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Sometimes you know how but you can't say how.....


I was once asked to create a ‘Sprint Diary’ for how to be an ‘agile tester.’ That’s right, on the first day do this, on day two say this, on day three create that. Now, I can understand why they (vagueness to protect the guilty/innocent) wanted this ‘guide.’ I meet many testers who feel discomfort in the agile world who want to know which way to turn. 

They didn’t like my answer. I said:



‘I might be able to show you but I can’t tell you.’

Why ever not they said. I said:



‘The skill and understanding is in the moment, when decisions are made.’

When is this moment they asked. I replied:



‘To be honest I don’t know. And I might not know at the time.’

Honesty does cause a great deal of consternation. Much grumbling ensued.


So after pondering on this exchange, my reflections led me to these (personal) principles:


  • Strive for optionality. In a world where factors that cannot be finalised or nailed down are constantly hounded for a state they are incapable of, be the person who retains their options. Leave doors open for people, systems, tools and techniques. Who knows when you might need an extra option in a squeeze?
  • My old buddy context. Often neglected, but always waiting to be found. Ask just the right question, dig a little deeper, and ask someone you might not usually ask. When someone on the team asks ‘what is the context of this issue?’ it always brings a little smile to my face, as it usually leads to an epiphany.
  • Timing is crucial. You always hear phrases like ‘just enough, just in time’ and ‘last responsible moment’ in agile discourse. Can you honestly think of a teaching strategy to find the ‘last responsible moment’ to make a decision? It is ethereal, one moment you can taste it, the next it’s gone. And there’s a very good chance you’ll get it wrong. A lot.

I’ve been on agile training courses but I have never proceeded thinking that it would teach me to be ‘more agile.’ To approach without recognising the fallibility of such endeavours is understating the importance of the tacit knowledge required.
 

Of the three principles above how many do you think can be taught and to what extent? I don’t have the right answer. As an industry we chase tacit knowledge tirelessly, trying to encapsulate in training courses and the like, I chose to go back to (my) first principles.

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