Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Place your bets

Having recently completed reading the excellent book “The Click Moment” by  Franz Johansson (@Frans_Johansson).  I was amazed by how much of the material written in the book appears to relate to software testing.  The principles of the book are about creating opportunities in an unpredictable world and not about putting in hours and hours of practice.  The author explains that if there are fixed rules and these rules do not change too much then the 10000 hours rule of practice works  .  However the author points out we are living in a world in which the rules are always changing and unexpected (random) things can and do happen.

Some of the statements made in the book appear to have a correlation to the current state of software testing and the various “schools”.  (The scripted vs the exploratory debate).  The first thing that caused me to think was some of the comments on planning  and how this stifles opportunities for random events and for uncovering new and exciting things.  

For example Franz stated the following

…In fact, it might mean that the plan is outdated before you even start to execute it….”

I have often experienced this within companies that believe that we can plan upfront and know all we need to know to write scripts before we actually use the product.  I have seen test plans which when I start doing some testing are hopelessly out of date and then spend unnecessary time trying to retrofit what I am experiencing when testing with what the plan is saying.  Doing this makes me take my eye of the ball and miss chances to find out what could be important information.

Franz then makes a statement which could be taken directly from why we need to do exploratory testing.

“..As ironic as it may sound, it actually pays to schedule time to do something unscripted and unplanned. We need to leave enough room in our day to explore things that are not connected to our immediate goals. We need to free ourselves up to become aware of hidden opportunities and expose ourselves to significant click moments. Leave some flexibility in your schedule. Then, make sure you use the flexibility to explore something unrelated to what you are doing or to follow up on a curious idea you have been considering”

This offers so much potential for uncovering new and valuable information without the restrictions of following someone else’s thinking.  This way of testing in my world can lead to many serendipity moments.

So how can we help to make this happen in software testing?  Is there anything we can do to help create more of these moments of randomness?

Franz within the book gives 5 great tips which may encourage more serendipity.  I have listed the tips below and give a description of how this could apply to exploratory testing.

1. Place Many Bets 

Having a single exploratory testing mission which can consist of an infinite number of tests (bets) is surely much better than having a single scripted test in which you are only placing one bet.

2. Minimize the Size of the Bets

Instead of spending lots of time creating a test script based upon assumptions do the minimum required to do some actual testing and time box your testing sessions.

3. Take the Smallest Executable Step

Do the minimal amount of planning you can do to enable you to do some exploratory testing.  We need to stop thinking if we write detailed test scripts and plans before we really know anything that this will lead to us uncovering lots of information about the system.

4. Calculate Affordable Loss, Not ROI

We still believe that there is a justifiable, measurable cost in planning ahead and creating detailed test plans and scripts.  Which we then discover are outdated and very costly to maintain but we insist they are useful because someone else may use them in the future.  Instead look at creating lots of test ideals using test models and heuristics  which are cheap to create and if of no use can easily be discarded once we uncover more information when testing.  We should be looking at testing and its cost effectiveness from what can we afford to throw away if our assumptions are wrong.

5. Use Passion as Fuel

This is so important people with a passion for what they are doing are the drivers of opportunities.  This type of person is one where if they get stuck or falter they pick themselves back up, dust themselves off and look for ways around the problems.   These are innovators, the people who can radically change the market and improve what is already there.  There is a need to employ more of these passionate types of people in the world of software testing.  I am getting fed up of the 9-5 testers, the ones who have no desire to learn or improve themselves, the ones not reading this blog.

I do recommend that anyone involved in software development read this book it gives some great advice of how we can adapt what we do and how we think to improve our chances of delivering successful projects. 

PS No I am not being paid by Franz for writing this 


  1. Love this explanation of ET! That book definitely sounds like a worthwhile read.

  2. Thank you for your comment Claire much appreciated and I am glad that you have found it useful. The book is a really good one both for testing and for your own personnel development.