Agile Retrospectives: it’s OK when something fails

For the 9th article in the Bits&Chips series I collaborated with Ben Linders.

Who’s Ben: He is one of the Agile Retrospectives Authorities and besides the book “getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives’. he gives many workshops on the topic. I am glad to have his ideas incorporated in the article.

Outline of the article: We describe that learning is a part of SCRUM and the way to become great. It’s OK if something fails, as long as you learn from it. Retrospectives are within SCRUM one of the moments to gather the learnings and make plans for improvements. The article gives an overview of some techniques that you can use and some questions you can ask in order to have valuable retrospective meetings.

Where do I get the article: You can read the article in the latest edition of Bits&Chips magazine or read it here (sorry Dutch only): Agile in de echte wereld deel 9: Agile Retrospectives

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Call for Papers QA&Test 2016


QA&TEST is organising the 15th edition of the International Conference on Embedded Software testing. The conference is like every year held in beautiful Bilbao (Spain), see the picture below. We, the technical committee, like to invite professionals to share their knowledge and experiences in the Conference. The Call for Papers has started and will end on 21st March 2016. More information can be found on the conference website.

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What job did you think you’d be in?

In an interview I gave I was confronted with the question “What did you want to become when you were in college and how much of that can be found in your current job?” Suddenly I remembered that I wrote a column about precisely this topic. Although it is a view years old, I like to share it with you as my weekend post I think it is a nice read that explains how testing adds value and what motivates me as a Tester.

Do you ever go back to the reasons why you have ever started in the field where you are working in now? Why are you an IT-professional, Tester, Business Analist, Project manager, or why did you become a programmer? A colleague asked me why I seem so fond of my profession. “You are always so excited when you talk about testing”, he said, “what makes it so special for you?” Suddenly an image came back to me. It was the future job that I envisioned at the time I was still a physics student and my world consisted out of tangible research equipment, material samples, helium columns. At that time, I had little affinity with IT. I’ll love to share that image with you:

It’s a Monday morning; the R&D team meets for their progress meeting. The low winter sun shines softly through the slats and puts the meeting room in a diffuse light. Some team members are already present. They exchange their weekend experiences while enjoying their first cup of coffee. The Industrial designer walks in, together with the project manager, who makes an inventory of the people present. He indicates that he wants to start. “Two weeks ago we discussed our new project,” he opens, and continues by once more summarizing the mission statement. “The sale of our current vacuum cleaner, the SZ10, is declining rapidly. Product Management has given us the task to develop a successor. This model should cost no more than $ 100 and has to be consistent with the latest trends. Last week I asked you for your expertise and to think about possible solutions. Today I am anxious to hear what you came up with.” At precisely that moment Henk enters the room. Under his arm he carries a heavy box, which he puts on the table while glancing round the room. He does it with a mysterious smile. “Don’t let me interrupt you all, please do go on”. Yasmin, the industrial designer takes the word. On the basis of an impressive trend analysis, she explains what the designer team thinks the SZ11 should look like. Applause, grandiose! All participants feel that this will set the standard for all vacuum cleaners, yet to come. Next Henk stands up from his chair, again that smile. He draws the box towards him and says with a hint of importance in his voice: “Last month the technical department had a major technical breakthrough. We can now make engines that are more quiet, use less power and have a significantly increased suction power.” He lifts a large metal object from the box. It is all wrapped with copper wires: “Meet the engine that will make the SZ11 a resounding success. Oehs and ahhs from the team. Wow! Then everyone notices the troubled face that Bernadette has. ” But”, she stammers, “That engine will never fit into the design of Yasmin.”

This is the ideal situation in which I saw myself working at that time. Being a part of a multidisciplinary team that has a clear purpose. Working in situations where the individual components seem fantastic, but combining them is a challenge. Together searching for the best solution, it seemed like a terrific job. I did not envision IT as domain, since I was used to a more physical environment. But during my very first job, I found myself in exactly this situation. We did not make vacuum cleaners but software, but the problems were the same. So was the goal: to achieve a solution. I was the software tester, and in this role I was critical to the customer requirements, technical documentation and communicated with all other disciplines. Like Bernadette, it was my job to look for potential problems. For example, inconsistencies in the design, errors in the interfaces, omissions in the state model or database validations. OK, these problems were not as tangible as vacuum cleaner motors, but not essentially different.

For me the specified memory holds an important lesson. At times there is a lot of debate about the purpose of testing. Do we test to find errors, to improve quality, to reduce the time-to-market or maybe to provide comfort to stakeholders? I think all the above are true. But thinking back to the vacuum cleaner project, it becomes clear to me what my primary driver is: “Working together towards a working product. A solution that excites us a team and that we believe in. And, of course, a solution that benefits the business.”

That was true for me in 2013 when I wrote this column, and still is today.

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Survival techniques for testers, beyond the T-shape tester

Tuesday 3 November Jan Jaap Cannegieter and I gave a tutorial workshop at the EuroSTAR conference. In this wisdom of the crowd session we searched for and defined our future. Main question throughout the workshop was:

How do we survive as a tester and what skills and knowledge de we need to develop.

We used the T-shaped tester (Rob Lambert, Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory) that combines need for general knowledge with advanced test skills to be successful. But we thought it was time to expand the model. Therefore we introduced the π-shaped professional. Theπ-shaped tester extends his global knowledge (development, project management, agile etc.) and test expertise with yet another specialism to stay in demand, e.g. security, test automation, requirements.

In the workshop we did a brainstorm what other specialism will be in future demand. Jan Jaap and I were astonished by the fast amount of suggestions provided by the group. See the both flip overs they covered below:

Specialisms for testers 1 Specialisms for testers 2

In the second part of the workshop we did dot-voting (see the previous pictures) to invest how popular the various specialisms were. The most popular were taking as a starting point for a further investigation. Below you’ll find the skills for each leg of the π as determined by the participants.

Note: I think it is interesting is to see what the teams filled in for the other two legs as well. The generic skills and testing skills they come up with variate with each of the specialisms.


IMG_1967 IMG_1968 IMG_1969

Test Automation

IMG_1958 IMG_1959 IMG_1960

Business Analyst

IMG_1961 IMG_1962 IMG_1963


IMG_1964 IMG_1965 IMG_1966




IMG_1972 IMG_1971

Non Functional testing (Security, Performance, UX)

IMG_1957 IMG_1956

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SCRUM and the time-to-market

I get many questions about the effectiveness of SCRUM. “To what extend does an organization benefit from SCRUM?”, they ask me, “What are arguments for or against the adoption of it?” Good questions.Check out the latest edition of G(r)ood Testing. In episode 18 I discuss SCRUM as a development method and give my view on faster, cheaper and the time-to-market.  You can read the full blog on the EuroSTAR community pages


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Agile in Europe, an overview for the Seoul Testing Conference

2015-10-17 08.58.42

Last week I visited South Korea and gave a presentation on the SSTC. I was asked to give an overview of the way that we do Agile in Europe. Since Agile is not an out of the box approach, it is hard to explain how we do Agile in Europe. There is not such as one way. But In this presentation I combine my experience, the information I gather whilst visiting various European Conference with Benchmark research. I believe the presentation gives a nice overview of the things we are struggling with and the agile test challenge. Valuable for the target audience, since I learned that Korea is somewhat lacking behind with the Agile adoption. But there is a great interest, so I hope this presentation helped them to gain a better understanding and lowers the threshold for implementing it.

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DevOps is Scaling Agile too

A customer of us asked us to give a presentation on DevOps and Agile. Having a mixed audience, Agile experienced Developers, Testers, People from the Business and Operations too, I decided to link Agile and DevOps in a logical story. In this presentation I explain the step from SCRUM to DevOps. Starting with why we want to do SCRUM, the challenges I see we are struggling with in daily live, and make the step to Scaling Agile (e.g. Less, DaD, SAFe). Scaling Agile scales its defects too. So we should fix your problems before scaling them. What will happen if you enter the world of Continues Integration and Deployment. Isn’t that Scaling Agile too? What does this mean for the defects in you dev – process?

See the slides below:

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When Agile doesn’t fit


Most of the time I am really enthusiastic about agile, but I notice that some people do not get along with it. In my latest episode of ‘Agile In The Real World‘, I transcribe the interview I had with a tester that felt his job has gone sour.

  [image source:] 

His position in the organisation has weakened, his position in the team was unsure. “when I have to apply for my own job”, he stated during my interview,” I doubt whether I get hired”. I cannot change myself, “he sighs, “group processes don’t do me justice,  I prefer to work solo.” My Interview describes the story of one person, but there are more stories like his. More people who are struggling with their position.

If we want these people to deliver value to the organisation we’ll need to have an eye for what motivates them.  Scrum Master and Agile coaches should actively approach them during the transition to Agile, and discuss with them how they can continue to deliver their value within the context of the team.

The full article has been published (in Dutch) by Bits & Chips magazine, and can be read here: Agile in de echte wereld- deel 7- In de knel

Posted in Agile in de Echte Wereld, Bits & Chips, SCRUM | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Beyond the T-shape: The Broken Comb

In response to my previous post, John Stevenson kindly pointed me toward an article by Brittany Hunter, who claims to be a poly-skilled software designer. Does she adopt the T-shape? In her article on the broken comb she explains why this model is most effective to her.  I think it is a nice addition to my previous post, what do you think?

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Move beyond the T-shape

Rob Lambert, Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory worked on a great model called the T-shaped tester. Where the horizontal stands for our generic skills and competences. The vertical in the T describes our specialism. In my previous column – G(r)ood testing 16 – I discussed the competences that are associated with good testing. I stated that testing is a versatile profession and to be a good tester, we need to master many skills and competences. Should adopt more than one specialism? Yes, I think we should. Ross Dawson states in the article he wrote on this topic:

“It can be dangerous to have just one area of deep expertise, as the value of any single domain of expertise can erode rapidly with new developments. Complementary sets of deep expertise can make people extraordinary valuable, if combined with a breadth of perspective.”

In my new column G(r)ood testing 17  I state that it is time to move beyond the T-shape. Lets us introduce the π-shaped tester and an extended model like the comb-shaped one.

Like  states: “Comb-skills I believe are hard to maintain, and some can pull it of- but definitive not everybody and you can become ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ instead of ‘Jack of all trades, master of many’”. So it might a wise thing to adopt the π-shape and develop a (read: only one) extra specialism to secure your future as a tester.

Read “G(r)ood testing 17: Beyond the T-shape, what specialisms do you develop” on the EuroSTAR community pages, learn about the π-shaped tester and how you can become one yourself.


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SSTC – Coming soon

This October I’ll be flying towards Seoul for the Seoul Software Testing Conference. I found the online billboard with the speaker line-up.


Mette Bruhn-Pedersen, Kelvin Ross, Debra Friedenberg, Wonil Kwon are with me on the program. I’ll take on the challenge to give the audience an impression on how we do our agile development and testing in Europe. Using the pretentious title “Agile in Europe, this is how we do it” I’ll be combining benchmark research with my own experience. Share some pitfalls and things I feel we are struggling with; Scaling and test strategies in larger Agile projects. Looking forward to sharing my thoughts and getting to know the city.

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Suggested Read: DevOps

While preparing a presentation for a customer I stumbled upon a nice blogpost the Agile Admin. The agile admin is written by Ernest Mueller, James Wickett, Karthik Gaekwad, and Peco Karayanev. The post presents a definition of DevOps, and I think I had the same in mind.

DevOps is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.

Read the post  and the comments for more background information

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AgileHubNoord: Session on scaling agile with Anko Tijman

On 1 september the AgileHubNoord organised a session on Scaling Agile. During the meeting Anko Tijman gave the presentation that we (Anko, Cesario Ramos and I) did during the testnet event last spring.

Reading the comments on the event page  the event was a succes. I saw some good tweets on the subwaymapping technique that was presented. And was positively surprised by the visio drawing that was put online by Steven Nienhuis.

So in addition to the powerpoint template in my original post, there is now a visio option as well. Succes with applying.

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With SCRUM a shorter time-to-market ?

IT faster to the market

I got some requests to discus the effectiveness of SCRUM and its impact on the time to market. Triggered by these questions I wrote an article  which is published on our own company blog. In it I state that if you want to reduce the time-to-market with SCRUM, the organisation should be ready to deploy the code that the development teams deliver. I give some examples of situations I have encountered, and conclude that the time-to-Market does not depend on how well the development teams have implemented their Agile, but on the weakest link in the whole development chain, including business and operations.

I plan to translate this column, say yes if you want me to (please do comment) . But currently it’s available in dutch only (sorry): Scrum time-to-market, hoe zit dat nou eigenlijk?

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How good are your collaboration skills?

I often encounter discussions on testers competences. One, who believes testing is an easy job, should try a search on the Internet. He’d be surprised how many competences are associated with good testing. Being a tester, what skills should you focus on? What skills should you develop? There is one skill that is rapidly gaining relevance.

Watch the video introduction below (it’s only 29 seconds long) to find out which one it is. Or read the full column. Its my latest column in the G(r)ood testing series.

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