For a tester in an agile team, it can be easy to fall into a comfortable testing pattern. The transparency of daily stand-up and reflection of retrospectives can create an illusion of continuous improvement. These routines make us feel that we work in a flexible way but, if we dig a little deeper, we may not be as adaptable as we think.
During a test cycle, if you think back to the last time that you felt uncomfortable at work, there's a strong probability that this feeling was associated with a change that you were experiencing. A flexible approach means that you are willing to accept and adopt change regularly, which means that you routinely experience discomfort. When was the last time that you were surprised by the outcome of your retrospective or quizzed by a colleague in your stand-up? When was the last time that a stakeholder asked questions about your test artifacts? If you can't remember being challenged recently then you, and your team, might be stuck.
Being flexible is not just about activities or outcomes. Imagine that you used to plan your testing in an Excel spreadsheet and now you capture test ideas in a mind map. Does this make you a flexible tester? Not necessarily.
To be a versatile thinker you need to regularly inspect your own habits and create opportunities to collaborate with different people. If you cultivate flexibility as an attitude and make it part of the way that you work, you'll become more aware of how you think. You can change what you deliver, but a flexible tester will also challenge how they deliver.
How can you do that?
Here are quick, practical ideas that may help you develop your flexibility as a tester:
· Change the order of your test approach to break a routine.
· Ask for advice from a non-tester on how to diagnose a bug.
· Actively seek test ideas from non-testers outside your agile team e.g. UX, Ops.
· Copy the format of a colleague's test report to see your own results in a new light.
· Pair with a tester in another team to see a different test approach first-hand.
· Invite someone else to test your product, then debrief about what they found.
· Experiment with a tool that you haven't tried before.
· Take a second look at something that you thought was a bad suggestion.
· Ask for constructive feedback about your testing.
Being in an agile team does not guarantee that you are behaving in an agile way. Try to develop the habits that cultivate flexibility, so that you continue to learn and your testing continues to evolve.