Corona Pair Testing

Some years ago, I had been talking at an awesome test conference and brought home a deck of playing cards designed to help get your team excited about quality. In full optimism I tried to bring up the subject of the game at the coffee machine. But despite many tries I got zero response.

At last one developer, let’s call him Björn, told me out front: “Why would I want to play a game about the most boring part of IT”

 Finally an observable! :) Thank you Björn, I can work with this answer!

I asked about Björn’s experience with test, and he told me about the extremely dull test course at university. Boxes to tick, yes or no answers, complaining and causing delays. I agreed with him and told him that if what he described would be my job, I would die of boredom.

Armed with this new insight about pre-conceptions, I tried to deploy my second big takeaway from the conference: Strong Style Pair Testing.

The driver and the navigator

Pair testing is just what it sounds like: testing in a group of 2 (max 3). In Strong Style, there’s a driver and a navigator. The driver has the mouse and keyboard and does only what the navigator tells them. The navigator can’t touch the mouse or keyboard, but decides what the driver should do next. In other words, Strong Style means “I have an idea, you take the keyboard”.

The driver is thus developing their communicative skills while also becoming more aware of what it is that they actually want to do. The navigator learns about new approaches to doing things.

In a service dog — human pair, the dog is the navigator and the human is the driver. (CC Found animals)

A mile in each other’s shoes

Back to my old team. Most of the projects my team was working on had little or no requirements and documentation. For one especially troublesome release I asked Björn to test together with me. He saved me from a time-consuming, tedious process of me independently piecing together a usable test environment. Instead we sat together for an hour-long session and took turns steering his computer. 

At the end of this one-hour session we both had learned new valuable skills from each other. We had saved me maybe 10-20 hours of low-quality work, and Björn had gained new insights about the creativity and craftsmanship of testing.

Since then, Corona has happened. In my experience, Strong Style Pair Programming works even better on remote than in an office environment! In a video call with maximum 3 people, the driver/navigator setup becomes very natural. It’s an efficient way to share information and skills, at the same time that you get valuable face-to-face interaction.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Cindy

    Another great post! Thank you Emma! I’m loving these and can support how valuable a comment is as opposed to silence. If no one says anything then conversation cannot be started. That brave first comment even if difficult to receive is so valuable and can even be the start of a great friendship and meaningful collaboration as you have described. Thank you!!

    1. Emma Lilliestam

      Indeed, the key to this story is that “Björn” dared to say something potentially hurtful, that my job seems boring to him. And I received this as information rather than critique, enabling it to be a turning point in how I approached the team.

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