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Meaningful Agile Metrics

People like to set deadlines and to measure things, this is how we roll. In my classes, I hear many questions about how to measure software quality in an agile context. Many teams who switched to agile continue to measure quality like they used to do it before: number of found bugs, number of closed bugs, number of automated tests, stories rejected by PO etc. But after some time they found it was not helpful.

I am very cautious with metrics. First of all, because out of context they are misleading. Secondly, people tend to focus on what they are measuring, because they want to improve that thing. If we focus only on the numbers, it can be very dangerous. 

If you measure “stories rejected by PO” you will work with those numbers, but not address the real reason behind the problem, so in the majority of cases, it will not change. Just like in Dilbert comics or more current issue with Trump who did not want to test people for Corona, because then the numbers will sky rocket. He “likes the numbers where they are”.

OK, let’s assume I convinced you – metrics are tricky. But what can we do? My first suggestion is to evaluate if we really need a metric. If yes – for what and why? Sometimes the answer to those questions can give the solution. “Because we’ve always measured something!”, “Our management / stakeholders want to know it!”, “Our boss wants to know to whom he should pay a bonus”. Some of those are indicators of bad management, others of bad agile approach and I hope you understand that no metric will solve those problems.

If your challenge is nothing like this, then for the second round, I have a story to tell. Two years ago I took an Agile Testing Fellowship TrainTheTrainer course. I had two major highlights in the training, two things that changed my agile approach. I remember so vividly the moment when Janet Gregory announced: “forget about traceability in agile! We don’t need it”!

It came as a shock. How?! Why?? No traceability??? But, but, but… how will I work without traceability? Traceability always was a part of software development – starting from requirement elicitation until support and maintenance. I needed some time to process it. In the end I had to agree with Janet. If everything from beginning to end works, if testing is a part of development, if the team is the one who leads, if stakeholders support the team and give freedom of a decision then of course we don’t need a traceability. It becomes one and the same as the process.After reevaluation of traceability, I started to revise other old “religions”. As you can guess, one of them was metrics. My idea was – if I would remove everything I used to know about measuring quality and assume that it is baked in, what would I like to measure then? I will save you the whole rethinking process. At the end, I decided to focus on the whole team. For that I use 5 values of eXtreme Programming: Simplicity, Communication, Feedback, Respect, Courage. There are several ways to measure each of them. I will give you few examples that you know what I mean: simplicity besides known methods can be measured by checking if everyone on the team can read and understand code from somebody else. Respect I prefer to measure with closed team dot voting. For courage I find it very important to monitor how strong a team feels about pushing back or questioning (unnecessary?) user stories. 

It took some courage (ha -ha) to leave old practices in the past and I must admit not with every team and company this will be possible. If you practise fragile (bad agile), if the company does not really live by agile values, it will not work.     

For a dessert I want to share a video of a TED talk about missing baby dinosaurs. Maybe it gives you another perspective on known things.

 

Creating Magic

This week I am having an operation. I had a terrible fear, but turn out that my body is very good on healing and recovering. I have a lot of time and gladly I took some books with me. Finally, I am having time to read “Creating magic – 10 common sense leadership strategies from a life at Disney” by Lee Cockerell.

The book is very clearly written. Lee describes his way from a farm to a magic kingdom through failures and lessons learned. He is the author of Disney leader strategies, which he based on common sense. For me, as a tester, the reference to common sense made a special joy!

Lee starts the book with following words: “It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic”. For ten years Lee was responsible for Walt Disney World with 59 000 employees. Rational, muscular, no-nonsense business strategy of Disney is utmost care and respect. For everyone! Guests AND employees. Treat your employees how you want your guests be treated.

The whole book is about leadership as an act of care and respect; as a responsibility not as a title or role. For Lee being a leader means making the right things happen by bringing out the best in others. How oft did you experience that at your work?

“The study found that business units with the highest scores in guest satisfaction where the same ones whose leaders received high ratings from their direct reports in qualities such as listening, coaching, recognizing people’s efforts, and giving people decision-making authority.” Ration 80:20 reflects the vital importance of inspiring, motivating, teaching, and other so-called soft skills. Lee opinion is that the soft stuff is actually the hard stuff, but if you get it right, everything else tends to fall into place. When everyone matters and everyone knows he or she matters, employees are happy to work, and they’re eager to give you their energy, creativity, and loyalty.

My favourite chapter is about strategy #7: Burn The Free Fuel. The main idea is about leaders emotional impact on employees. Lee summaries it in an acronym ARE: appreciation, recognition and encouragement. He calls it cost-free, fully sustainable fuel, which builds self-confidence, self-esteem, and keeps an organisation running clean and smoothly. “ARE is more powerful than the fuels that make engines roar and space shuttles soar, because it propels human energy and motivation.”

Another chapter which talks to me is strategy #6: Learn The Truth. It is about the hard way to build trust relationships with everyone with aim to know what you need to know to make a decision. “I had no idea that was going on” is not an excuse for a leader. ”Knowing what’s going on is your responsibility”. “I’ve seen it happen to a great many otherwise competent leaders. Some rely too much on vague data and dubious information; some isolate themselves, acting as though employees below a certain level had nothing to offer; some get defensive in the face of constructive criticism; and some develop reputations for lashing out at those who deliver unpleasant facts, so people stop coming to them.” One of his suggestions is to get out regularly. In one of his previous hotels he daily checked the whole hotel, each elevator and stairwell and corridor of all fourteen floors. On the way meeting and greeting guests and employees. Lee writes: “Getting out and about regularly was a great investment of time. Not only did it allow me to see the operations up close, but it helped me get to know everyone on the staff better, and all of them in turn became more comfortable telling me what I needed to know.” In software industry – how many CEOs do you know who walks through offices more then once a week?

 

I am reading this book in very special time in my life – taking care of my health, moving to the new house and switching careers. Some of my work experiences I made in toxic environments, I am happy that I had the strength to leave it in the past. I wish more people, not only with fancy titles, would read Lees book and that each of us can work and evolve in an environment, which empowers us and make us the best versions we can be.

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