Friday, June 15, 2018

Applying Tyranny of Structurelessness to Exploratory Testing

I was in a call with an upcoming keynote speaker, listening to the key points of the experience they will draw lessons from. Amongst all the great stuff related to the core of the contents, they shared an experience on moving from testers automating to developers automating and testers exploratory testing: many of their testers reported being unhappy, not finding it easy or possible to figure out what to test in a world with tens of releases every single day.

At first, I found myself thinking "How interesting. I must be better at exploring because I don't find it so hard to provide valuable feedback in that setting." Then I read an article about a completely different topic, that forced me to go back and reconsider. The article I read is a feminist piece that I did not read as such. I read Tyranny of Structurelessness as a consideration for those who have less power. And I realized that instead of me being better at exploring, I was probably holding more power than an average tester.

Exploratory Testing, for me, is essentially a manifestation of structurelessness in testing. Obviously there is structure but the structure is of informal nature. The key points the article made for me are:

  • The most powerful advocate structurelessness
  • With informal structures, rules to making decisions are known to a few and power is limited to those who know the rules
After a quarter century of deliberate practice in testing, communicating and integrating into software development, I can't claim lack of power. What I had not considered before is that those with less power may feel lost at the implicit rules that make my world seem clear and straightforward, and allow me to navigate complex spaces of dependencies, changes and decisions of what are the right things to spend time on as a tester. 

The article of Tyranny goes to suggest some principles for inclusion (well, they say "democratic structuring"):
  • Delegation - to be allowed to feel ownership
  • Being responsible after delegation - to be accountable for results for people who they now represent
  • Distribution of authority - to have everyone take their share
  • Rotation of tasks - to learn, to have the knowledge to get to power
  • Allocation of tasks - to be able to focus, to have clear field of delivering value, being fair
  • Diffusion of information - to share information actively
  • Equal access to resources - to share more than information
These principles are helpful in thinking in innovating structures that enable greatness. Leaving people with "exploratory testing" without drilling down is a form of tyranny. What I need and enjoy is only one part of the picture. We have teams around us, different personalities and backgrounds. My comfort level with structurelessness comes from a position of privilege I need to work on.