2018 in retrospect – PART 2

2018 in retrospect- PART 1

Clients, career hoping and identity crisis

I’ve been working with four different clients this year. As many of you already know IKEA has been my main client during 2018. During the first six months my role was focused on challenging existing patterns and driving change related to software testing. I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic perseverant people driving changes in software development from waterfall methodologies towards an agile mindset.

A few of the things I accomplished was:

  • Enabling moving testers from separate testing teams to be part of the development teams
  • Enabling the development teams to take responsibility for quality and testing by removing sign-offs and handovers which provided no value
  • Removing (or perhaps minimizing) the focus on test reporting based on test case counting
  • Introducing, creating awareness and running workshops on exploratory testing and session based test management
  • Influenced the change from war room to collaboration room ( this might seem like a funny accomplishment but I am proud of it – I believe words can both mirror and affect behavior ) 

These might seem as small steps but in the context this was quite a challenge to get to. And it was just a start towards the right direction.

In June an opportunity emerged within IKEA. A position as Scrum Master became available. It would also mean that I could change two hours of commuting per day to only twenty minutes per day. You might think it was an easy choice but it was a pretty difficult one. In the process I  realized that my identity is tightly connected to software testing. This is where my passion lies and where I have my expertise. On the other hand I have always enjoyed working with teams and individuals to help them bring out the best in themselves and their work.Identity

I took on the role as a Scrum Master with the hope of also being able to coach the team in software testing. For many reasons this did not happen. I had other challenges to focus on and new things to learn.

As I mentioned I had four clients this year. In between driving change at IKEA I did some consulting which involved recruitment of testers. I also advised a client on their testing process and helping them to shift their focus from testing to a holistic focus on quality engineering. The latter client had a very open mindset and I provided them a different way of visualizing their development process. Rather than writing a word document with diagrams I used sketchnote techniques to visualize the organic process that a development process actually is.

The variety of work these two assignments provided was something i enjoyed very much. Getting to work with new people and new contexts is very enriching and brings me new insights and learnings.

In the beginning of the year I had the opportunity to run a one-day training in exploratory testing for a client. This was a lot of fun and is something that I would like to do a lot more of in 2019.

My takeaways from this episode:

Driving change is never easy. Though this is what I really enjoy doing I realized that I too have a limit. I spent an enormous amount of energy in 2017 and 2018 on changes in software testing. Having the opportunity to do something different from time to time for other clients helped bring me new energy and perspective.

But my greatest learning came from being a Scrum Master. It was during this period I learned that I needed a pause from software testing. I realized this when I did not have the energy left to get involved in testing related topics anymore. From someone who passionately discussed testing with everyone who wanted to join I haven’t even spoken to my team about testing during my last 6 months at IKEA.

I am now ready to get back into the game and I am looking forward to my new assignment next year in Denmark.

Stay tuned for my next post…

2018 in retrospect – PART 1

What happened and what is next? 

It’s been a while since I did a review of my year. In fact last time I did it was five years ago. It’s scary how time just flies by and you find yourself so caught up in the presence and the future that you don’t give yourself the time to reflect on the past to learn from your actions. So it is time to pause even it is only for a few hours to reflect upon 2018.

To help me process my thinking I drew this timeline:

20181228_195511.png

Entering unknown territories

Filled with fear and excitement I entered unknown territories in the beginning of this year when starting my own company Black Koi Consulting. One of the reasons for this decision was to be able to have the freedom to choose where I want to spend my time. To be my own boss is something that fits me very well. I had already decided to only use 80% of my “working” week on clients, meaning I often spent Fridays on other things.

This being my first year with my own company I spent my “free” time on things related to my company or things related to the testing community engagement that I have. I also took time to have lunch with new people and old friends and colleagues. Most Friday mornings I went to the gym and I picked up my children early in the afternoon to be able to spend some extra time with them.

My takeaways from this episode:

I’ve had the opportunity to learn quite a few new things around accounting, marketing and websites. Realizing I don’t enjoy accounting very much and that it takes too long time to do it on my own I have decided to let someone else do the work.

My patience was challenged when I learned Inkscape to create my company logo. If you have ever tried to use the program you probably understand the frustration I felt from time to time. But it’s free and it is a really advanced tool to create vector graphics. I am very proud over the logo. It’s a special feeling having designed and created it yourself, specially when someone likes it.

In 2019 I will give my website a bit of love. I applied what I preach and launched an MVP to be able to get some information out there. Specially since I am offering training by Richard Bradshaw and Mark Winteringham in 2019 and I need somewhere for people to go to sign up for the training. It was actually pretty hard to launch a microsite and adding to it iteratively. It wasn’t related to skill or technically difficult but personally really challenging. I am sometimes a perfectionist but over the years I have learned to strive for best enough and iterate my work. This is also why this is the first post of several in the series of 2018 in retrospect.

Stay tuned for my next post…

2018 in retrospect – Part 2

Reflections on a new retrospective

One of the most important things to my team and myself is to learn from our experiences hence I think reflecting over our actions is essential for creating such an opportunity.

I don’t get to facilitate retrospectives that often since I’m not really a part of any project or any team on daily basis. But I love to do it whenever I get the chance.

I like trying out new methods in my meetings and adjusting them trying to increase the personal  ROTI for each meeting member( I find this method very efficient). To be fair though my goal is at minimum 4.0 as an average. Note that I have been using the scale 1-5 since I am not sure if it makes a difference from the 0 – 4 scale.

My team has grown quite lot during the last year and lately my ordinary type of retrospective had gotten a lower and lower ROTI average. The main reason have been the lack of discussion and the time for individual notes written and communicated. With 19 people today it was not a very efficient way of facilitating a retrospective any more.

Today I tried something new during a retrospective we had for a three day testing activity. I accidentally stumbled on a tweet about Dialogue sheets. If you haven’t heard about the technique before you can read about it here. I thought it sounded like a really fun way to facilitate a retrospective. It even gives the possibility to remove the facilitator role. But facilitating is something I really like so I decided to do at least some facilitation including preparation.

Sixteen people (excl. myself) participated. There were a few challenges with this:

  • Two of my team members are physically on another site.
  • The room was not really designed for this type of retrospective. It is a conference room with a long table for 16 people.

It was possible to break this long table in to three different tables so the second problem was easily solved. The first problem was supposed to be solved by video communication but of course the technology didn’t work. So the two guys on a different site were left in isolation to work on the dialogue sheet.

After the tables were moved around I asked the team members to group in two equally big groups and take place around the tables and start. Most of the team members had informed them selves about Dialogue sheets. Then I gave them 60 minutes to complete the Dialogue sheet. I left them managing them selves and tried to observe the two different groups.

I named the groups A, B and C where the latter was the one on a different site.

I had to time box the completion of the sheet to have room for comparing between the different groups. I chose not to include Group C when comparing the dialogue sheets since they would have to follow the discussion on a normal phone. From previous experience of discussions over the phone where many people are involved it gives very little ROTI for the few persons on the other side. I decided to catch up with Group C later.

Observations

During the meeting I did following observations of the two groups, Group A and Group B.

Group A

  • Some one in the group said “Let’s stand up and read the instructions”
  • The group stood quietly reading.
  • Then some one said “OK lets sit down again”.
  • The sheet was not place in the center of the table.
  • There was much less laughing then in group B.
  • There were mainly two people talking.
  • Little notes on the sheet itself
  • The group was ready after 40 minutes.
  • One person was writing on a paper.
  • Notes were handed to me after the time was up.
  • Mainly one person spoke when sharing what had been discussed during the 60 minutes.
  • Lower average ROTI then Group B

Group B

  • The person closest to the first point started reading the instructions out loud.
  • The discussions started almost immediately.
  • The sheet was placed in the center of the table.
  • The discussion were vivid and pretty loud.
  • Not everyone had a pen at start.
  • There was an intense discussion on the meaning of success.
  • There was a lot of laughter.
  • Most of the people in the group was speaking though I noticed that there were a few people speaking more than others.
  • Far more notes on the sheet.
  • When time was up the group continued writing on the sheet.
  • During sharing what had been discussed several people talked. There was one person who did most of the talking.
Dialogue sheets

Dialogue sheets

ROTI rating the personal time invested 

After a quick hand raise in the end of the meeting and after checking with Group C  we ended up with 4,4,4,5,4,4,4,3,3,2,4,4,4,4,4,2

Following up on the numbers:

5 – The method opened up the possibility for discussions. We eliminated the writing post-its part where every one sits quite and glances on the others writing post-its.

2 – The discussion sometimes felt constrained since we had to “follow”  the board. There was a good discussion on going but it was interrupted because some one mentioned that we were not supposed to talk about that subject. So the discussion ended and went back to something else. To change the rating perhaps facilitating the discussion would help. Or when we get a better grip of how the board is used.

2 – Personally I don’t have a lot to benefit from the retrospective since the result will not affect me (the purpose of the activity that we did the retro for is quite different for this person). I did like the setup though.

3 – The new method was good though it didn’t do any big difference from other meetings. It was difficult to focus on one question at a time. I like the Action plan. One thing negative thing is that some one can dominate the discussion. 

3 – There was more discussion then in previous meeting. Unfortunately there was no one leading the discussion. Once we had a great discussion on going some one noticed we were on the wrong topic and that it was something that shouldn’t be discussed now. Some one in the group had the idea that positive events was supposed to be written above the time line and negative events below and some people thought you could write it anywhere. A facilitator would have helped.

Reflections

I am not going in to detail about my analysis of these observations and personal grading of the meeting. But I found the result of the different groups very interesting. I also wonder if the groups forming was a conscious action or an unconscious action. I think the difference in the groups depends on a few things:

  • the different personality types of each individual
  • and the amount of time people have known each
  • how well they know each other

In Group A the majority of the people have worked less than a year at the company and in Group B the majority of the people have been working for several years together.

Actions for next meeting:

For the next retrospective which will be in a month I am considering a few things that I might do. I haven’t yet decided. I also have a few reflections and a few decisions to make:

  • Should we keep the same groups next time ( It will probably no be the same any way. It might be that the same people can’t attend. I might decide this when I know who are attending next time)
  • Should the groups be smaller, maybe break in to 3 groups?
  • Should I let people decide in how to group within certain limits?
  • Should I try to facilitate? Though it will be difficult to facilitate several groups at the same time. If some one else in the group facilitates they won’t be part of the discussions.
  • Should I try to set up some more “rules” then what is stated on the board. For example decide on how to facilitate your own group. How to keep the discussion ongoing before starting.
  • Should I facilitate or just observe?

What I will do:

  • Get pens in different colors to make the board more colorful. It might increase the writing on the board.
  •  I’m keeping the facilitator role to facilitate the exchange of information in between the groups, to keep track of time and make sure we retro the retro (ROTI).
  • If I decide to observe, which is what I would prefer to do I need to define my method to make better observations. I will time box time spent on each team. I will choose a few specific things to observe.
  • During ROTI I will also ask the participants who rated the meeting balanced something that I have totally forgotten about.