Testing Days Book Club (ATDBC).
I shared that idea with Veerle Verhagen and we agreed that it would be an awesome idea. The first book we’d use for this experiment was found very quickly:
Agile Testing Condensed
by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory (who we met live and in person at the ATD conference – it was so awesome to meet you both!)
You can purchase the book via leanpub (and various other platforms – please don’t pick Amazon.)
Veerle set up a schedule, the Trendig team opened a channel on their Slack platform and soon we got a bunch of people also interested in learning and sharing together – both asynchronous and with a couple of live-chats.
These are my thoughts after the first live chat today, covering Chapters 1 + 2 of the book. I will not even try to cover all the different perspectives we discussed and all the awesome, valuable thoughts by the participants. I will not even try to write down everything that I learned or valued.
But I want to try to write down some of my personal takeaways from this book.
A book for testers?
“Agile Testing Condensed” has “Testing” in its name, but after reading the first two chapters, it gets crystal clear that the book is not solely meant for testers, but for “whole agile teams”.
Chapter 2 describes what a “whole team” is:
By “whole team,” we usually mean the delivery team – the people who are responsible for understanding what to build, building it, and delivering the final product to the customer.Agile Testing Condensed, Page 7
This description includes testers, coders, product owners, designers, and even managers.
We discussed if the title might cause the book to be overlooked by some of the people it’s clearly meant for (namely programmers – unfortunately, I know a couple of fellow coders who won’t pick up a book that has “Testing” in its title) and continued that discussion on Twitter. Here’s Lisa’s answer:
Context is Key
What I absolutely loved about the first two chapters was the fact that the book doesn’t try to give simple answers to complex problems:
Some of the practices that help support teams in their journey towards success are […] using whole-team retrospectives and small experiments to continually improve testing and quality and find what works in their contextAgile Testing Condensed, Page 2 (Highlighting by me)
We’ll elaborate on the above practices throughout this book. We do not consider them to be “best practices” because we know they are ever evolving.Agile Testing Condensed, Page 2 (Highlighting by me)
We like terms like continuous testing or holistic testing and recognize that each team needs to adapt them for their own unique context.Agile Testing Condensed, Page 4
I’ve seen so much advice that embraces the idea of “best practices”, of general rules that will work in every situation, of “this-is-how-big-company-does-it-so-we-should-all-do-it”.
This book is different and highlights the need to consider context on page 2 already.
What do Testers add to an Agile Testing Team?
Some people expressed concerns about what a Tester could add to a team that embraces agile testing and if they would become obsolete.
The book gives a concrete example for what a tester can add in “Multiple Perspectives”:
Testers may be experts at testing the product but can contribute to understanding the features and stories by asking questions to uncover hidden assumptions.Agile Testing Condensed, Page 10
As a developer who currently has no tester to collaborate with, I can share very easily what I am deeply missing and what a skilled tester could bring to a team:
- Risk analysis
- Test strategies
- Asking deep questions
- Detection of cross-feature or cross-tech inconsistencies
- High-level understanding of different modules working together
- Professional Exploratory Testing
- Being the glue between different groups of coders (e.g. app vs. database)
Even as a coder who is very interested in testing, I am absolutely aware that I will not be able to do what an experienced tester can do on a number of levels.
Fixing defects quickly reduces mental load
…and therefore reduces stress.
I experienced a similar thing when I started practicing TDD: Finishing very small bits and pieces of functionality allow me to only think about a couple of things at the same time.
That makes me incredibly resilient against interruptions and requires a lot less mental load.
The same seems to be true for the agile testing practice of fixing defects quickly or even immediately, something that is hardly achievable in a non-agile-testing setting:
To make this work, teams must have fast feedback from testing activities so that any defects found can be fixed immediately. Once found, the programmers write one or more executable test(s), correct the code so the test(s) passes, and perform exploratory testing if needed. The team can then forget about it, knowing that they have corrected the issue.Agile Testing Condensed, Page 10
So powerful advice – and even in that case Lisa and Janet make sure to describe it in a way that makes clear that such an approach (zero-defect tolerance) might not work or be possible in every situation.
The Ten Principles of Agile Testing are a Team Sport
The book contains a bullet-point list of ten principles for Agile Testing – a list some of us struggled with.
I, personally, was challenged by the point “Self-organize”: How would you expect a novice or trainee to self-organize? I find it hard to self-organize myself a lot of times.
Fortunately, the other participants pointed out that these principles do not necessarily apply to each and every individual among an agile testing team, but to the team as a whole.
I that, it could be read as the team self-organizing in a way that includes Novices, empowers and teaches them, giving them feedback, and helping them to grow into a role where they can add value to the product or project.
Vast Richness of Additional Content
The book is in fact not very big. It is – as the title indicates – condensed, but that doesn’t mean it is shallow. Quite the opposite: It is full of references to additional content that encourage the reader to go down a number of rabbit holes.
The e-Book version is extra-handy here because more content is always just one click away.
I’ll close with one of the many great external resources the book includes (and that I didn’t know so far): The Testing Manifesto by Karen Greaves and Samantha Laing.