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Why attending the daily stand-up helps agile testers keep in sync with the team

Posted by Matt Archer on April 2, 2013

This post is part of the tips for manual testers working in an agile environment series. A series of posts inspired by the topics covered in the Techniques for Agile Manual Testers course that is currently available to take in London (via the Ministry of Testing) and in Copenhagen (via PrettyGoodTesting).


Few things are more confusing for a project sponsor than a team that is evidently busy but failing to deliver high quality software at regular intervals. To the casual observer, the behaviour is paradoxical. If everyone is busy, how can the team’s delivery rate be so slow?

In such a situation I would recommend that the team reviews their cohesion. Is everyone driving towards the same short-term goals or are people working on activities that are at best required for a future sprint or worse, activities that are unknowingly not required at all?

From a testing perspective, this type of redundancy can come in many forms. A common example is the preparation of tests that are never executed because the target of those tests is significantly changed or placed out of scope without the tester’s knowledge.

As our understanding of other people’s work improves, the more cohesive (and less wasteful) we tend to become. It is for this reason that I advise testers to always attend their team’s daily stand-up.

Daily stand-ups also present opportunities to invite people to collaborate. Whilst strictly not part of the standard three-question agenda, I see little harm in a tester augmenting their update with an invitation to pair or an offer to review another’s work. I encourage this practice because it is these collaborative activities (not just meeting once a day) that make a team truly cohesive and strengthen their chance of delivering high quality software on a regular basis.


If you have a comment or question about this particular tip, please do not hesitate to Leave a Reply.  A complete list of tips is listed below.

Why attending the daily stand-up helps agile testers keep in sync with the team

2 Responses to “Why attending the daily stand-up helps agile testers keep in sync with the team”

  1. majd said

    You are absolutely right Matt. As testers, we always complain of involving the testing late in the process and active participation in the Daily Scrum helps us understand the things that are coming at us. A better prepared tester is the result.

    –MA: Thanks for your comment Majd. I’ve seen both teams where the testers have not been invited to the daily Scrum and also teams where the testers have consciously decided not attend. Both are agile anti-patterns / smells in my book. Like you say, participating in the daily Scrum helps us understand the things that are currently being worked on by the team and with this knowledge we can be better prepared as testers. Thanks again for you comment, Matt.

  2. I’m confused: is the idea that testers should attend the daily standup even in question? (Should the programmers attend as well?) Have you seen Agile groups not doing this? If so, I’d say we could declare that “Agile” no longer means anything at all.

    Hi Michael,

    I have seen teams perform what could be described as “selective” stand-ups, where only a subset of the team attends. In fact, I am currently working with a team that is doing this very thing. I’m not aware of any material that recommends this as a practice for an individual team*, so my guess (supported by a small amount of casual questioning) is that teams are following the “thanks for the advice, but I know best” approach to tailoring the software development practices they use. From what I have seen, the decision to perform selective stand-ups is always underpinned by good intentions; maybe they are deliberately trying to be context driven (I have never specifically asked).

    In terms of declaring that “Agile” no longer means anything at all, I have a few thoughts. The first is that using a practice in a way that differs from how it was originally intended doesn’t take away from the original meaning as defined by its creator(s). With this in mind, instead of saying “Agile” no longer means anything at all, I would feel more comfortable saying that the ratio of people that share a common understanding of “Agile” with its creator(s) appears to be decreasing. That said, even this statement leaves me feeling nervous. This is because my second (parallel) thought, is that presenting “Agile” as something that can be concretely debated can only take discussions so far (which typically isn’t very far at all). If we want to discuss the meaning of “Agile”, we should really focus on what it means to apply a specific agile practice to a specific project or team.

    * I deliberately included the words “for an individual team” in my first paragraph because a group of small teams who sit together and once a day perform a scrum-of-scrums meeting may look like they are performing a selective stand-up to the casual observer. Maybe they are. Maybe the scrum-of-scrums pattern is a special case of a selective stand-up that is OK in this particular context. In this fictitious example I could spin it either way to support a particular argument. Such is the nature of a “let’s pretend” based discussion about complicated topics; they are good at helping to inspire different thoughts, but are an ineffective tool (in my opinion) when it comes to people debating the finer details, especially if those people are perceived to have opposing views.

    It was good to see you in Brighton by the way. Next time we cross paths in person, we should take the opportunity to pick a topic like this apart in detail.

    Thanks again for your comment,

    Matt

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