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Fear, A Major Speed Bump on the Road to Quality

by Angela 3. February 2017 22:26

I warned you that I’d be blogging about the “messiness” of ALM and DevOps consulting. And this is a long one so grab a cup of coffee, tea, or cocktail of your choice (whatever I won’t judge). It’s actually based on something I wrote for the QAI Quest Magazine. If you haven’t checked out the CQAA (Chicago Quality Assurance Association) community or their upcoming QUEST conference in Chicago this April, I highly recommend it!

Anyway, here is the article:

A large part of my job as a scrum master and agile coach is focusing on quality. Quality of process, quality of teams, and quality of software. While all of these can be challenging to improve, one of the hardest to tackle is quality of the team. I’m not talking about individual’s skillsets, although that is important. I’m talking about the ability of the team to work together as a WHOLE. In my experience, teams that cannot accomplish this cannot produce a quality product. Missed requirements, sloppy handoffs, miscommunication of what is “done”, and a host of other issues arise when the team just can’t seem to come together in a truly open and collaborative environment. Causes for this failure are complex and will vary from team to team. But one that I run into time and time again is fear. Yes, fear!

I’m not a psychologist and I don’t purport to know all the answers, but I can speak from experience - both in terms of myself and what I see in others. I have seen fear manifest itself in the following situations:

· Underestimating feature delivery times to hide a lack of confidence, often leading to painful sprint reviews when committed features aren’t delivered on time, or not at all.

· Code being integrated too soon to avoid being late, resulting in bugs “leaking” into production.

· Misunderstood requirements being implemented without question, and promptly being rejected by QA or a frustrated product owner.

· Resentment when team members feel someone is not pulling their weight, when in reality that person is silently struggling.

· Failure by team members to ask for clarification because everyone else surely must “get it”.

The fear of being seen as not good enough or smart enough by our peers is real and pervasive in IT. Ironically, the end result of hiding our struggles is often working extra hours and even cutting corners to make the unrealistic deadlines that we set for ourselves. This inevitably leads to doing the very thing we are fearful of … letting people down.

Tying this back to quality:

· Imagine if the team was afraid to admit that a requirement was vague, that it would be extremely complex to develop, or almost impossible to adequately test.

· Imagine if they assumed they’d figure it out as they go and plowed ahead.

· Imagine if someone on the team rushed to complete a feature and skimped on testing to prevent blowing their estimates because of fear of retribution for being wrong.

You probably don’t have to imagine it. It’s likely happening on your team right now but no one is talking about it! So, what can you do once you’ve realized that fear is holding you or your team back? What I have learned on my own journey is that it’s not enough to recognize when I am acting from a place of fear; I also have to recognize it in others. And much like quality, it is EVERYONE’S responsibility to create a collaborative and supportive environment.

As a Scrum Master, here are some of the things that I ask myself in order to help address fear on my teams.

· Is someone new to the team, or to their role, and clearly feeling overwhelmed or struggling to fit in?

· Is someone is hesitating to speak up when they clearly have a strong opinion or idea?

· Are people afraid of being judged harshly or told their idea is “crazy” or “dumb” in a team setting?

 

Now, that’s a lot of stuff to keep an eye on. (Hey…no one ever said that being the Scrum Master was an easy job.) So, let’s say that you notice something. What do you do about it? How do you head-off fear and/or actually do something about it?

Well, if someone on the team shares a concern or asks for help, be sure to thank them for bringing it up and offer them support, or try to connect them with someone who can. If people are hesitant to speak up in a large group setting, approach them after the meeting, and discuss it in a more casual environment. If they need some encouragement or support, find a way to share their ideas with the team in a less intimidating way. Find ways to bring new team members on-board and make them feel connected quickly. Make sure no one is discouraging open and honest conversation by dominating conversations or by openly criticizing ideas or opinions, even jokingly. Joking, while good natured, can be misconstrued as criticism, and simply telling a teammate that they “just can’t take a joke” is a great way to alienate them and ensure their participation in future activities is limited. Besides, some of the biggest discoveries in history started with an original premise that was totally out there!

I’ve given talks on fear at a number of conferences, and every time people have approached me afterwards saying “I feel that way too. It’s so good to know I am not alone!” Research shows that around 70% of people struggle with these kinds of fears, and based on my experience, it is higher in IT! That means that in any given meeting you attend, MOST of the people in the room are afraid to share their thoughts for fear of negative consequences. Imagine all of the great ideas being squandered and land mines we are failing to avoid.

Hopefully you’re already thinking of ways to improve the quality of your team, and ultimately of the products you are delivering. Strive to be more vigilant, more supportive, more honest, and you will be well on your way to creating a high-quality and high-performing team!

 

If you’re attending quest, I also have a few sessions there that you may want to check out if this article spoke to you.

Getting Your Agile Team Unstuck! Tips and Tricks for Avoiding Common Agile Setbacks: http://qaiquest.org/2017/sessions/half-day-tutorial-getting-your-agile-team-unstuck-tips-and-tricks-for-avoiding-common-agile-setbacks/

Fear and (Self) Loathing in IT: A Healthy Discussion on Imposter Syndrome: http://qaiquest.org/2017/sessions/fear-and-self-loathing-in-it-a-healthy-discussion-on-imposter-syndrome/ 

And if you’re not attending Quest feel free to send me a message via this blog or on Twitter!

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Join Polaris at the QAI QUEST Conference in Chicago Next Month

by Angela 22. March 2016 12:15

Next month, the Quality Assurance Institute brings the Quest conference back to Chicago. Quest is the Quality Engineered Software and Testing Conference & EXPO, and it’s a fantastic place to network and learn about the latest trends in quality assurance, team collaboration, and software delivery. From the website:

LEARN - ASSESS - APPLY - CONNECT

QUEST 2016 Conference is the best source for new technologies and proven methods for Quality Engineered Software and Testing. Thought leaders, evangelists, innovative practitioners, and IT professionals from across North America gather together for a week packed with classes, tutorials, educational sessions, hand-on workshops, discussions groups, EXPO, and networking events. Let your quest to build, test, and deliver quality software begin with QUEST 2016! You’ll see sessions around topics such as Agile, Leadership, Measurement, Test Design, Automation, Open Source, Performance, Test Data, Mobile, Security, DevOps, And More… Check out the conference schedule here.

Chris Taylor and yours truly will be delivering a number of sessions at the conference including:

 

I’ll also be speaking at the Manager’s Workshop. I’m excited to have an opportunity to participate in this. I’ve attended in years past as an attendee, and it’s an awesome opportunity to network and learn from peers and thought leaders about some of the things we all struggle with in the software business.

I hope you can attend the conference and perhaps even stop by one of our sessions! Register here while tickets are still available.

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Last Chance to Register for the CQAA Agile Testing Practices Program on Jan 26th in Chicago

by Angela 25. January 2016 15:54

I don’t run across many non-QA folks that are members of CQAA – the Chicago Quality Assurance Association, which is a shame. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably part of a software development team (or you are my mom being supportive – Hi Mom!), and ALL members of the team are responsible for quality so really you should check out CQAA in general. They have a lot of really great local events and webinars, AND this year they have a conference coming to Chicago. More on that later…

I coach a lot of software teams on agile and Scrum and hands down one of the biggest challenges is quality.  Specifically – how does QA keep up with development efforts? Well, my first bit of advice is that keeping up with testing implies that only QA is bothering to assure that quality is there, and developers have a huge role to play too. How they do that, well, your team needs to decide. Some level of up-front testing is critical to ensuing quality from the moment there is enough of a requirement worth swarming on to the minute it hits production. TDD, BDD, ATDD, there are many options. This might be just the opportunity you’ve been looking for to delve more deeply into that topic if you’ve been on the fence, or maybe if you haven’t even begun doing the research. Software developers are inherently “lazy” right? How efficient is it that Karen can give you the run down and save you a lot of Googling Smile

This looks like a great event that I hope you consider attending, regardless of your role on the team. I was fortunate enough to end up at a lunch table with Karen many years ago at a Quest conference, and Karen had so much great experience and insight to share. I look forward to any opportunities I can find to learn from her. Today is the last day to register, and I really apologize for the last minute notice but I had forgotten about it myself until today.

 

Influencing your Team Towards BDD & Agile Practices

Karen N. Johnson

About the Topic

We’ve shortened the software development release cycle and we are even moving towards continuous delivery, but our testing efforts still seem to have that waterfall-feel to it. How can we influence more Agile testing practices without feeling like our testing strategies have “fallen off the rails!"

First let’s look at a few of the common terms such as BDD and TDD and understand what each term means and what those practices look like in our daily lives. Next let’s explore small tactical practical ways we can influence adoption of early test thinking on our teams. Let’s also develop a few short concise “elevator pitches” that we can share with teammates, product owners and even senior management in those casual spur of the moment conversations that take place to help influence a continual and evolving adoption of BDD and Agile test practices.

Key Learning Objectives

  • Understand the terms BDD & TDD
  • Learn specific tactics to help move your team towards Agile testing practices
  • Develop an “elevator” pitch for promoting BDD for every layer of management 

About the Speaker

Karen N. Johnson has worked as a software test consultant for many years. Her client engagements range from teaching to project work. Karen is frequent speaker at conferences. She is a contributing author to the book, Beautiful Testing by O’Reilly publishers. She has published numerous articles and blogs about her experiences with software testing. She is the co-founder of the WREST workshop, more information on WREST can be found at: http://www.wrestworkshop.com. Find her on Twitter as @karennjohnson (note the two n’s) and her website: http://www.karennicolejohnson.com.

Host and Location

SAVO Group Ltd.

155 N Wacker Drive

2nd Floor Conference Center

Chicago, IL 60606

Agenda

1:30-2:00 Sign-in & Networking

2:00-2:15 Announcements

2:15-4:00 Presentation (15 minute break at 3:00)

Registration

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED TO ATTEND THIS PROGRAM.

PLEASE REGISTER BY Monday, January 25, 2016 at www.cqaa.org. If you have any questions, please contact CQAA Program Director at programs@cqaa.org.

 

Hope you can make it! And if you do attend, wave to my husband if you see him, as it is in his office Smile

Tags:

TDD | BDD | Software Testing | Quality Assurance | Quest | CQAA | Software Quality | unit testing | Test Automation | Testing | Agile | Application Lifecycle Management | Scrum

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So many conferences, so little time

by Angela 9. January 2014 10:17

So since it is the beginning of the year, I am re-evaluating my conference choices this year. I always assumed that after I left Microsoft I would attend LESS conferences, and do less public speaking, not more. Turns out I have more time to do fun things like that now :)  Here is what is on my radar for 2014:

ALM Forum: April 1-3, Seattle WA. This is a rebranding of the ALM Summit from year’s past.  Some great speakers lined up including Sam Gu and Ken Schwaber! I may be going to Agile 2014 instead of this one sadly, only so many conferences I can attend in one year. Reasonably pricey at about $1,400 for a conference pass with an extra fee for some of the pre and post conference workshops. But even at that price, it’s been well worth it every year I’ve gone.

QAI Quest: April 7-11 Baltimore, MD. A global quality engineered software based conference.  I’ve attended 4 of the 5 past conferences but this year I just have too many to also make it to this one. Mainly focus on Quality Assurance, and in the past year or two they have started adding a lot of agile talks as well.

Build: San Francisco CA. Sold out in record time, as usual. Glad I got to go to a PDC before I left Microsoft because this is one of the hardest tickets to get, second only to CodeMash which is going on right now!

NewCodeCamp: Northeast Wisconsin Code Camp (Formerly Fox Valley Day of .NET) March 22nd, This is an expansion of Fox Valley Day of .NET, and will encompass whatever sessions community members wish, not just Microsoft technologies. Still FREE!

CCC: Chicago Code Camp. April 26, Grays Lake IL. Always FREE! Always packed with great speakers, definitely not missing it this year.  Polaris Solutions is a Platinum Sponsor so look for our booth, and stop by and say hi while you’re there. I will be there!

ALM Chicago: May 1-2 Chicago IL. A Chicago conference run by a local consulting firm out of Wisconsin focusing on agile practices and tooling. Cost is between $249 and $499 depending on when you register. So register before the end of this month, before the price doubles. I will be there!

VSLive Chicago: May 5-8 Chicago IL. $1800 early bird. I attended one once, about 8 years ago. I remember it being pretty valuable as long as you weren’t focusing on bleeding edge stuff. Great speakers and topics, but not as wide a range as what you get at events like Build and TechEd.

TechEd NA: May 11-14, Houston TX. I’ve actually never been to a TechEd, can you believe it? I’ve always heard there was some amazing content and speakers at this one too.

Microsoft WPC: July 13-17, Washington DC. This is for Microsoft Partners, so not sure how many of you would really be interested in this one. Lots of great content and networking opportunities for sure. Also, last year I finally got to meet Mary Jo Foley in person :)

Agile 2014: July 28 – Aug 1, Orlando FL. I’ve never been to this one, but I always know when it’s happening because my twitter feed lights up with exciting chatter about all of the awesome things people are learning. Hoping to attend, and maybe present there this year. A bit pricey at $2400 but it’s 5 days long!

ThatConference: August 11-13, Wisconsin Dells WI.  I admit, I am biased, but I love this conference! Organized and run by a bunch of techies like yourself (including me!), it’s for the nerds, by the nerds. Also, inexpensive (~$400 for a full conference pass) and super family friendly.

MVP Summit: Novemberish, Redmond WA. Only for MVPs, so if you’re not an MVP and you’re a passionate Microsoft technologist this is something to work towards. I went last year, and the access to product team people, industry experts, and other MVPs was priceless. Hoping I earn another pass this year.

STLDODN: mid-Novemberish, St Louis MO. Attended last year for the first time and it was a blast! Great people, awesome sessions, pre-compilers for some deeply technical hands on learning experience. Another really inexpensive one too, coming in at about $300 for a pass, with the pre-compilers being just a little bit extra.

 

Are there any big ones that I have missed? What are you planning to attend this year?

Tags:

Agile | conference | ThatConference | Microsoft | technology | Quality Assurance | Quest | Chicago Code Camp

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