Fate Works in Strange Ways – Transformations

Well, here we go, my first blog. I swore, some time ago, that I would not be a blogger. I’m not sure if that makes me selfish or not. Happy to read the thoughts of others, learn from them, but then not give something back in return. Weirdly that thought only came to me as I type this. Anyway that’s a bit off the track I intend to go down in this bit of writing. I use LinkedIn. Sometimes I love it, sometimes some of the commentary just drives me nuts. Inevitably I go back for more. Why? Because, at the end of the day I like the majority of the discussion. I have met some really sharp thinkers. They have introduced me to ideas, that I might have eventually stumbled upon, that have helped me improve aspects of how I test, how I think, how I interact and react with people. The same is true of the many people I engage with on Twitter. It is a privilege to have so much global knowledge so accessible. Anyway back to the main theme and fate. A bloke, who was an unknown to me at the time, Rajesh Mathur, dropped an article on LinkedIn. I can’t even member the specifics of the article now. I challenged points in the article, Raj responded (in a very cool way). We had several discussions which led to a chat over coffee. That chance happening (and I almost didn’t challenge his article) triggered the meeting of a man that is now a friend and a hell of a good thinker around matters of testing. When I talk to Raj I get inspired by the chat and his ability to convince me I should extend myself even more. He has a positive energy that just radiates and infects people near him (perhaps it’s just me, maybe I’ll set up something on Survey monkey to find out). This is why I’m now blogging, Raj convinced me to start writing. So I guess this is a transformation of one kind.

I work for a software company that decided to move into Agile development adopting Scrum as the framework. I was fortunate enough to be asked to be part of the pilot team (that was a little over 2 years ago). I knew something of Agile coming in to the changeover but, as it turns out, wouldn’t have hurt to know more. Then again it’s all theory until you are in the heat of battle. For me doing teaches me more than books on their own ever will. Mind you I read like a demented librarian, it’s a habit I can’t break (and don’t want to break). I always considered myself a good fit for Agile/Scrum. I love team work, love problem solving, love the idea of being invited to be part of the solution from start to finish rather than having to gate crash. I have a fair level of disregard for the silo mentality. Waterfall, for sometime now, has seemed like a terrible idea to me. My experiences in waterfall have done little to change my mind on its inherent problems as a development method. I was discussing this, and a bunch more, with Raj over dinner at Nandos. As a result of that discussion I was asked to present on transforming from waterfall to agile at AHPRA. While Raj requested this as “a favour”, I just couldn’t see this as anything other than an opportunity. My first speaking engagement to people other than those I work with. Better still Raj bought me lunch. Does that make me a paid professional speaker? I learnt a few things out of this engagement. I spent the best part of a Saturday wandering in and out of my mindmap and Powerpoint. Creating slides, thinking through my mindmap points, reflecting on the transformation experience to date. It was actually an engaging experience, I’m really glad I took my time.

I really enjoy talking to other people about things I have experienced and learnt. If I can pass on some ideas that will save other people time and energy, or at least open options for them, then awesome, I’m paying back on the vast amount of knowledge others have passed my way. I think I actually enjoy the process of presenting, being a little bit of a smart arse and building some rapport, getting a few laughs helps people relax and engage. I enjoyed the feedback that I did engage people and they thought my presentation interesting and useful. I enjoyed that the people attending were very generous, switched on and asked some very cool questions. I’ll never forget the question ” so a story point equals a day”. It was a valid question, but, it is also something that drives me nuts due to a mandate introduced as part of the agile transformation process at work. I was able to clown it a little, address the question, and everyone had some fun in the process. By my judgement that’s a win/win. I’m going to write about this in more detail in my next blog entry. I was going to do it in this one but I like what I have written and adding the extra information would make this hideously long. So…….

Our transformation was supposed to be slow and considered. Start with a single team of people that were both eager to be part of the process, capable of making the changes and willing to feedback in to the process to help other teams transform. A consultancy was engaged. I didn’t have a lot of contact with them, can’t say they had any impact on my development. Others tell me they did a good job. Maybe the idea of talking to a tester terrified them. I know I asked plenty of questions that were never answered, those promised follow ups never delivered. The funny thing is, knowing what I know now, there was a simple answer to many of my questions. Someone just had to point out that there is no agile testing, just testing in agile. Silver lining though folks because frustration led me to hitting the books, articles and on line forums like never before. I learnt stuff that the consultancy would never have led me to. I re-established a thirst for knowledge that had lay dormant for a little too long. I found writers who had been through this and more for years and were sharing valuable information. I got exposure to ideas that lie outside the mainstream “cookie cutter” mentality. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger (I guess). People say that when opportunity knocks….., don’t wait to be asked or told, just do……, make your own opportunity. I’m glad I did. I’ve become so much more empowered, enlightened and I know more about how to solve meaningful problems efficiently. Don’t get me wrong, I’m nowhere near the end of the journey, I’ve got plenty of roads to travel. If learning teaches you one thing it is that there is so much more to learn.

Back to the transformation. My manager (at the time) advised me 6 months in that the transformation had been “signed off” as complete (that was the view of his manager). All people had been assigned to agile teams (including those in our overseas office that work with us). Lessons learned from our first team, how did we distribute that? We didn’t. Apart from the team I was working in the others were pretty much waterfall using some scrum ceremonies. At least this problem has been recognised and we are trying to deal with it. I was lucky enough to be asked to move into one of the scrum teams and help them shift to agile practices. This has been an awesome experience. The team was highly dysfunctional when I first moved in, they had problems, big ones. Eight weeks later the feedback from the team is very encouraging. The feedback from outside the team is encouraging. The team is transforming. I’m stoked to have influenced change. I’m really pumped that the people in the team took up the challenge. It’s been hard work, breaking old habits, but watching new and better ones form is a great motivator. I’ve learned heaps along the way.

My next blog, I promise, will be my thoughts and observations on transforming from waterfall to agile. At least the background has been set out. Really hope you’ll come back and check out what I have to say.

 

Paul

 

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