Recorded live from Orcas Island, Washington, Matt, Justin and Perze attended the Reinventing Testers training run by James and Jon Bach. James sat down and talked with The Testing Show about reinventing testing skills, developing them, and the importance of words.
- Rapid Software Testing Course and Method
- Lessons Learned in Software Testing
- Context Driven Testing Manifesto
- Association for Software Testing
- Reinventing Testers Workshop
- Jason Fried, Rework
- Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations
- Jim McCarthy, The Core Protocols
- A-Galumphing We Go
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Hello, and welcome to The Testing Show. Believe it or not, we’re here live—well, we’re recording it live, I guess—from Orcas Island at the Reinventing Testers training run by Satisfice. The lead instructor is James Bach.
JAMES BACH: Hello.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Welcome to the show, James. If you don’t know James, you probably should.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: You live under a rock.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: James is the co-creator of the Rapid Software Testing Course and Method, co-author of Lessons Learned in Software Testing, co-author of Context‑Driven Manifesto, and co-founder of the Association for Software Testing. Is that it?
JAMES BACH: Oh, that sounds good. Yeah. What can I do for you?
MATTHEW HEUSSER: We’re going to talk about Reinventing Testers I would think. We’ve also got Justin Rohrman, as always.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Hi.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Welcome back, Justin. And Perze Ababa.
PERZE ABABA: Hello.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: So, believe it or not, the three of us—I wish Michael was here—just all went to the same training and James is here. So, like, we cut out of lunch early. What should our audience know about testers? And, I would say maybe two-or-three things just keeping coming up on the show. Is the testing profession in need of change, and what do you think that might look like?
JAMES BACH: Well, the testing profession is kind of like Europe in the 1600s. It’s fragmented. It’s full of overlapping cultures, and it’s being attacked in different ways from different sides on different grounds. It’s hard to give a quick answer, but I’m going to try to give a quick answer. The Agileists who into collaboration as the core value of everything, they criticize the very concept of having a testing role as being somehow inherently divisive, and they think divisiveness is the worst thing in the world. I think shipping a product with really bad bugs is the worst thing in the world, not divisiveness, but then I’m a very divisive person. So, I live my life with constant divisiveness. I bring it everywhere I go. That’s just my experience. So, I have a different relationship to divisiveness than a lot of people do.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Allow me to ask you a question about these “collaboration people.”
JAMES BACH: Yeah.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Which you might argue sometimes I’m kind of one of them, sometimes I’m not. Would you agree? In the bad-old-days, in the 1980s, where we had these huge walls between Dev and Test and we had phases where, “We’re in the coding phase, so you can come back later tester,” and we would hand the spec under the wall and would say, “Here, tester, go test this. You don’t need to talk to a customer. You don’t need to talk to a programmer. Just test the software.” We had to develop a variety of skills to which we gave fancy names to—like equivalence class partitioning or boundary value analysis or decision trees. We had to develop all these different techniques to attack the software. Some of the collaborationist Agile testers have this insight, which I think was a good one, “Hey, man. What if we just, like, got everybody together and did a broad census of risk and just talked about what the heck we were building and tried to build the shared mental model of what we were building, an then,” and this is where I disagree with them, “we’ll just kind of, sort of, play with it and we’ll come up with some examples,” and that simple change in behavior will radically improve the quality of the software.
JAMES BACH: I think that’s true if you’re a group of really shallow people. I think that is really true. My problem is that I took a lot of management training around those times, and I would be in rooms with people. For instance, I took a class on, Managing by Consensus, and one of the exercises was, “Your little group has to come to consensus on this little toy problem.” My group decided that, since it was too hard to convince me that they were right, they would just ignore me and declare that they had come to a consensus, which is, by definition, a fail.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Right.
JAMES BACH: The way they decided to do it is they just said, “Well, we don’t recognize this guy is actually part of our community.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: “He’s not playing fair.”
JAMES BACH: “It’s too hard to come to consensus. So, instead of changing our minds or accommodating—
MATTHEW HEUSSER: They kicked him out?
JAMES BACH: —him in any way, we’re just going to kick him.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: [LAUGHTER].
JAMES BACH: So, to me, I said, “Great. You just auto failed. This whole process was we have to come to consensus.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Did you genuinely disagree with them, or were you partially messing around?
JAMES BACH: I don’t think it’s “messing around” to explore and learn, and I was exploring and learning. If I’m in an office setting, I might, and with people that I have to work with and live with day-to-day, I am much more accommodating because you mess up your relationship and it’s, “Ugh.” It’s bad, bad trouble for a long time. I depend upon these people. I can’t just push my best idea and push them too hard and not consider their feelings. But, in this case—
MATTHEW HEUSSER: But this idea, you weren’t giving up?
JAMES BACH: —I thought, “You know, I think it’s hard to manage by consensus, and I’m going to demonstrate it’s hard by taking a position,” which although it was principled and this was my opinion that I was sharing, it was a matter of ranking a bunch of items on a list and it was a bunch of items that NASA says, “you might take to the moon. What are the most important things that NASA says you should take to the moon?” It was something like that. It was a toy kind of problem. And, I said, “This is what I think,” and they said, “This is what we think.” And I’m like, “I disagree with you because of this,” and they’re like, “We don’t want to argue with you.” Now, they might have argued with me a little bit, but then when I wasn’t agreeing with them they were like, “Whatever. Consensus has been reached by throwing this guy out.” And, to me, that was very useful education. What I learned from that is that when people say, “It’s just easier to just get together and collaborate,” what always goes with that is, “Oh, and if anyone’s hard to work with, we just won’t have them on our team. Good luck.” That’s what I mean when I say, “if you’re just a bunch of shallow people,” that’s one thing, but if you have a group of deep thinkers, what are the chances that they’re all going to come at the same thing from the same angle and not have to have big conversations? Well, I already know what the chances are, because I had a 15-year collaboration with Cem Kaner, which involved many multi-hour discussion to work through our differences because both of us wanted to get it right. And I have worked with Brian Marick. I’ve done this with you, Matt. We have had disagreements and then we called each other up and we had to go through 30 minutes or whatever of, “This is what I meant.” “Oh, it’s not what you said.” You know, we go back and forth like that, right?
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Yeah.
JAMES BACH: One thing that we certainly have learned is—oh, must have happened five-or-six times so far—where I know I’ve been angry. I don’t know if you’re angry. I can’t tell if you’re angry, but I know I’ve been angry. And, we’ve had a conversation and it gets worked out. But, from the outside, that might be like, “See, collaborate,” but from the inside, I know those were not easy conversations for you. I know that you had to behave in a rather heroic way in order to do that. You had to do some interesting tricks with your pride and maybe I had to do some interesting tricks with my pride so that I would even want to talk to you at all.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: [LAUGHTER]. That’s right.
JAMES BACH: And, there have been times where you said, “Let’s talk. Let’s call each other on voice right now,” and I’ve said, “I don’t want to go voice. I’m too angry.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: “Because, I’m angry.”
JAMES BACH: “I’m angry.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Usually, I can tell.
JAMES BACH: “And, I’ll just yell at you.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: “I’M ANGRY,” is usually what he says.
JAMES BACH: I’m just going to yell at you, so I don’t feel like yelling at you right now. At least one conversation I’ve postponed because I’ve said, “I don’t feel like yelling at you right now.” So, as a difficult person, I know I’m a difficult person to work with, but part of why I’m a difficult person is, I actually do honestly care about quality—the quality of my work and the quality of other people’s work—and it really bugs me when other people’s bad work makes me look bad. This matters to me, and I think anyone who’s a craftsman, this matters to them too. And, I think it’s worth having these conversations and working through it, but it’s so difficult to do depending on who it is that you are dealing. So, for people just to say, “Everyone just get together and collaborate,” like everybody is equally easy to work with and we’re all, “Whatever. You know, let’s just do what you want this time.” You know, I do that in my marriage, but I need to stay married. [LAUGHTER]. So, I do often compromise on the quality of ideas in my marriage, because my spouse’s feelings, no matter how I think about them rationally, I must accept and I must deal with that, so I’ll do that with her. But professionally, quality of work is more important to me than somebody’s feelings.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: And, I’ve read that in articles before, “Recommendations.” The 37 Signals guy, I think, actually recommends you say, “I’m going to give you this one,” and there’s a reciprocity there, “and then when I feel really strongly.” I’ve never really quite seen that work the way he explained it.
JAMES BACH: It doesn’t.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: I do think that’s good idea. It’s nice.
JAMES BACH: I think I’ve had that happen to me, and it has worked on me. And, I’ve done with other people.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: I don’t do it explicitly. I do it tactically. My default response is to give people one and then if that’s all that’s ever happening I say, “What’s up with that?”
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: So, the Zappos, the people that are trying to exercise the Reinventing Organizations book, completely flattened their organization and removed all titles, except for the titles that are documented in a piece of software to help them find each other. But, when people disagree, they have these, almost, cult-like meetings.
JAMES BACH: Right.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Called, “Coming to agreement meetings.”
JAMES BACH: Yeah.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Which produce basically the same results you just described. They argue and then in the end they write something down that may or may not have been the discussion they actually had.
JAMES BACH: Yeah. So, you see, I don’t mind that kind of idea, “Let’s just throw this away,” as long as there’s this element to that, and I don’t know if they have it. I doubt they do have this.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: I think the pendulum is swinging away. I think they are finding that, that did not work at all for them.
JAMES BACH: Yeah. What I look for and the difference between cult-like and reasonable to me is when you say, “Oh, we’re going to use this method. We’re just going to work things out, and we recognize that it might be too hard to do that. And, when it’s too hard to do that, we have a protocol for that. We have an understanding for that. And, while it may be too hard to do that and while we may have to use our escalation protocol, we recognize that we value people even if they might be uncomfortable with this process. We value being flexible about the process to accommodate people who work in a little different way.” As an example, Johanna Rothman, I had an argument with her once about exit criteria. I don’t use exit criteria. I think it’s a silly idea.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: “Exit criteria,” meaning, “These are the things we need to release a product?”
JAMES BACH: Yeah. “We have to achieve all this stuff and then we can release the product,” and I have never used exit criteria. Well, that’s not quite true. I shy away from using defined exit criteria and figure it out way in advance. Johanna Rothman, I said, “Well, we just discuss it. We just discuss it, and we solve the problem.” Johanna told me once, “Well, that privileges people who are good at discussing things under pressure and having arguments and they have golden rhetoric, like you, James. Huh, isn’t that interesting. You actually enjoy having arguments and you’re advocating for a management system that involves arguing, but what you’re doing is you are hurting people who are introverted and don’t want to have these arguments, that don’t want to have social confrontations, and the exit criteria presumably helps them.”
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: It privileges other types of people though, right?
JAMES BACH: Right. So, what opened my eyes to is, if I care, if I decide that I care, about everyone that we have hired and we say, “You’re part of our team,” if I decide that I care about them, then I must adapt to them to some degree and not just expect them to adapt to me or to adapt to the protocol that I defined, the Peregrine Paradigm or the EST Principle or whatever the fancy method is by which we’re going to come to agreement, personally, I just think humans have to be in charge. That’s one thing. Not the method, but the humans. Because, whenever method is in charge, it means there is a human in charge who is hiding like a bridge troll under the method that doesn’t want to confront you.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Have you seen—
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: And charge the toll.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Have you studied The Core Protocol? Check In is a protocol in this list of protocols in rules about communicating.
JAMES BACH: “The Core Protocol?” I don’t know anything about it.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: You can Google it. It’s Jim McCarthy’s Method. From what I understand, people that are very, very good at The Core Protocols are able to kind of verbally bully, “Now’s not the time for that or that was not communicated in the right way,” or it’s exactly what you said.
JAMES BACH: See, I’m very sensitive to that, because I am victimized by that. Or, I don’t feel victimized, because I never feel like I’m a victim. I feel like, “This happened to me.” I punch back. “So, I’m an actor. I’m responsible for myself. If I don’t like a situation, I leave the situation, and if I don’t leave the situation, it’s my own damn fault.” That’s how I’ve constructed my life so that I never have to feel like victim. It’s either my fault or else I change it. [LAUGHTER]. But, I have been in a situation where someone makes the rules and I feel like these rules don’t work for me, what I do is I just go above the rules. I just go offline, talk to the facilitator, and say, “I’m trying to have a meeting here and feel like the rules are actually stopping us from that.” There’s a thing in the Peer Conference Concept that I’m involved with that I disagree with called, “Red Cards.” You’ve heard of “K-cards.” You know all that, right?
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Yeah. Sure. Sure.
JAMES BACH: I’m actually talking to them, “Have you heard of K-cards?” What you should say is, “I have James, but just refresh my memory, son.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Just for the audience.
JAMES BACH: Yeah. Imagine that you’re controlling a conversation among a lot of people by giving everyone a set of colored cards and green means, “I have a new thing I want to talk about,” and yellow means, “I want to say something about that thing that other guy’s talking about,” and the red card is, “I’ve got something very urgent to say.” And, I hate it when they’re introducing these and they facilitator says, “Now, the red card is only for very urgent things, and if you use the red card in the wrong situation, I will take it away from you.” Because, I always say, “Then, I’ll just speak without a red card. So, you’re not silencing me by taking the red card.” [LAUGHTER].
MATTHEW HEUSSER: [LAUGHTER].
JAMES BACH: “Let’s be clear about this.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: “I’ll just interrupt.” [LAUGHTER].
JAMES BACH: “I’m just going to interrupt, because I’m still a human and you can’t take my humanity away from me and you don’t take my social standing away from me when you take the damn red card away. I actually think we don’t need a red card. I think we could just say, ‘There’s green, there’s yellow, and if there’s something really urgent that you want to say, just say it. But please, if it isn’t really urgent, could you use the green and the yellow thing. It would really help us.’”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: [LAUGHTER].
JAMES BACH: “But, of course, you know, be a reasonable adult and if you want to respond to something that someone has just accused you of or whatever, just go ahead and respond and you know what? I, as a facilitator, can handle that. If I need you to be quiet, I’m not going to take away your red card.” That’s like saying, “Process rules you.” No. It’s about people. If I wanted to get you to stop talking all the time, I won’t take away your red card. I’ll just take you offline and say, “What can I do to make this work better for you, man, because this is pretty disruptive I feel?”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Yeah.
JAMES BACH: “So, what can I do to make this better?” And then, we’ll just work it out like adults. So, whenever I see these protocols, I want to know that there is a meta‑protocol. And, one of my mentors, years ago, on process, said, “If you ever make a rule for something, you should also make a rule for suspending the rule. There should always be a clearly‑understood method of suspending the rule that you just put into place.” I think that’s very good advice, and yet, we don’t see that a lot.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: So, we’ve got to get back to the training. Before we go, I wanted to just sort of close the circle. I had said, “This collaboration stuff, they say, ‘Maybe, that’s going to be so much better than if we slide the specs under the wall.’”
JAMES BACH: And, I had said, “It’s not that easy.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: We don’t pay attention to the classic test techniques, I would say.
JAMES BACH: Now, that’s where you went a left turn into another dimension.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: I don’t agree with that either.
JAMES BACH: I have no idea what you’re talking about. How can collaboration mean that you don’t need test techniques?
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Yeah.
JAMES BACH: What’s the logic connection to that?
MATTHEW HEUSSER: So, I am not making that claim. It is an observation I have had of certain people in certain communities and I have asked them about it and they said, “Yeah. You’ve got a point there.”
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Meaning that if you have people in the room, you don’t actually need to study testing, that the work just happens somehow?
MATTHEW HEUSSER: That seems to be the way they are behaving. I would say, “Have the power of two. Do both.” Right? But, when I asked them about that, they’d say out loud, “I’ve never studied testing formally,” some of these folks, “and we seem to be getting away with it,” because just having executable specifications of when you do this and when you do that you should expect to see this, combined with playing with all kinds of issues.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Oh, “By the way, our customers don’t actually pay for the product.”
JAMES BACH: Well, just even real software. When they play with it, there’s all kinds of issues tied up in that. You could say, “Astrology and Feng Shui is all we need.” If you’re in a low enough risk situation, it doesn’t matter how your methods don’t work, you can shrug and claim that they do work. This is why we get all these people saying, “This or that is a best practice/best practices.” None of these practices have ever actually been investigated in any sort of comparative sense where they say, “Oh, well, actually, this practice really is better than the other one.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: They can’t. They often can’t even be described anthropologically. Like, it’s defined in such a way that—
JAMES BACH: Right.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: —it could be repeated and you could conduct an experiment on it.
JAMES BACH: Right. And, there’s so much tacit stuff involved with that, that’s one of the reasons why you can’t lock it down. People don’t even know what they’re doing. I think what is really at the root is they go, “Well, I haven’t been fired yet, so I guess whatever I’m doing is good. My company hasn’t gone out of business yet, so I guess whatever I’m doing is good.” But, when people’s companies do go out of business, they do get some patent bought by Google, and then the rest of it just thrown away, you never hear them go, “I guess those practices were good.” [LAUGHTER]. They just shrug and go on to the next thing. So, there’s very little accountability or critical thinking there.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: That reminds of the story about the turkey. The farmer buys a turkey and feeds it every day. Every day the turkey is more and more comfortable around the farmer and sure of his place in life, and then eventually, the day before Thanksgiving, he gets his head chopped off. The more is, “Don’t be the turkey. Don’t get too comfortable with what you’re doing.”
JAMES BACH: It also is that, “You can’t use regression analysis to forecast the future.” [LAUGHTER].
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Yeah.
JAMES BACH: You can’t extrapolate in a non-linear system and feel comfortable about that. So, that’s part of what’s going on. None of us have a lot of evidence of an irrefutable kind and comparable kind that crosses the boundaries of our various mindsets. So, we’re all kind of locked in our own world and we just says, “Well, I haven’t been punished for this yet. So, I guess this must work by definition.” The thing is that there’s so many complicated factors involved in this. You mentioned a few test techniques. Well, those test techniques are actually rather shallow ideas.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Yeah. They’re old, and they’re ridiculous.
JAMES BACH: They’re very, very shallow, simple ideas.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Fancy names.
JAMES BACH: You actually don’t—
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Simple ideas.
JAMES BACH: —necessarily need those shallow ideas at all in order to do testing.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: I never evoke a technique at a given period of time.
JAMES BACH: You never do? You never use a Debian Sequence to perform more efficient combinatorial testing in a sequence of events?
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: I mean, maybe I do. But, I’m not like, “At this point in time, I’m going to use this specific technique.”
JAMES BACH: I occasionally with go that way.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Yeah. We’ll go that way.
JAMES BACH: If you knew what the Debian Sequence was, you might actually say, “I’m going to use the Debian Sequence for that.” I have to make your counterargument for you, since you’re put off guard by the fact that—
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: I don’t know what that is.
JAMES BACH: —you don’t know what that is. So, I’ll make your counterargument. You could say, “James, how many times have you used a Debian Sequence in anger in testing?” And, I would say, “Twice in my entire career,” but I think they’re really cool. So, I wanted to play with them, and so I found two excuses to use them. But yeah, I’ve used it twice. Don’t you say things like, “I could use all-pairs here?” Or you could say things like, “I could use a decision tree here?” Or you say, “Can we just Quicktext the heck out of it just to see if there’s anything obvious?”
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Yeah. Okay. So, I take my statement back.
JAMES BACH: Do you ever say like, “Mind Map, let’s put that in a Mind Map?”
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Yeah. You’re right.
JAMES BACH: There’s lots of little techniques, little-T techniques, that you use, you know, all the time. You fire up Google Docs and you say, “Oh, no. I’ll work with you on Google Docs.” You’re working with somebody on Google Docs, and it’s just so ubiquitous that we don’t think of it as a technique. But, take someone totally new to the industry, and they don’t think of that because they’ve never done it before. They don’t know what co-editing is. I’ve written an article with a guy, with Michael Bolton, where we’re both writing in the same paragraph at the same time in real time. I had never done that before. You’re just drafting, first draft stuff, and each of us are messing with the other guy but trying not to mess too much with the other guy, and it was kind of fun. But, it wouldn’t have been fun if I didn’t know him and trust him, but it wouldn’t have been fun for him if he didn’t know me and trust me. So, it’s not the technique. It’s the technique plus the social context plus all the relationships and the tacit knowledge that goes with it.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: That makes it a lot more powerful.
JAMES BACH: So, I think when a lot of these collaborationists are saying, like there’s one guy that I argued with, I said, “What are your skills? Do you even think about skills? What is the skill of testing?” He said, “Oh, skills. Yes. We have skills.” “Name one skill of testing.” And, he said, “Curiosity.” Well, it’s a very, very broad quality is what that actually is. It’s a broad behavior, you could say. Maybe, you could say it’s a skill, but it’s incredibly broad.
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Can you improve curiosity?
JAMES BACH: How about this? “Virtue.” You know, we should have “virtue.”
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Right. [LAUGHTER].
JAMES BACH: “Human fellowship” and we can talk about all kinds of broad poetic qualities, but what I was thinking more of was, when I talked about skill, the skill of “factoring.” “Factoring” is the activity, and you have the skill of factoring, Justin. It’s the activity where you decide which variables exist that you could work with. So, when you discover what the piano keyboard is before you’ve played the music of testing, of course part of how we discovered the piano keyboard is try the different keys—
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Playing the keys.
JAMES BACH: —and go, “Oh, that’s a note that works. Oh, that one is broken.” Or, “That’s not going to be helpful to us.” So, sometimes there’s a lot of testing that goes along while you are discovering the variables that might matter, but I have a name for that. It’s called, “factoring,” and when you don’t have a name for it, you tend to just say, “It’s testing,” or “It’s test design,” and you just have these broad labels for things. And, I’ve found that, by making narrower labels, and I not only make the labels but I encourage people to make up their own labels. I give them mine, but I don’t say, “You have to use mine.” That’s how I avoid being just another bully, just another systematizer. I’m not saying, “You have to use my system.” I’m saying that, “The process of thinking through and observing and labeling things is for each person part of building their own state-of-the-art.” And then, of course, there’s a skill of “comparing,” by saying, as you said earlier, Justin, “Maybe I do that, but not by that name.” You know, “I don’t know that by that name,” which is a wonderful thing to say because it keeps you from being intimidated. If someone says like, “I do galumphing. Don’t you do galumphing?” And, if you say—
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: “I don’t know how to do that.”
JAMES BACH: “I don’t know. I’m sure I don’t do galumphing,” then you sound like, “What’s wrong with you?” But, if you say, “I don’t do anything by that name, but maybe I do the thing that you’re talking about. Maybe I have a similar technique that I use. Why don’t you describe what you mean? Show me, demonstrate, and I’ll tell you what I call that.” And that way, you’re not knocked back, people aren’t able to bully you or push you away or say, “You’re just not one of the people who know.”
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Um-hum.
JAMES BACH: And, I don’t want to be a guy that pushes people and bullies people in that way, but I do want to be someone who deepens my art. That means, I come up with lots of words and I must give you permission to use different words in your own methods. But, I do have a lot of words about techniques and a lot of words about skills, and that’s how I sound like I know what I’m doing when I talk about “skills.” And, when someone else says, “Uh, curiosity?” What that tells me is one of two things, either they’ve never really thought about skills at all. They have no idea.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Not in a systemic way, right?
JAMES BACH: Right. Or, they have thought about it and they may have even developed it, but all of the development has been in the tacit realm, which means that the only way that I could find out how good they really are—
JUSTIN ROHRMAN: Observation.
JAMES BACH: —is by watching them. I’d have to be testing with them. And then, I might discover, “Oh, wow. You’re doing a lot of really interesting sophisticated things.” “Well, I told you I was. I said, ‘I was a skilled tester.’” “Well, you know, you said that, but then you told me a story that didn’t sound like that.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: You didn’t provide the image.
JAMES BACH: But, now that I’m seeing this, now I get it. Well, imaging this, then we can close. Imagine the thought experiment, you’re an artist, 40,000 years ago. You’re talking to another artist, [LAUGHTER], and you’re critiquing each other’s artwork that you’ve just made on this stone wall. You want to say to someone, “You need some blue,” but there’s not word for “blue.” There’s no concept. There’s no word for “color.” There’s no word for “the plan” that you use to make the blue in your thing. So, you just want to say, “Uh. More like this, less like that. Kind of like the sky with the thing up there.” It would be really hard to talk specifically and critique art and develop your skills of art if you had no words for color, no words for the materials that you were using, and all that. So, the development of a language is as important as a development of the actual skills themselves, and I feel that the collaborationists’ side of the Agile community seems to have no particular interest in developing a better language of their craft. And, I tell them this and they just seem uninterested in that whole thing. So, I just suspect that they don’t really focus very much on excellence.
PERZE ABABA: From a collaboration perspective, couldn’t it be that like at the base of it all we collaborate so that we can gain trust, and then from gaining trust, then we can focus on skills, or maybe we’re just—?
JAMES BACH: Do you focus on skills? My question is: Does that actually happen, or do you spend all your time on this other thing and you never actually get around to the skill thing?
PERZE ABABA: Gaining from personal experience, where my teammates end up knowing that they can trust me with what I’m doing, that when I can tell them, “Look,” from what you were mentioning earlier from the skills perspective, “instead of automating everything, let’s apply a different coverage approach.” Right, “Let’s apply a different—”
JAMES BACH: Why would I trust you if I didn’t think you knew what you were doing? So, do you mean “trust” from an honesty standpoint and not a “trust” from an excellence standpoint?
PERZE ABABA: It should be from both, shouldn’t it be?
JAMES BACH: But, you said, “Don’t worry about the skills until after we’ve done the trust.”
PERZE ABABA: Oh, no. No.
JAMES BACH: You’ve got to develop your skills.
PERZE ABABA: Yeah. No. No. No. I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. Like so, personally, I’ve developed my skills outside of the realm of collaborating with my team.
JAMES BACH: Okay.
PERZE ABABA: But, collaboration in a sense so that when I put my hint button, like they know that I’m in for the good of the team.
JAMES BACH: Oh, it’s time. I got to go.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: We’ve got to go.
JAMES BACH: Sorry. That’s a very good point, and I accept your point. We have to go and teach the class now.
MICHAEL LARSEN: There you have it, folks, James Bach on Reinventing Testing Skills, Developing them, the important of words.
JAMES BACH: Thanks. I’ve got to teach the class now.
MATTHEW HEUSSER: Bye.