Agile Testing book club: Goals

This is the fourth part in my series highlighting some of the lessons I’m taking from reading Agile Testing by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory. Other entries in the series can be found here.

Chapter 5 had a lot of interesting things about metrics and strategy that I’ve taken notes on and have planned to incorporate into my work. I’m working on another post about metrics that will probably draw on some of the things discussed, but before I get into the nitty gritty of metrics I want to stay a bit higher level. The part that I want to focus on now was about having a goal or a purpose.

When you’re trying to figure out what to measure, first understand what problem you’re trying to solve.
— Agile Testing by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory, Chapter 5

This is very much connected to other ideas I’ve talked about before, like letting the team feel pain; pain provides a tangible goal and gives anything you do to address it a clear purpose.

This also put something from Chapter 4 into another context. Lisa and Janet talked about using retrospectives to figure out if a problem could benefit from hiring more testers. I’ve thought about this a few times in my current role: does the team need another tester?

The answer has to come from considering what led you to ask the question in the first place. If your team is limited just by the number of hours in a day and the number of people you have, then you probably want to ask about what skills would be best to add to the team, be it testing or otherwise. If the team is struggling on testing specifically, then another tester may just be a band-aid; could the team be better served by working on building everybody’s testing skills? What problem are you trying to solve? The answer is never “we have the wrong tester to developer ratio.”

It’s also a great grounding question. Last week I wrote about how important it is to identify specifically what you’re trying to test at any moment. The motivation is the same. If you find yourself struggling with too many variables in the air and a hundred contingencies and tangents about all kinds of other things, stop for a moment and ask: “What problem am I trying to solve?” or “What problem do I need to solve right now?”