Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Scrum Challenge - QA Nickname Generator

Sometimes we have scrum challenges that are more about fun than learning a specific lesson.  For my team, i often think that they feel that the scrum challenges are mostly about fun.  This is ok for a few reasons.  

Firstly, not all lessons you learn are consciously learned.  If i can build a situation that provides a learning experience, either by understanding their own actions and reactions or by observing the actions of their the peers then there will be lessons learned, whether the team realizes it or not.  most of our learning is experiential and not known until you start to apply the knowledge.  Or heck, most people may never consciously understand much of the knowledge that they've gained.  That's the fun part about experiential learning.  Your experiences guide who you become to the point where you don't question it and just be.  Now, to be a more complete, balanced happy individual i believe that you should be self-aware enough to understand these things but that's not a very easy target to reach. 

Secondly, any challenge that engages your brain or even just your involvement is good exercise for you on many levels.   Getting the old brain juices moving from a direction different from normal is powerful and useful tool to keep you brilliant.  

Thirdly, fun challenges without learning are still exceptionally good team building exercises, or can be.  Having interaction with healthy laughter and people working as a team builds the bond that help foster useful communication as well as the tolerance buffer for requests for help and against annoying habits. 

A couple of weeks ago i came up with the idea that QA should have it's very own nickname generator.  If you're not familiar with the concept it's been a pretty prevalent internet meme as long as there's been internet (or so it seems).  It's a set of rules, or an app that allows you to determine what your nickname would be, pursuant to any particular theme without having to do work on your own.  Just googling 'define nickname generator' brings back links to produce a nickname themed on; hobbits, smurfs, pirates, gangsta, real <sic> japanese name, chinese name, wu-tang name, stripper, jedi, and etc.  So with all those options, why not a QA nickname generator?  

As with most weird thoughts i have, i try to figure out how to roll it up into a scrum challenge.  Thereby alleviating my need to be creative that week and giving the team something fun and/or educational to work on.  Giving it some thought i decided that what the scrum challenge would be is the team itself would come up with how the nickname generator would actually work.  I went in with the potential seed idea of using a thesaurus and types of testing and we went into a free-form brainstorming session.  

Below is what we arrived at:

The QA Nickname Generator

The Rules
  1. Alpha position of the first letter of your last name = Y 
    1. ie a = 1, b = 2, c = 3
    2. If your Y is already represented in the team, Y = Y+N
    3. repeat 2 as necessary
  2. Number of letters in your first name = N
  3. Pick your favourite testing type (ie regression, functional, smoke...etc)
  4. Put the testing type into a thesaurus ( for example) and your core nickname is the Nth choice in the list of synonyms.
    1. If the list is shorter than N, wrap in counting through the list.
  5. Count 'Y' positions through the hero type list and that's your hero nickname.
  6. Your nickname is FirstName 'the core nickname hero nickname' LastName
    1. you can swap the core and hero if it makes more sense.
    2. you can modify the core and/or hero words slightly as long as they remain the same root, to make them sound more appropriate.

The Hero Type List

PositionHero Type
​1​   Kung Fu
​2​   Sword Master
​3  ​ Cyborg
​4​   Singer
​5   ​Guru
​6   ​Gunfighter
​7   ​Zombie Lord
​8   ​Sleeping Beauty
​9   ​Dwarf
​10   ​Dinosaur Tamer
​11   ​Were Lion
​12    ​Bear Puncher
​13    ​Communist

The Results

So my nickname came out to be  Mike 'the courageous sleeping beauty' Hrycyk  which is pretty awesome. 

some other examples; (with the people's names trimmed for their privacy)
'the drinking sword master'
'the soot bear puncher'
'the zombie lord verdict'
'the mechanization guru'
'the industrialization singer'
'the substantiation bear puncher'
'the constancy communist'
'the ​administration cyborg'
‘the Kung-Fu Operative’

We haven't really done a brainstorming session per se looking for an actual targeted end product before in scrum challenge.  we've done brainstorming but the end target isn't defined at all - ie One Uppers.  There was a bit of confusion and scrambling at the start but in the end, with a bit of prodding and guidance we came up with a useful and viable product.  Fast enough that we are able to use the tool to figure out 4 or 5 nicknames in the challenge.  which gave us some fun conclusions.  

We do these challenges in a meeting room every friday and there's a manager scrum and then a development team scrum in the room following our scrum.  Every friday members from both teams have taken to looking to the whiteboard to see what our scrum challenge has produced.  often there are things and when they aren't they turn to me in askance.  I've even had a manager or two take some of my scrum challenges and do them with their team, on occasion.  This challenge was the first time that i had random team members from groups go through the challenge on their own and send out the results.  So that was cool. 

What Went Right
  • good end product. 
  • team worked together to produce ideas. 
  • had time to actually produce some nicknames. 
  • the team enjoyed the challenge quite a bit. 

What Went Wrong
  • some of the team was left out of the collaborative nicknaming process although we followed up later with the entire list.  

Lessons Learned
Brainstorming isn't easy.  You need a path to really guide people along to have an end product that you can use.  i struggled working on this challenge to produce a brainstorming session that i thought would be useful.  in the end i had to provide a pretty healthy seat to the storm.  A large part of this, however, was the length of the challenge, 15 minutes is just very short. 

I want to see your nickname if you make one please - in the comments!

Signing off.... Mike 'the courageous sleeping beauty'


  1. Joseph 'the stability dinosaur tamer' Wilson... but my friends just call me Sean.

  2. correction, your friends used to call you Sean.