Exploration Through Example

Example-driven development, Agile testing, context-driven testing, Agile programming, Ruby, and other things of interest to Brian Marick
191.8 167.2 186.2 183.6 184.0 183.2 184.6

Tue, 01 Nov 2005

Four questions

Jonathan Kohl and I have been having a little conversation prompted by my comments on the Satir model of communication. He listed three questions he asks himself as he interacts with his team:

  • Am I trying to manipulate someone (or the rest of the team) by what I'm saying? An example he gave me is exaggerating a testing problem so that a programmer will look at a bug that's being ignored. (Sometimes testing can't proceed until a bug is dealt with.)

  • Am I not communicating what I really think? One example would be agreeing with people to avoid conflict. (That's different than disagreeing with a proposal, acknowledging the disagreement, and then agreeing to try the proposal anyway. After all, you're roughly as likely to be wrong as anyone else.)

  • Am I putting the process above people? An example that Jonathan gives is deciding that the Customer is by definition right on assessments of value and that the programmers should swallow their discomfort and start coding. I'm sometimes guilty of that.

He thinks of these in terms of Satir's notion of congruence, which is not an idea that rocks my world. (I'm more interested in external behavior than internal state: what I do in the world rather than my position in relationship to it.) The value of the questions is independent of their background, I think.

I've added a fourth:

  • Will those people have good reason to trust me more after this conversation?

I think I use that to square Jonathan's sentiments with my suspicion that there's a lot of useful manipulation out there.

Consider what I do as a coach. An ideal coach - which I am not - will act mostly by exploiting opportunities to jiggle someone else into discovery. I learn best through discovery, and it seems most people I work with are the same. So I am actively training myself to hold back, keep my mouth shut, and let my pair run with an idea, all the while being ready to say things that will help her realize what's happening. Then we can talk about it. (I've noticed that Ron Jeffries is substantially better at this than I am.)

The nice thing about this approach is that it gives me room to be wrong. A lot of the time, what I thought would happen doesn't - her idea was better than mine - and a variant lesson gets learned (by both of us).

Nevertheless, it'd be fair to call me manipulative. The saving grace is that I'm happy for people to know what I'm doing; I don't believe writing this note will make people trust me less.

The focus on trust also keeps me from overdoing it. I resent it when teachers put me in an artificial scenario where they know precisely the troubles I'll have and what lessons I will not be able to avoid learning. I don't trust such people. From experience, I doubt they'll be tolerant of the perverse conclusions I tend to draw. So when I draw them, things turn into an Authority Game with a dynamic of them proclaiming Trvth at me and me being resistent.

(The devolution into such a game is an example of putting process above people. I bet my fourth question is, strictly, subsumed by the remaining three. But "men need more often to be reminded than informed" (*). Given that I do have a regrettable authoritarian streak, redundancy is OK.)

I think Jonathan's questions will help me, going forward.

(*) Warren Teitelman, I think. He was giving a talk on the Cedar programming language and programming environment.

## Posted at 07:35 in category /agile [permalink] [top]

About Brian Marick
I consult mainly on Agile software development, with a special focus on how testing fits in.

Contact me here: marick@exampler.com.




Agile Testing Directions
Tests and examples
Technology-facing programmer support
Business-facing team support
Business-facing product critiques
Technology-facing product critiques
Testers on agile projects

Permalink to this list


Working your way out of the automated GUI testing tarpit
  1. Three ways of writing the same test
  2. A test should deduce its setup path
  3. Convert the suite one failure at a time
  4. You should be able to get to any page in one step
  5. Extract fast tests about single pages
  6. Link checking without clicking on links
  7. Workflow tests remain GUI tests
Permalink to this list


Design-Driven Test-Driven Design
Creating a test
Making it (barely) run
Views and presenters appear
Hooking up the real GUI


Popular Articles
A roadmap for testing on an agile project: When consulting on testing in Agile projects, I like to call this plan "what I'm biased toward."

Tacit knowledge: Experts often have no theory of their work. They simply perform skillfully.

Process and personality: Every article on methodology implicitly begins "Let's talk about me."


Related Weblogs

Wayne Allen
James Bach
Laurent Bossavit
William Caputo
Mike Clark
Rachel Davies
Esther Derby
Michael Feathers
Developer Testing
Chad Fowler
Martin Fowler
Alan Francis
Elisabeth Hendrickson
Grig Gheorghiu
Andy Hunt
Ben Hyde
Ron Jeffries
Jonathan Kohl
Dave Liebreich
Jeff Patton
Bret Pettichord
Hiring Johanna Rothman
Managing Johanna Rothman
Kevin Rutherford
Christian Sepulveda
James Shore
Jeff Sutherland
Pragmatic Dave Thomas
Glenn Vanderburg
Greg Vaughn
Eugene Wallingford
Jim Weirich


Where to Find Me

Software Practice Advancement


All of 2006
All of 2005
All of 2004
All of 2003



Agile Alliance Logo