Wheel of Testing Part 1 – Motivations

(This will be part of a blog series – part 2 will discuss the content of the wheel itself and what I think it means, part 3 more how it can be used) 

I recently attended the peer conference NWEWT2 in Liverpool, which is my favourite type of conference. You get to share your ideas, have them scrutinised and hopefully walk away a bit wiser. The theme here was “Growing Testers”, something that I had wrestled with my whole career, so I looked forward to getting involved. I got some excellent feedback. Also, to my delight, I was also accused of aloof wizardry by Gwen Diagram as I wouldn’t offer a definition of ‘tool assisted testing’ to those who had used the wheel (see above), so I walked away happier and more wizardly than ever.

When I became a manager a few years ago, the world opened up more of the vast variance of human motivation to me. I had to consider contributing the development of others, as well as the self. Problem is I thought I could develop other testers, without really having their buy in, I had the answers. I was completely wrong about that. I had to learn it the hard way. Thats a whole other story but contributes to the existence of this “Wizarding Wheel of Testing”.

Hints had been there for a while. Someone said to me while practicing a workshop about “Testable Architecture”:

“Why would I need to learn about architecture? I just work on tickets.”

Then in a team meeting, someone else said:

“I don’t just want to push tickets across the board, but what can I do?”

*Where tickets might be stories, issues, features, enhancements, bugs or whatever on a teams visual radiator/information refrigerator (otherwise known as Jira)

I grant you this is not an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence, but the testers in many organisations I had worked in had such a narrow focus, dictated by delivery demands. How does one open minds but not replace one repressive model with another? Always the danger, replace one tyrant with another? No matter what your original intentions were…

Underlying motivations…

Lets look at what was going on in my mind:
  • Open as many doors as possible – the more doors opened, more chance to walk through them. Literally no one can walk through one for you.
  • Promote questions and not answers – buckets of detail lead to buckets of dependence and dogma. Careful.
  • Not obsessed with definitions – defining things is useful, until it becomes divisive. See ‘Testing vs Checking’ when used as a stick. Socially generated definitions in organisations through conversation. Useful.
  • Represent the core of a tester – what are the core skills of a tester. Now thats an interesting question. Choose wisely from the multitude. Discuss.
  • Was your career linear? – did your career progress beautifully along a smooth curve? Bullshit. Career models generally ignore the bumpiness of reality. And are created by managers who do not listen to their own experience.
  • More you learn, the less you know – testing is a vast discipline, which is part of its allure. I have no idea how much I don’t know. Each segment of the wheel could be a specialism/career in learning in itself.
  • Disciplines overlap as much than they differ – create something that developers. product people recognise too? Similarities as well as differences are important.
  • For the buccaneers – ever seen an organisational career model which reflected never mind rewarded buccaneering learning? They are generally about finishing stuff not learning stuff through broad horizons. 
More here:

Then, the wheel was then born! Gandalf wasn’t there. Or Dumbledore. Just me. More soon. 

Original slides from NWEWT2: