Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Scrum Challenge - QA Couplets - Random Style

The other day while the team and I were watching Test Bash 3 from Ministry of Testing we discovered as a team that the best entries were the ones where the testers recited 60 seconds of poetry about testing.  We were watching this video during our bi-weekly 'Team Learning Panel,' which I should tell you about some time.  

Towards the end of the same day, a Thursday, one of the team members sent me the question that I am invariably asked on the day before Scrum Challenge.  "Is there any hint?"

Scrum Challenge hint is as much a tradition around here as the scrum challenge itself.  I don't always give hints, based more upon knowing what challenge will be when asked than being secretive, but when I do they are cryptic, strange and difficult to relate to anything challenge-like.  This does not stop the question from getting asked. 

Once again I didn't really have any idea as to what the scrum challenge would be on the next day but I provided the following hint.  "I’m thinking that today’s learning panel will be a hint to tomorrow’s challenge."  Not knowing what the challenge was actually going to be about, I had now given myself some boundaries in which to create.  I do enjoy this type of challenge.   Gets my creative/nefarious juices running. 

I still hadn't come up with anything by the time I was getting into bed that night and mentioned such to my wife.  Five minutes later the two of us had come up with the following challenge. 

QA Couplets - Random Style

The Rules:

Phase I

  1. Choose coupled rhyming words, one per person in the challenge.
    1. If you have an even number of participants, MC stays out.  If you have an odd number, MC plays.
  2. On a long thin strip of paper, write on the right hand side one of your rhyming words.
  3. Repeat until all of your words are on pieces of paper.
  4. Shuffle.
  1. Each person is given a random piece of paper and asked not to speak about it. 
  2. Each person is asked to write a sentence ending in the word on their piece of paper.
    1. you may not change the word in any way (tense or pluralizing)
    2. the sentence should be about the over-arching theme.
    3. today's theme was 'Testing'
    4. the sentence should be a complete thought.
  3. After 2-3 minutes, collect all the pieces of paper.

Phase II 

  1. Take the first shuffled piece of paper.  Write the sentence on the white board.
  2. Find the piece of paper with the sentence that rhymes and write that sentence next.
  3. Take the next piece of paper and write it up.
  4. Find the rhyming sentence and etc.
  5. When all the couplets are up - voila - a QA poem.

The Results:

The beautiful of testing is how much bugs you CAUGHT!
I'm working on verification of fixed bugs that developers BROUGHT!
After a while testing goes like a BREEZE.
When I find a bug I start to SNEEZE.
Great product is not deliverable if QA's lazy!
Too many bugs makes function HAZY.
Testing is like a FLOWER
QA gives developers all the POWER

Through work the bug count SHRANK
Monster Trucks give QA the highest RANK.

This was received well by the team.  It is not the first time we have tackled poetry and even with a fairly nebulous direction at the start it was not questioned too much.  People just dug in and wrote their line.  

What Went Right
We ended up with a poem that while not great, was amusing and fit the bill. 

What Went Wrong
Oddly enough it was difficult to get the length of the sentence kept at similar lengths.  Much re-explanation was required and it still didn't' really work out.  It did not, however, end up being that important for the results of the challenge, the quality of the poem just didn't care that much. 

Lessons / Team Benefits
The big lesson in this challenge was about how difficult it is to produce a cohesive, high quality product when the project members are not able to coordinate their efforts and collaborate on a solution.  What you get in the end might be technically correct (although ours wasn't really) but will not really be beautiful.  The team readily accepted this lesson from the challenge, it quickly made sense.   

We will definitely play this game again.
On a side note, our new VP of Engineering sat in on our scrum this day, on his second day with the company.  He was a great sport and played the game well. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

service announcment

Sorry for the little blip there for the past few days. 
In doing some fiddling with some of the hosting configuration I have set up I ended up buried in a morass of hosting confusion for the better part of a week.  

We're all better now and qaisdoes points back to where it should. 

My apologies. 

Someday we'll talk about quality of instructions and how to's around hosting. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Put a little laugh in it.

"There is little success where there is little laughter." ~Andrew Carnegie
(this entry inspired by this other blog entry over here)

You ever work in a place where people didn't laugh?  Did you enjoy it?
I never have worked in a place that didn't have laughter.  I guess in some ways I turn down opportunities where i know that laughter is even a little bit less likely.  I mean there are other reasons that I shy away from stodgy financial companies but the formality of their situations which can reduce the freedom for fun or laughter is one of them.  

One of the best professional compliments that I've ever received came at the end of the era where the railroad company i worked at was breaking up and the entire IT dept was going their separate ways. The Director I worked under thanked me personally for my time, telling me that I had brought life back to the department.  Even in those days, starting as a junior employee and leaving years later as a lead, I worked hard at bringing joy and laughter to the work place.  This doesn't just mean being friendly and jovial, always having a joke at the ready, although that is also an important factor in workplace enjoyment.  No, I was definitely an instigator of hi-jinks.  Pranks on people's cubicles, roasts when people were leaving, awards for silly things - these were all things that I was a major driving force behind. 

I have maintained this habit throughout my career.  I have had to dial some of it back a little as I became a more senior manager but even my scrum challenges bring laughter to my teams and to other teams either through through-the-wall laughter contagion or in hearing the war stories of the last challenge. 

"What's the benefit really?" you might ask.  Isn't laughing in the work place a sign of low productivity due to frivolity?  I couldn't disagree more.  To my mind, laughter is the grease that keeps things moving.  It fosters stronger team building, it builds positive relationships that allow for easier to trading of favours, it pulls your brain out of the rut that it falls into after staring at the same screen for too many consecutive minutes and allows it to refocus in a more positive way, it leaves you in a better mood, allowing to have higher more positive energy towards your work  and most importantly of all, it helps you love your job.  

Having a good time during your work day means that you're going to enjoy going to work every day.  When your job has dreary parts, as they all do, getting a laugh here or there helps you through those parts and makes them not so bad. People who like their job are more pleasant to be around, get more done and make the jobs of others around them more pleasant as well.  In fact, they are the type of contagion that you most want in your work place. 

Maybe every workplace doesn't need the distraction of nerf-gun wars but a little laughter certainly makes the day go by a little faster.