Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Scrum Challenge - QA One Uppers - Sofa

A few months ago i came up with a new scrum challenge i've been calling 'One Uppers.'  This one has been a big hit with the team.

One Uppers - Travis Sofa

  1. Start with a random person assigned by Judge.
  2. That person has 10 seconds to come up with a response to this game's challenge.
  3. The next person around the circle then has to come up with a response that in some way one ups the first person's answer.
    1. one upping can mean anything that is bigger, better, more extreme, more interesting, more dangerous, more complex.
    2. use your imagination.
    3. things can be additive.  for example if i'm going to have a glass of water, then you might have a glass of water with ice.
    4. additive can continue almost endlessly but it is not a requirement. 
      1. ie a glass of water with ice and a straw.  a glass of water with ice, a straw and a salted rim.  but then the next one could be an ice cream cone.
    5. the judge can rule against any one up and the person has 10 more seconds to either convince mike he's wrong (next to impossible) or come up with a new response.
  4. This repeats around the circle, the one upping becoming larger and larger.
  5. If a person can't come up with something that the judge likes within 10 seconds the buzzer sounds and that counts as a strike.
  6. After 3 strikes or 10 minutes the game is over.
  7. The number of one ups is counted and the score entered into the annals.  

Here's an example of one of these that we did recently. 
Travis, one of our co-ops was leaving to go back to school.  School being in Victoria, across the straight from Vancouver.  

The Question:
How Travis can get his girlfriend's sofa back to victoria?
The One Ups:
  1. Carry it herself.
  2. Help her carry it.
  3. Use a dolly with flat wheels.
  4. Use a trailer.
  5. Use a horse with the trailer.
  6. Tell Paul about the kitten shortage in Victoria - he'll tow it with his bike to get there.  (Paul fosters kittens for adoption)
  7. Use 2 horses and Paul.
  8. Harness Paul's kittens too.
  9. Swap in a tractor for all livestock.
  10. swap in a RUSSIAN tractor.
  11. Swap in DM riding a Russian Bear for tractor.
  12. Add Pontoons to the Bear to help it swim.
  13. Add 2 canoes under the couch to aid in floating.
  14. Add trained sharks chasing the DM/Bear combo.
  15. Add salmon racing ahead of the bear to have something to chase.
  16. Add cookies in salmon's mouths to encourage DM to motivate bear and paddle himself.
  17. Add a helicopter with a tow rope for DM to hold.

The team has really enjoyed the one ups.  as the team wins or loses as a team (the goal is to get the most one-ups on the board in 10 minutes) it's very collaborative.  Suggestions are often shouted out but people are able to go their own way as well.  It's pretty rare that someone has to default on their choice.

What Went Right
This challenge went very well right from the start.  Team was quite willing to work together towards a goal.

What Went Wrong
It can be second nature to jump to an extreme right away cause that's more 'fun.'  In the introduction i cautioned against that because if you go to extreme too fast it's going to become harder and longer to come up with the next list item.  The end goal, after all, is the longest list, not the most extreme ending.

Lessons/Team Benefits
This game provides really good interactive, collaborative activity time.  It's always very good-natured and you can feel the team gelling together as they work through the 'problem.'   You can also feel the team using team dynamics and peer pressure when people make choices that make the game harder.  A good example was the very first list item on the very first play of the game.  The question was 'how do you stay cool on this hot summer day,' and the first response given was 'go to a waterslide.'  the team vocally rebelled against that individual and forced him to alter his entry to 'drink a glass of water.'   it worked out far better in the end and go to a waterslide was eventually used.  I'm a big fan of using team dynamics and peer pressure to encourage better team behaviour.   One of the most powerful things for QA in running agile teams is the ability of QA to gently mock a developer for making the same mistake repeatedly.

As it is a timed event it also provides exercise in thinking fast and problem solving.  Given that things get silly and you never know what the person before you is going to say you have to respond quickly with an intelligent response.  It also provides a very good exercise in thinking outside of the box.  There is no box for the way these one uppers generally go.

We've played 3 times now and it has yet to get old.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Absence Makes the Mind Wander - and White Lies Scrum Challenge

So i've only been slightly here for the past few months.  My life has been concentrating mostly on our new baby and making sure that work doesn't get left in the dust.  Things seem to be settling out a bit, as my daughter hits her 8th month and we get more used to things, maybe i'll be able to find some more time.

i think that one commitment that i can make is to be more regular about posting our friday scrum challenge details for ya all.

i think that i've mentioned it before.  my QA team meets for 15 minutes every day and has a pretty traditional scrum, what you've accomplished yesterday, what you're going to accomplish today and what blockers you're challenged with.  On fridays though, i take over the scrum and administer a 'Scrum Challenge.'  These are mostly team building games, questions, challenges etc.

Today's Challenge

White Lies

During Scrum
  1. Each person is handed a piece of paper.  (they've been told to bring pens)
  2. Each person has 2 minutes to write down three statements about themselves and their name on a piece of paper.
    1. the statements can be things like their shoe size, their birth place etc.
    2. one of the statements will be a lie.
    3. that statement should be marked as a lie.
  3. The judge reads out each person's statements anonymously, randomizing statement order for each person.
    1. going around the table each person votes on who wrote the three statements.
      1. the judge records the people that get it write, anonymously.
      2. a person voting for their own entry gets that point.
    2. going around the table again, each person votes on which statement is a lie.
      1. the judge records tallies against each statement.
      2. a person voting on their own lie doesn't get counted.
  4. At the end the judge tallies up the scores.
    1. one point for each person's vote for the right person.  ie if Joe has 3 people pick his entry, that's 3 points for joe.
    2. one point for each person's vote for the right lie.  ie if Joe has 3 people choose the statement that was actually a lie that's 3 points for Joe,
  5. Winner is the entry with the fewest points. 
An example of an entry

  1. More a dog person than a cat person.
  2. I have 4 nieces.
  3. I traveled to the D-Day beaches. (lie) 
This game was received by the team quite well. It took a minute or two extra to explain and it challenged a couple of people achieving it but they enjoyed all of the parts.  Two team members indicated later independently of one another that they had really enjoyed this game.  I don't normally receive that kind of post-game validation so i'm taking that as a very good sign.

What Went Right

  • The team understood the challenge and were able to play.  They were able to vote for one another. 
  • The team enjoyed the challenge quite a bit. 

What Went Wrong

  • Eight players meant that we were a little stretched for time.  we didn't get to do the scoring in the game together. public scoring is part of the learning and not having time for that is a miss.  i feel that we would have time for it if we play the game again because the learning curve will not eat up time and voting will be smoother. 
  • Didn't think to have the players mark which entry was a lie.  had to followup afterwards.  i've already corrected this in the rules above. 

Lessons Learned
As with all of the games that we play, i want there to be something that people can take away from it.  Predominantly this game brought with it the concept of getting to know your other team members.  There is the obvious, of course, of learning about your fellow team members both from their true statements and their lies.  But there is also the depth of getting to know your team mates through the way that they approach untruths.  There are hidden queues there about nervousness of lying, how clumsy the lies are, etc.

This game also brought with it some game theory.  A couple of the people chose items that they believed others would think was someone else in the group.  They also chose lies that they thought would misdirect.  This wasn't really all that successful through intent that i saw (although some very good accidental misdirection occurred) but you could tell that they were trying.

We will play this game again.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It's the little efficiencies that get you good

Wow, it's been a while since i posted.   I won't make excuses...other than that since the last time I did post the wife and i have been dealing with the birth and first weeks of our new child.   Ok, i guess i will make one excuse.

Today was reading this article about Kaizen implemented adhoc in the real world and it made me realize that I have in fact been lazy my entire life.  Ok, to be fair, I could be called a lazy person by a lot of people and I wouldn't really have any defense against them.  I do appreciate my time on the sofa a little too much, it is true.  But this is not the lazy to which I am referring, or in a way perhaps I am.

I have never believed for any task that there wouldn't be a better way to build the mousetrap.  I have expended hours and hours in my life on more interesting make-work projects to somehow convert the original task to a more palatable, easy, comfortable or convenient effort.  I can't actually support a claim that throughout my life that I have have necessarily saved a lot of time/money/effort but i can at least claim that i have tried.  I don't think that i've ever tried to put forth that this desire to find the easier, more efficient, sometimes better way wasn't driven primary by lazy but hey, we all have our own motivators don't we?

Lazy is a term that kind of has more negative connotations than it needs to have in our society.  Lazy might mean that you do a shoddy job because you're too lazy to do it right, it might also mean that you never get your butt off the couch to do the job at all.  But lazy might also mean that you require yourself to have an appropriate end result but that you get there through a path that is smarter, easier, better.

When you think of lazy that way, Kaizen is lazy being good for business.  For this type of lazy is generally good for business.  Finding a shorter path to the same result almost always saves time, effort, manpower and obviously money.   At the personal level what kaizen, as i'm now choosing to call my lazy pursuit of better, does for me is two fold.  In the initial attempt at the task i am more interested and involved because finding the better way is in and of itself additional challenge.  But in future iterations of the task, it's an easier task to accomplish and therefore more likely to be done properly. Not to mention, any change in process from the first iteration will obviously need tweaking through the future attempts.

Kaizen, my lifelong friend, you provide justification for my laziness and for now that's ok.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Mr Fails

Stumbled across the Cartoon Tester blog the other day.  This guy does some pretty amusing cartoons that are exceedingly topical for software testing.

He wrote this little book/pdf for understanding the plight of the tester career and it's pretty bang on.
you can take a look at it from here: