Monday, August 27, 2012

Attributes of a Good Scrum Master

I have completed reading 2 parts of "Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum - By Mike Cohn" and its explaining some of the fantastic attributes of Scrum Master. I am pretty impressed with the attributes of scrum master explained by Mike Cohn.


A good ScrumMaster is able and willing to assume responsibility. That is not to say that ScrumMasters are responsible for the success of the project; that is shared by the team as a whole. However, the ScrumMaster is responsible for maximizing the throughput of the team and for assisting team members in adopting and using Scrum. As noted earlier, the ScrumMaster takes on this responsibility without assuming any of the authority that might be useful in achieving it.


A good ScrumMaster is not in it for her ego. She may take pride (often immense pride) in her achievements, but the feeling will be “look what I helped accomplish” rather than the more self-centered “look what I accomplished.” A humble ScrumMaster is one who realizes the job does not come with a company car or parking spot near the building entrance. Rather than putting her own needs first, a humble ScrumMaster is willing to do whatever is necessary to help the team achieve its goal. Humble ScrumMasters recognize the value in all team members and by example lead others to the same opinion.


A good ScrumMaster works to ensure a collaborative culture exists within the team. The ScrumMaster needs to make sure team members feel able to raise issues for open discussion and that they feel supported in doing so. The right ScrumMaster helps create a collaborative atmosphere for the team through words and actions. When disputes arise, collaborative ScrumMasters encourage teams to think in terms of solutions that benefit all involved rather than in terms of winners and losers.


Although being a ScrumMaster is not always a full-time job, it does require someone who is fully committed to doing it. The ScrumMaster must feel the same high level of commitment to the project and the goals of the current sprint as the team members do. As part of that commitment, a good ScrumMaster does not end very many days with impediments left unaddressed. There will, of course, be times when this is inevitable, as not all impediments can be removed in a day.


A successful ScrumMaster influences others, both on the team and outside it. Initially, team members might need to be persuaded to give Scrum a fair trial or to behave more collaboratively; later, a ScrumMaster may need to convince a team to try a new technical practice, such as test-driven development or pair programming. A ScrumMaster should know how to exert influence without resorting to a dictatorial “because I say so” style.


Beyond having a solid understanding of and experience with Scrum, the best ScrumMasters also have the technical, market, or other specialized knowledge to help the team pursue its goal. LaFasto and Larson have studied successful teams and their leaders and have concluded that “an intimate and detailed knowledge of how something works increases the chance of the leader helping the team surface the more subtle technical issues that must be addressed” (2001, 133). Although ScrumMasters do not necessarily need to be marketing gurus or programming experts, they should know enough about both to be effective in leading the team.

Friday, August 3, 2012


We have learned a great deal about Agile testing. This article presents ten tips for Agile testing based on our experience. However, don’t expect to find the perfect test approach for your company or software project in this article. That is still something you will have to find out yourself!

1. Integrate the testers in the development teams
Teams are responsible for delivering software that meets expected requirements and quality. However, if we want teams to test the software, we must give them the knowledge to do it right. Testers have that knowledge. By integrating testers into the development teams, teams obtain the skills they need to test their software. When you try this, make sure you choose the right mix: one tester for three programmers is a fair but minimal number.
2. Use risk based testing
You can never test everything with the same (extensive) depth; even in a waterfall project you have to make choices. In an Agile project all the activities are time boxed so you have to make choices about how extensively you want to test each feature. We use a risk based approach to determine which test activities we are going to carry out for a feature during the iteration. The risk level of every feature is determined by the customer and the teams. It is a very transparent process so the customer knows exactly which test activities are executed for every feature.
3. Have testers review unit tests
In our organization the developers are responsible for creating and maintaining the unit tests. Unit tests are a very important part of our test harness. Developers often have a different way of thinking; for example, they tend to test only the success scenario.
To create unit tests that are as good as possible, our testers review the unit tests for all our high-risk items. The review has two advantages. First, the unit tests are improved because testers and developers supplement each other: the developer knows where the weak places in the source are, and the tester can use his knowledge of testing to give tips to improve the unit tests. Second, the testers know exactly which test cases are executed in the unit tests and can concentrate on executing other (e.g. higher-level) test cases.
4. Create a test automation framework and appoint a toolsmith
Automated testing is very important because new features and refactoring can introduce problems that can be difficult to find. By using an automated test framework, we can maintain quality levels during the iteration. Our testers are able to create new tests easily and quickly in the framework. We have a dedicated test engineer (we call him a tool smith) that maintains and optimizes the test automation framework, reviews the new automated tests of the testers and analyzes the daily test results. Testers in the teams can spend more time creating and extending automated tests because the toolsmith supports them.
5. Display quality metrics in a public location
Almost every software project has a problem registration system, automated test results, and in some cases nightly or continuous build results. But how often do team members look at the results or count the open problems? We installed a monitor in the coffee room that displays the actual metrics of the currently open problems, the percentage of successful unit tests, the percentage of successful nightly builds, and the current state of the continuous build. By displaying the metrics in public the teams are confronted with the information. The information is no longer just a number in a system or a record with some other information in a metrics database.
6. Add a test scrum
One advantage of having a separate test team in one room is that the communication between the testers is improved. When you have a project like ours where the testers are distributed across several teams, the communication becomes more difficult. To solve this problem, we use a test scrum to align the test activities. Our test scrum is held twice a week and every team is represented by one tester. The test scrum is a scrum like the daily team scrum but focused on test activities. The test manager is the ScrumMaster of the test scrum.
7. Implement test retrospectives
Every team in our project holds a retrospective meeting at the end of the iteration. In the retrospective, the team discusses the process: what went well and what went wrong. The testers in the team learn and discover new ways to improve their tests. The sharing of knowledge with testers from the other teams helps everyone.
We have a test retrospective every iteration so the testers can exchange knowledge and experience and discuss problems they have. It is important that the retrospective is only related to test issues; you shouldn’t discuss team issues (they should be discussed in the team retrospective). As with the test scrum, the test manager is the ScrumMaster of the test retrospective.
8. Plan for open problems
We try to fix all the problems that we find during the iteration in that same iteration, but sometimes we end the iteration with open problems. The best way to handle open problems is to add them to the sprint backlog for the next iteration. By explicitly planning the management of the open problems, the chance that they are “forgotten” and pile up is very small.
9. Remember: Testing is still testing
When you test in an Agile software project you can still use the “traditional” test techniques. We use exploratory testing but also apply test techniques such as boundary value analysis, equivalence partitioning, cause/effect diagram, and pair-wise testing. Which test technique we choose for a feature depends on its risk category. Exploratory testing is used in every category; but if the risk is higher we also apply more formal test techniques. The challenge for the tester is to use a formal test technique without delivering extensive test documentation.
10. Start doing it!
The last but most important tip is start doing it! Don’t talk too much about how you are going to introduce testers, or which test approach is perfect for your organization. You are going to make mistakes or discover that the chosen approach doesn’t fit your organization. That’s a given. But, the sooner you start, the sooner you can begin learning and improving your test approach. With the retrospective meetings, you have the opportunity to adapt your test approach every month.
Source: Ralph van Roosmalen article on Logigear Magazine