Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Testing Challenge - Project Balto

Probably the film I've most enjoyed this year has to be The Martian, about efforts by NASA and Matt Damon's stranded astronaut on Mars to stay alive.

There was something about it I loved.  Much like Apollo 13, it's about using imagination and knowledge to solve problems and get home.  One scene which interested me was where they were trying to build a rocket against the clock with some relief supplies ... it annoyed me, because I thought of a better way to solve it.

As part of our pre-Christmas test team meeting, I put a similar problem to them, to see how they would solve it.  It was interesting - their solution was similar to mine, but they came up with some different ideas, some of them better than mine.

That's why at the end of this year I've written up that testing challenge, "Project Balto" for Testing Circus.  I encourage you to look at the problem, and talk either with your team or your family about how you'd go about solving it, and do submit your solution.

I'll be going through and judging the responses in February.  More importantly, I'm hoping to write a follow-on piece in Testing Circus which will look at some guidelines for solving such real-life testing problems in the workplace.

Please do contribute, the more responses I get, the better my follow-on piece will be!

Find Project Balto in all it's detail here,


Monday, December 14, 2015

Peer 101: Why the new Star Wars film WILL be amazing ...

You're probably starting to read this thinking "this is going to be even more hype for the new Star Wars movie isn't it?", well you couldn't be more wrong.  Once again, we'll start looking at critical thinking and some of the psychological and social factors which will sway us when we watch the upcoming new film.

If your Facebook feed is anything like mine, you've probably been bombarded for the last few months with posts and pictures like the ones below ...

The trailers for The Force Awakens have been going for over a year, with every fan dissecting every frame in minute detail.  There has been a huge rush by many of my friends to buy tickets, clamouring to be the first to see it in midnight screenings.  I too will be going out of my way to watch in the first two weeks.

And there will be a common factor, we'll all go to see it and like the picture above find it emotional, and amazing.  But will it be any good though?  Well ... for that you'll have to wait a few months.

This must have left you a bit bemused - surely if you go to see the film this week, then you'll know pretty soon if the film is any good or not.  Surely?

Good luck with that!  There are actually a couple of psychological factors going on, which mean with a good deal of confidence, I can tell say that you and your friends are going to enjoy the movie.  Not just enjoy, but come out positively evangelical.

And no, it's not Jedi mind tricks ...

Although they are a kind of mind trick ...


I'm not saying the new Star Wars movie will be great.  I'm not saying that it will be awful either.  What I'm saying is most people's initial reaction will be that it's a superb film.  Even if they maybe change their stance afterwards.  [See "People In Glass Houses" for more]

Group Delusion

Social dynamics have an important effect on our judgement.  Imagine this - a couple of your friends are talking to you, they're really excited because they're going to see the new Star Wars film tonight.  One of their friends has already seen it and really enjoyed it, so they can't wait.

There's a lot of people you know who are likewise keen to see the film, when you enquire it seems like you'll have to wait a few days for a showing that you can attend which isn't sold out already.  The day finally comes, you sit there in the theatre.  It seems that everyone you know has really enjoyed it, and said how phenomenal it is!

We're engineered as social animals to want to conform to a social norm.  We don't want to be different or the "odd one out".  Yes, even "that person" you might know who dresses differently to you ... we often know someone who tries to stand out as an individual, but conforming to the norm of a different social group (that they do want to align to) - we all had a Goth phase didn't we?

THAT PERSON - Robert Smith, the legend

If our social group of peers all like something, we're hardwired to really want to like it ourselves, so as not to be the odd one out.  It's really just a kind of peer pressure.


There has been over a year of advertising.  Many fans have said how they've been waiting over 33 years to find out what happens after Return Of The Jedi (from the original trilogy).  Those people who have watched every trailer multiple times, read every article and seen every interview.

That is a huge amount of emotional investment, and instinctively we always try to justify that.  You see this time and again, "the new film has to be good ... because I've waited 33 years to find out what happens next / waited all year watching the trailers".  We don't like to think we've invested either financially or emotionally into something which doesn't pay off.  And so we justify the quality of what's in front of us, by that investment we've put in.  It's not logical, but it does happen - if what's in front of us isn't any good, then we've wasted that investment.  And that's something we're not at all keen on admitting, so we have a haze of denial about it.  [Also see those politicians who think trickle-down economics works, and when challenged just think we need to give more tax breaks to the mega-rich]

So when we are so emotionally committed to something, we tend to judge what's in front of us according to that emotion, and not by it's own merits.

People in glass houses ...

Now, heaven's forbid if you think I'm writing all of this from some moral high ground, "I know psychology, and you don't".  I of course mainly know this because I've been a victim of it myself!

Back in 1989, I won tickets to an advance screening of the new Star Trek movie in London.  Unfortunately we lived over a hundred miles away, but my parents understood my passion, and so we made a day of it.  It took us three hours to drive down, we visited several museums around London, went out for lunch, and finally got to the cinema.

It was an amazing experience, there were several celebrity fans (I remember Caron Keating from Blue Peter), and finally the film!  My brother and I came out telling our parents how superb the film was, and we'd got to see it 2 months before the rest of the country.

That was pretty much 2 months of me saying how superb it was!  Finally it was released, and I took some friends to go to see it at Sheffield University.  I came out feeling a bit embarrassed - it didn't feel like the same film at all.

This was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - the one directed by William Shatner where "they go to meet God".  It's universally regarded as the worst film in the series ...

How did I get it so wrong?  Well I'd not just gone to see a film - it was the anticipation, the investment, the feeling of being first, and the whole experience of the day.  In the scheme of all that, whether the film was good or not didn't really matter.  You were in a receptive mood to enjoy it, and so you just went with the flow.  [It's no coincidence that film studios also try to wine, dine, entertain critics prior to screening for a similar psychologically coercive effect]

I've seen a similar effect around Star Wars The Phantom Menace - the first of the prequel Star Wars movies.  It was released in the US 3 months before the UK.  Many friends and fans took holidays just to go to America to see it first, and they all said how raved about how great it was.  People who I've known for a while and subsequently rewatched it.  Who now refuse to buy it on DVD and are the ones who say constantly on Facebook how let down / poor the prequels were.

For both myself and those Phantom Menace fans, what happened is we simply watched it a good time "after the hype", when those effects of group delusion and denialism have deteriorated somewhat.  When we rewatch again a few months/years afterward, those phenomenon are not as prevalent, and hence we're viewing for the first time unclouded by those filters!

Rewatch at your peril!  As a ex-Doctor Who producer famously said of how we view (unseen) old films and episodes through rose coloured glasses, "the memory cheats".  Or nostalgia isn't what it used to be ...

Onward to Peer 102 ...

I've introduced a couple of important psychological factors, and how they affect us in everyday life.  Read this blog, and watch and observe those around you over the next few weeks.  It will all be useful experience.

Next time we'll look deeper into how these phenomenon impact us within testing, ways to be mindful, and fight against falling into the relative traps.  Those traps can be far worse than recommending Star Trek V to a group of brand new friends at University (they forgave me).

Further Reading

Your Deceptive Mind, Professor Steven Novella

  • Lecture 12 - Culture and Mass Delusions Lecture
  • Lecture 20 - Denialism

Friday, December 11, 2015

Questioning skills

In my last piece on memory I was talking about the importance of asking questions.  At every training course I've ever attended, we've always been told "there's no such thing as a stupid question".

Yes, of course ANY question is better than no question at all.  But consider this ... someone is getting frustrated because of a Google search or an SQL database search because they aren't getting the answers they need.  Our first port of call will always be "what are you asking about?".

In an almost yin and yang symbiosis, how you ask a question plants the seeds for the answer you'll receive.  The more I thought about my previous post, the more importance I could see in giving good thought to the questions you need to ask.

For myself, my exposure to peer conferences have made me think a lot about the questions I ask.  I was initially quite well know within Wellington for asking a lot of questions.  This included in my first fortnight being sent to a product demo and being sidelined by the CEO afterwards ... I'd asked so many questions the vendor had felt grilled, when in reality I was there to support them as part of a partner organisation.

I like to consider with questions that I only have a finite number of them, and to try and use them wisely.  I try to check my ego and remove questions which are there more to serve my ego, things like "well, I would never let myself be put into that position myself" or correct a speaker on a trivial point.

Open questions

I've also learned to use more open questions, over ones which can be answered in a quick "yes/no".

I was talking to a graduate the other week, and I very nearly asked them the question "do you know what's expected of you in your sprint team?".  I know the graduate would have answered yes regardless, and the worst thing I could have done would at that point to go "cool ... that's covered then".

Instead I asked them "tell me what you think is expected of you in your sprint team", and this allowed me to see what duties he understood well, as well as to discuss some additional point he might want to be mindful of.

Leading questions

Questions can also be really dangerous if you ask the wrong ones.  There are some questions which are phrased in such ways that people will find themselves automatically responding to them a certain way, even when they are aware it's a lie.

This happened to me last week at the physiotherapist.  I've recently injured my shoulder in the gym, although I've previously dislocated it about 10 years ago in Rugby a couple of times.  This has caused me to need therapy and even an ultrasound scan.

The scan shows some abnormalities, and one explanation is cartilage damage - but that would be most likely if I'd partially dislocated or "subluxed" my shoulder.  My physio asked me "are you sure you didn't feel the joint come out at all?".

Sitting in her office, I found myself going "well it was a few months ago ... and I can't remember properly ,,, I suppose it might have".  This is real dangerous ground when you're trying to recall, because your brain is quite suggestive, and as we've talked about, this can lead to your mind "adding this detail to your memory".

Thankfully before polluting my recollection with a new "made up memory" (see this post for how easy it is), I realised that I have dislocated and subluxed my shoulder several times in the distant past (prior to this injury) - I know intimately how it feels.  If it had happened, I'd have gone home to my wife and said "honey, I've partially dislocated my shoulder again" over "I pulled something at the gym".

Likewise, there are some questions which we're so hardwired to answer a certain way.  From my physio it's "you are still doing your recovery exercises, aren't you?".  When someone asks you a question and adds "aren't you?", it's quite a stretch to reply anything other than "yes".

I have to think very hard when she asks me that question - because I've been given a lot of exercises over the last couple of months, and I'm doing some of them, but not all of them (as some have gone out of vogue as I've recovered).  So I make a point of telling her what I'm doing - occasionally there's something I'm forgetting to do.

Expanding information with the use of the 5 whys ...

I used to work with a lady named Julia Baker at Kiwibank who would tell me that the key to being a good business analyst was asking good questions, and getting people to elaborate their answers.  I asked around some of the business analysts I work with at Datacom about their opinion on "what makes a good question", and they came back with ...

BA's don't dictate the solution, they ask open questions and let others do the talking, steering the conversation as needed.

The main questioning skill I’d use is the toddler technique (as I like to call it) or the five whys.  It’s an actual thing. - but is geared towards problem solving. It can be used for requirements gathering and analysis too though.

People often think in solutions. By asking them why they want something, and then asking why to their answer (and again and again) you’ll eventually get to the root of their requirement and can then build up to a solution. Hence the toddler part. The trick is not being annoying and asking open ended questions that get people to answer why, without you just saying why all the time.

It’ll go a little something like,

  • I want a report (Why?)
  • To be able to see how many sales we’ve made this month (Why?)
  • So I can put it in my sales spreadsheet (Why?)
  • So I can track all the sales across all months (Why?)
  • So I can report yearly sales to the directors at the end of the year.

It is a pretty lame one, but the key is that the real requirement isn’t a report about just one month, it is giving a different set of data to a group of people. While we can meet that initial requirement, we provide real value by uncovering what is under that final requirement and meeting that instead. Sometimes it is widely different to the solution they came up with first.

Johanna Rothman's take

My previous blog post took about 6 weeks to write, I kept having to explore ideas, perform Google searches, ask around friends and watch Back To The Future.

As well as using it as an opportunity to ask around my team and find their opinion on the subject, I took time to talk to management consultant Johanna Rothman about it.  Her answer together with my conversation with our business analysts helped give me a push.

Here's her response ...

(When it comes to type of questions to ask)  There are these questions from which to choose:

  • meta question:  questions about the situation (sometimes considered "questions about other questions")
  • closed questions: data-based questions
  • open questions: questions that require an extensive answer.
  • rhetorical questions: questions that don’t need an answer

Here are questions I would ask myself:

  1. Where and when am I?
  2. What do I want to have happen?
  3. Can I achieve that goal, given my current location/time?
  4. If not, what should I do to see what I can achieve?

I particularly love this short ruleset, which links in with my learning of asking questions in peer conferences - is the question relevant, what would the answer give me/the audience, can it be answered given the expertise in the room?

And finally

Sadly rhetorical questions are my downfall.  I'll sometimes have a disagreement with my partner as couples often do.  When your partner is annoyed that you're not answering them, responding with "how do I answer ... you're asking me a rhetorical question".  Whilst that may be the case, it almost always leads to this - so beware, because it seems no-one likes a smart-ass.

Memory 103 - The alternate reality traveller's guidebook

There was a blinding flash of light, the world heaved and wrenched around you, as a portal closes behind you.  It worked, you've jumped reality - but which reality are you in?

You come across a stranger in the street.  What are you going to ask?

Alternate reality travellers have to be really good at asking questions to determine where they are.  Personally I always ask first about the Statue Of Liberty, as I remember an unfortunate reality where they blew it up (the maniacs).

"Ask a stranger" is the time traveller / alternate reality traveller's Google (providing that other stranger is not another traveller).  The questions usually seem bizarre and kind of dumb, but they provide vital information for a traveller in order to get their bearings.

So where am I going with this?  Remember previously we were talking about the psychology of time travel?  Especially our power to travel back through our memories and alter the past.  I also talked last time about how very fallible our memories can be - even when our recall of detail seems good.

The truth is then that we live in a mental alternate reality from each other.  Occasionally as a tester I can name that weird reality as the one where others have defined that "built means done", but I only find this by asking subtly.

I've actually been doing "academic" research into this by re-watching some sci-fi genre, especially Back To The Future.  Marty McFly when he accidentally goes back in time gets his bearings by observation and asking questions.  That unreliable time-machine the Tardis is not much better - it takes the Doctor where he's needed, but doesn't really tell him where he's landed.  He relies a lot on looking around, asking questions, and sometimes getting into trouble and captured to ask authority what's going on.

There's no doubt about it - questioning is the key to bridging that gulf, it's the key to getting information you need about what's going on internally within people.  More important "how they remember/perceive history".

At this point I thought this blog post was going well, however I noticed a little problem here.  I've been working a lot in facilitation this year at work, and as discussed previously this has primarily been about giving others room to express themselves.  Find out how they view testing, and try to shepherd and nurture their view.

But as important as this is, it's also important to note that to recap my previous statement that questioning is the "alternate reality traveller's Google (providing that other stranger is not another traveller)".  But of course that's exactly what other people are - fellow alternate reality travellers.  So in many ways your version of history has a validity which also needs to be shared!

And so as important as questioning is an important part of finding out how another person viewed a previous event.  It's important to follow that up with your version, to make them know there's a grey area.  If you find your viewpoints conflict, then you can talk about it.

A classic on which can come in from a meeting a couple of weeks ago, which everyone only vaguely remembers,

Padma:  Mei you said at the meeting last week you wold fix the problem with the Google account, is it done?
Mei:  No, I said we couldn't reproduce it, but I would try again to see if I could reproduce it - but only after I've finished the high level defects assigned to me.

So obviously there was a meeting a while ago, where this problem was discussed.  Whatever was discussed, Padma has gone away thinking "Mei promised she'd fix it" whilst Mei left thinking "Padma now knows I have other issues that need fixing first before I can even look into this".  Oops.

If human memory is so fallable, why don't we use an audit trails all the time?

This is a good point - writing things down is a really good way to get an auditable trail of consensus and agreement.  The problems is when people try to use it as a communication method - even email is a very slow way to hold a conversation.  It's quite possible to have a conversation which takes place over a month!

This is why we have meetings.  I know it can seem we just have meetings to have meetings sometimes, but the aim of having a meeting typically is as follows

  • get everyone involved in an issue into a room to talk.  Include people with knowledge of the area.
  • share information and analysis about the issue.
  • agree a plan of action to proceed

A key thing as a facilitator is to give people room to talk.  But also when a room either goes quiet or too impassioned, to stop and do a bit of a summary of what's happening.  Always driving towards that "agree action plan" once we have sufficient information in the room, and a consensus is being reached.

Of everything's that discussed, it's this action plan which maybe need to be written down, with the owner.  I always make a point of noting down such actions, repeating it back to the room at the time it's agreed, restating all the actions at an end of a meeting, and finally emailing it to all (with names of who's doing what).  The power of reminding people several times!

In the case of Padme and Mei, at the end of the meeting, maybe an action like,

Google account problem.  Mei has been unable to reproduce it, and will take another look once she's completed other higher priority tasks.  She will update us if it's not possible to take a look at it within by close of this week [Action: Mei]

Even so, the written word itself isn't infallible

As a kid, I always remember Han shooting first in that Star Wars scene with Greedo.  Rewatching it, I'm obviously mistaken!

I attend a lot of peer conferences, and I've been playing around recently with "playing secretary" and keeping notes so I can revisit what was said and explored.

After a recent conference, one of the speakers took to Twitter complaining that they felt personally attacked when one of the questioners called them a moron.  Intrigued I consulted my notes to see what I'd written for the exchange, which was,

"Question: (sounds like) less a team of specialists, but a team of “not my job” morons with no ownership"

So an open and shut case of the speaker making a big deal about nothing?  Maybe ... and maybe not.  It's interesting, because from my memory I actually seem to think the line was "less a team of agilists, more a team of high performing morons".  But I have something different written down, because of course I wasn't word for word copying what people said, but paraphrasing as I went.  Paraphrasing, the whole issues of the holes in our memory we've been exploring - it's all enough for there to make subtle difference in what we remember and what was said.

I also know from giving experience reports - a good experience report is honest, open, and really reveals a level of vulnerability in the speaker.  As such I've had questions asked of me where I felt the questioner was trying to be a bit "high and mighty and judgemental" to score cheap points, which I didn't appreciate.

Though I provided my notes to both the speaker and questioner in that incident, initially they had to resolve it just by talking through what happened, and how it'd made them feel.  Each was really living in an alternate reality where they saw that incident slightly differently.  Only through talking and reaching consensus were they really able to put it into each of their contexts, leave it in the past and move forward.

And so it is with all us alternate reality travellers ...

Coming next...

We've now covered why questioning, discussion and sometimes statements allow us to piece together our past.  But what makes a good question?  That we will explore a little more next time ...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Memory 102: The memory game

Today I'm going to build on my previous article looking into how memory works, exploring some features that you might never have noticed before.  In this article, I really want you to play and explore along with me, and do some of the work yourself.  This is how you'll really get the most out of it!

What I want you to do, is to think back about ten years - to something you used to do quite regularly with a loved one, who possibly is no longer with us.  This event needs to be something you haven't done for a while.  It can be visiting a relative, training, anything.  But it needs to have been a semi-routine.

Last time  I talked about one such occurrence for me - going downstairs for breakfast when I used to visit my in-laws.  But today, I'm going to explore another set of memories ...

I've talked before about my grandmother who died last year.  I have such fond memories of visiting her and my grandad in Stoke, where we'd stay the weekend.

We'd arrive in the afternoon, and she'd be waiting for us, usually dinner was being prepared, and there was a smell of onions and carrots being chopped.  She'd always have plenty of cardboard and tape ready for me, and I'd get busy doing arts and crafts - building from my imagination.  The scissors were kept in the third drawer down next to the living room.  I remember the smooth way the drawer moved on it's runners when opened.

The scissors were heavy and black, made of cast iron, feeling cold in my hand.  They were well used, and flecks of paint were missing all over them.  The rivet which held them together was a little loose, but they worked well enough.  The sellotape was always a pain to find the end, and I can vividly remember the taste of it occasionally when I had to bite it.

As dinner got closer, I remember the hiss-hiss-hiss of the pressure cooker, the rush to tidy the kitchen, help grandad to bring in and set the table, and get the mats and cutlery in place.

In preparing this article, I've been revisiting this set of memories over the last few weeks and putting it under scrutiny.  It's an important one for me.  I suspect you have something very similar about your grandparents.

It seems pretty accurate because of the sheer level of detail in there.  But there's a huge problem - despite what I said, this is not a set of memories.  When I look at it critically and explore it, especially trying to find out different times I visited, I realise I don't have multiple memories - it's a SINGLE memory, a bizarre amalgamation of all my visits.  I've found the same looking at my fond memory of coming down for breakfast and talking to my father-in-law when we used to stay with him.

I suspect your chosen event is the same.  You need to look at the memory yourself critically.  Yes, you can remember an occurrence.  Here's the litmus test - try and separate out in your mind different occurrences of the same situation.

For my own memory, it's like a little helper goes "well if it was winter, I remember grandad coming in with a scuttle of coal and a scrap of worn carpet to stoke the fire ... but in summer we'd sit outside, and we'd got to the end of the garden where some of the trees were named after us".

Here's the thing.  You remember the core event of going to your grandparents (or whatever your chosen event was), and you remember some of the different things that happened in different years or in different seasons.  But your mind creates memories to order stitching together the generic memory of "when you used to visit" with a different aspect you remembered "the Christmas I had the Twikki robot".

Generally for a lot of regular events that we do frequently, we don't use up space remembering them.  We create an archetypal memory which is really a "drag and drop template" of "going to grandma's".  We then fill it with all the details of things we do remember, but we also fill in the gaps when we can't remember something.

I know this, because as detailed as my memory is, there are huge problems with the memories when I think critically about them.  During my time growing up with my grandparents they had the kitchen redone, including moving the scissor drawer.  But that's not represented in the memory at all - it's always by the living room.

And it's always the more recently renovated kitchen that I remember (with those smooth running cupboard drawers).  I remember their earlier kitchen unit was given to us, and we used it as a television stand/desk in my bedroom.  But I have no memory of that unit in their house, although I have memories that correlate to that period..

Likewise - my grandfather is absent from most of the memory that I've shared so far until he sets up the table, and for good reason.  Up until 1982, he worked at Chatterley Whitfield mine, and would appear part way through the afternoon.  But the mine was shut in that year, and he took retirement.

If think the year is pre-1982, then he's not present until later in the afternoon, appearing in his pit gear part way through the day.  And (I kid you not) he appears in the memory with his face all dirty, carrying a hard helmet and pit lamp.  Despite those lamps being given in at the pit for recharging.  However if I know the memory is after 1982, then "bing" like a genie of the lamp, he's present from the moment we arrive.

This just allows us to look a little more at how memory works - and those weird little bugs, which have always been there right under your nose!  We remember archetypal templates of events.  And we remember some of the differences - typically clarified like an episode of Friends as "the one where ...".  Then we just mix and match to bake "complete detailed memories".  The problem is, they might not be as accurate as we believe.

So far, we've old been talking about long term reminiscing.  Surely all this is harmless and inconsequential - surely this doesn't impact us at all at work?

How many meetings have you had this year so far?  Looking at how we've uncovered how we bulk together a lot of similar events under a single template.  How's your memory of individual meetings going?  Do you actually remember them?  Or are you mix and matching your archetypal templates with occasional "the time where ..." incidents (which dwell on the differences) sewn in?

How reliable is your memory for guiding you through all this?  Does it correlate with everyone else?  This should be a pretty scary realisation.  But don't worry, we'll explore this more next time.

Further reading ...

If you're interested in exploring more about this before next time, I recommend,

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Empathy's dark side

I had planned to go into this material at some future date.  Sadly the recent terror attacks in Paris has made the content material more relevant, and hence I've decided to interrupt our series exploring memory to cover this.

One of the problems we're often told about the modern world is that we're too connected electronically, but too disconnected emotionally with one another.  We lack empathy for others.

Empathy is important to how social groups work.  It was believed that there were common properties in all mammalian brains (including humans) to deal with emotional processing which was a vital part of enabling mammals to work in packs/tribes.  Emotion allows animals to inter-relate, and take care and protect each other, rather than caring solely to the needs of the self.

So empathy has got to be a good thing, right?  Sadly not, according to recent research by Anneke Buffone and Michael Poulin of the University Of Buffalo.  Like so many things in life, some is beneficial, but too much can lead to aggression and violence, which alarmingly does not have to be directed back at perpetrators of an experienced injustice.

Their research has shown that when some people are witness to Person A who has been the victim of an ordeal, those witnesses can show quite violent and aggressive behaviour.  Now some of that's not too much of a shocker, a lot of such behaviour is often wrapped up as "a desire for justice".  However, their test was set up and showed that such behaviour is readily applied to someone, even when the witness knows that person is nothing to do with Person A.  A disturbing form of "kicking the dog" to vent emotion.

It goes without saying that such behaviour perpetrates other injustices.  And rather than rectify the original problem, it just mimics and replicates the injustices.

With the recent abhorant behaviour of the Islamic State with their executions, and this recent terror attacks, it has really tugged on the heartstrings of many.  It hurts, it feels unjust, vile, reprehensible and there is a desire to "get back" at them - which is completely understandable.  Criminals should be punished.

Where it gets darker is when we just wish to strike back at not just them, but people who share some common attribute - whether their country of origin, the colour of their skin or their religion.  We want someone to pay, what we often care less for is whether the person who pays legitimately is associated with those who did the crime.

We see this all too often.  When I was a child, there was a murder of a paperboy called Carl Bridgewater who was brutally murdered.  The public was outraged, and demanded someone was caught and prosecuted.  In the end the police fabricated evidence against a group of people to appease the public anger.  It didn't matter that the wrong people were prosecuted, as long as someone was.

We see this time and again - a desire to "get someone" to make someone pay for some crime we feel is horrendous.  Within the British justice system, perhaps the Derek Bentley case sums this most effectively.  A British policeman was shot by a minor, so they charged and hung one of his collaborators based on him allegedly uttering the words "let him have it" (it's open to debate over whether that meant "give him the gun" or "shoot him").  

As an adult I've lived through the September 11th attacks, and the London Bombings.  All of which made my blood boil.  In the shadow of September 11th, attacks on the Sikh community escalated, sometimes spilling into murder.  This was despite Sikhs being nothing to do with the Muslim extremist group behind the attacks - but with their distinguishing turbans they were noticeably different and an easy target.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, with 130 dead, there is a desire for retribution.  Retribution disguised as justice. I have seen countless friends or groups who have expressed a desire to bomb the Middle East into the stone age, and to put every refugee from Syria into a detention camp and ship them home.

Ironically I feel this is exactly what the Islamic State wants - to justify their hate with your hate.  To use any action we might take to justify their action, in a way to recruit future Jihadi Johns to their cause.  They want you to distance yourself from your neighbour, your coworker, that guy who owns a shop, who just happens to have a darker complexion to you.

Those who perpetrated the attacks need to be brought to justice (yes, even killed if that's not possible) as well as those behind the attacks.  But as much as possible we should seek to avoid harm to those innocents in the crossfire - people who are as much victims of groups like the Islamic State.

There was a great line at the end of recent Star Trek films, which I'm going to repeat here.  At the end of Star Trek Into Darkness, Khan had caused the deaths of a lot of people, and to be honest, I really wanted him to die in the end, but instead he was allowed to live.  Here's what Kirk said,

"There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that's not who we are"

We should never forget those who are murdered in such attacks.  It's a positive thing that the deaths of so many does move us - although as many have noted, terrorism is going on at an alarm rate elsewhere in the world, with attacks on this scale weekly, but as it occurs away from the western world, we don't pay it as much attention.

However we should not allow ourselves to be the puppets of terrorists or people within our own society with similarly "simplistic yet reactionary" policies.  That is the way of the lynch mob, seeking vengeance in a misguided belief it is pursuing justice.  It neither honours the memories of the victims or help to bring in a more secure world for us all.

Let us always seek to show why we are civilised, and they are the barbarians.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Memory 101: The psychology of time travel

I am standing in a hallway - it's a very familiar place to me.  I can hear voices in front of me arguing about what they can and can't have for breakfast.  I know this place all too well, and I know the owners of those voices all too well.

I also know that they are both dead, but that doesn't stop me walking into the kitchen.  They're both there, as I left them in 2009.  The kitchen is as I left it in 2009.  I know John died in 2011, and Ruth died in 2014.  They are my in-laws, much beloved by me.

I can smell that distinct smell of the scullery beyond.  A clammy, slightly damp smell of wet, white plaster.  I see the 10-year old 1 litre bottle of Teacher's whiskey on the top of the cupboard, which has only been slightly drunk.

I smile at them both, and want to cry.  As real as it feels, I know it can't be.  I desperately want to reach out and pull my wife into this place with me.  So she can enjoy this moment with them both.  I smile at them both and say "I just want to stay here a little longer".

The next moment, I wake up.  Unsure of quite what has happened.  It seemed so real, more vividly real than any memory.

Time Travellers Anonymous

We are obsessed by the ideas of time travel.  The truth is we actually time travel a lot - events in the past are often pulling us from the here and now.  The vehicle which enables this though is no Tardis, it's simply our memories.

With a passion unbridled we want to go back and re-experience the past.  But most of all there's a desire to change things - more than anything a desire to change our memories.  Ironically we do that a lot - when we replay a memory we do actually re-experience it, but we also tend to re-edit it as well, often in a manner which is more favourable to ourselves.

It's important to understand just how rotten our memory is at this, and how easily it can be corrupted.  This is quite a scary thing, because we rely heavily on our memory, our memory is essentially our identity.  And this can cause us to feel quite flustered when other people's account of an event is different to how we remember it.

Our memory is fallible - it's not perfect, but it also can easily be corrupted.  We like to think of memory as being "tape recorder details" of event but the truth is we remember just a few things about a certain event (if we're lucky), and have a habit of filling in the gaps.

Remember, every time we access a memory, we're re-experiencing it. Often there are large holes in our memory (we tend to remember only a few thing - if we're lucky), and we just "fill in the gaps".  But like a crazy game of Chinese whispers, each time you access it, you have the potential to shift it subtly.

Need an example of how bad it can get?  I virtually repeated the same sentence, just a few sentences apart - and a good number of you won't have noticed!

Here's a couple more examples examples ...

The Green Polka Dot Blouse

I can remember my first date with the future Mrs Talks - it was at Bas's Wine Bar in Aigburth.  I remember clearly choosing out my best clothes to be seen to impress.  About two months into dating, my wife put on a green, polka dot blouse - and said "do you remember this?" but I didn't.  She told me it was the shirt she'd worn to our first date.

Well, my brain knew this was important, and filed it away - just in case she asked me again.  But the funny thing is, when I think back to that first date, I see her in that polka dot blouse.  How can I not remember two months after, yet 20 years later see it clearly?  Having been told (and it being impressed upon me), I altered my memory to include it.  It's subtle, but it changes.

That Roller Skating Date With Julie Lewis

Talking about going back in time to change things ... I have a friend from school called Julie Lewis, who I had a huge crush on.  I asked her out a lot, but it never happened - there was a huge pang of misery when I learned several years later that she'd married and was having a baby whilst I was very much single.

Another example of spurned love ... so why do I have a memory of us on a date?  This one is a bit crazy.  For sure we went places together (we were friends), and occasionally just us.  But I have a vivid memory of us going roller skating as a date in Derby.

I think what happened is our youth group went roller skating, but I only remember interacting and skating with Julie.  This could paint me as a massive jerk, but I might even have been dating someone else at the time, and she might have been there.  But for some reason my memory has only kept and "framed" from that event my interactions with Julie, and in such a way to make it "like a date".

The date that wasn't.

Memories - handle with care

All of this shows that memories really are an odd form of time travel.  They reprocess parts of our past through our senses.  They have the potential to take us clearly out of the here and now - even as I've been writing this article, I've noticed myself occasionally losing focus of where I am, "lost in the past".

As we've alluded to, we even have the potential to rewrite the past, to create a little alternate reality bubble for our past.  A reality which might not align with everyone else's experience of the same events.

We'll explore some implications of this in a follow-on post.  But for now, I just want to acknowledge the power, pull and quirkiness of memories, especially when they are the only way to reconnect with people we've lost.

To explore more about this subject, find the links below.  And remember, you promised on Twitter to buy my book ...

The next chapter: Exploring human fallibility...

In pretty much every book I've ever seen on testing, the first chapter usually starts with a discussion on why we need testers.  And the reason is always given that "we need testers because human beings are fallible when it comes to creating things".

This is absolutely true.  However in many people's education on testing, once this has been brought up, it's immediately dropped, and never returned to.

But consider this - if we knew more about the ways that we as humans are unconsciously susceptible, wouldn't that make us better at anticipating problems?  That is an approach which is far more uncommon, and really it was James Bach's Rapid Software Testing course that was the first time I'd encountered a serious look at how such psychological limitations impact how we functioned within an IT context.

We've covered aspects of this before - however I want critical thinking to become much more the focus of topics explored going into 2016, although as always it'll be linking back to IT related themes.

So that means, some of the subjects covered on this blog may well seem initially a bit odd- but humour me.  Then again, this is a blog which has covered alien invasions and flat earths - so I guess you know that weird comes with the territory ...

Monday, November 2, 2015

Post 200 - looking back, and planning forward ...

My 200th blog post is quite an achievement, and a good time to read back especially through my recent posts.

I've always used anniversaries of blogging as a good excuse to hold a bit of a retrospective.  And like any good retrospective, you look back, and then you plan ahead.

What surprises me is how much I've found to talk about.  Originally this was going to a place to gather together some typical resources on testing I kept finding myself writing in one company, then having to recreate when I moved on.  I figured maybe 20 or 30 posts tops.

However, as the blog took shape, I found there were all kinds of aspects of work life I wanted to write about and reflect on.  Particularly I found writing to be a therapeutic activity to observe, dissect, and propose about common problems I'd find in the working life.  And not all those problems were strictly "testing problems".  But then perhaps that was not too surprising, write Jerry Weinberg has stated, "all software problems are people problems", and this blog in many ways has been as much about exploring "the human condition" as it applies to I.T.

It's certainly something I'm aiming to explore with the next series of posts I'm working on.  I managed to reach a personal milestone recently - my How To Test book has given a good, basic approach to applying testing ideas, and I've had a lot of positive feedback on it (as well as a few typos pointed out).

But some of what is to come really excites me - we're set in the next few posts to explore some pretty giant themes, and how they can apply to us as human beings, and to the world of testing.  In How To Test, I've introduced you to a box of tricks, and called it testing.

Going into 2016, I'm going to try and open the doors to that box, and like the Tardis, show you the whole world that goes on inside it.  If you've ever found yourself going, "well, it's just testing ...", buckle up and enjoy the journey ...

Monday, October 19, 2015

How To Test - the book

This has been something I tried to put together a few years ago, I started work on it, but it never quite came to fruition.

It had been something I'd been talking with Bernice Ruhland about.  How can you help someone in their first steps as a software tester?

One thing I knew - I had a lot of very authoritative books about testing, which usually came out on the epic side.  They talked about requirements and waterfall methods.  About verification and validation models.  About terminology.

But what they didn't really cover to my satisfaction was "how do you test" / "where do you get ideas to test"?  When I did James Bach's Rapid Software Testing course in 2012, I actually felt a bit annoyed when he covered oracles and heuristics.  This was a scalable model which could be applied to so much - so why wasn't this being taught as day one of test school instead of multiple choice questions about the difference between a bug and a defect?

I became more passionate about the need for a short intro which focused on "real testing" as done day-to-day when I heard about "testing bootcamps" which were being offered around the world to graduates.  For a few thousand dollars, they promised to train you (including ISTQB certification), and you would be guaranteed a career.

I have a son who is facing going to University next year, so I know it doesn't come cheap.  And the idea of more expense after a degree to just get anyone to take you seriously quite horrifies me.  [I'm that odd thing, someone from a generation of free higher education who believes this generation deserves it too]

Hence I wanted to put together a book which covers some of the core basics of testing, especially some worked examples of the application of oracles and heuristics.  Enough to get people's toes into the water to see if they like the profession.  This book had to be free.  It had to be short, easy to work through and easy to read - it was never aiming for authoritative, but it would give advice for next steps at the end.

All told I spent 6 years at University - I never studied a single computers module.  But I understood at the end that part of my education is that I'd learned to apply myself and discipline myself to learn anything.  When I was unemployed after my failed PhD, I read a lot about programming, enough to get interviews and enough to write programs in interviews so people could tell I knew what I was doing.  I got my first job at Thomson Marconi Sonar, and hit the ground running.  What amazes me though is that I learned all this about programming in C++ - but didn't own a computer at the time.

My son Cameron recently met James Bach, and James talked to him about Cameron's aspirations.  James told him about his first day as a test manager at Apple (after some success working as a programmer), and how on that day everything clicked for him.  He found something he truly enjoyed and that motivated him.  "If you follow your passion you will find your discipline", was James's excellent advice.

This is my introduction book to testing.  If it intrigues you, I encourage you too to follow your passion ...


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Is this agile?

The picture below has been going viral around the internet the last few months.

It's of course easy to giggle at this, then come into work and go without a shade of irony "oh yes ... the reason we're not going to get this story finished because we're not going to get the analysis/development/testing tasks done on time".

Thinking back to last week's post, it's important to remember that everyone (as above) is in the same boat.  Everyone drowns together.

If your agile boat is running a little low in the water, and the leak is not your end, you need to be asking everyone in the boat, "how can I help?".

Monday, September 14, 2015

Taking tasks from the board ...

I've been doing an excellent bootcamp with my personal trainer the last month.  Called "Dan's playground", he's been training us in a series of exercises, with things getting interesting this last couple of weeks.

We've been given a board of tasks to complete as a team ...

We have to complete all these activities to a number of repetitions (which can be shared amongst us as we see fit).  The only constraint is we have a fixed time to finish it - typically 40 minutes, but it's being reduced to 30 minutes recently.  We get 2 minutes as a team to plan, and then we have to get down to it.

I'll ask this now ... DOES ANY OF THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?  [Hint: agile]

Our group has a diverse level of fitness levels and body types.  With my scrum training (and I mean rugby scrum here), I have no issues doing the bench pushes (see below) ...

But as for hanging from the monkey bars for 180 seconds, no thanks.

Here's how we typically do it.  We ask people in the team "what do you feel most comfortable / really want to do?".  And start from there.  People go away, do as many as they can, and come back to see what's left.

Inevitably there's some areas which none of us are really too keen on, and it ends with us all working together at the end to get it done, but we do get through it.  It's also important to me that I don't monopolise the bench pushes, and encourage others to "have a go", because they might really love it when they try it.

But most of all, with this approach we get the job done.  There are some things we really know we can do, and some things which are either a bit unpleasant, or else stretch us.  And that's okay as well.

What's interesting is how much this overlaps with what we explored recently in the Kiwi Workshop on Sofware Testing, exploring testing roles.  Two of the experience reports talked on stepping outside of the testing role when needed, and how important it was for the whole team to step outisde of their role once in a while to "get shit done".

In the gym exercise, it would be very easy to define ourselves by roles,

  • "I'm a strong man, so I only do bench pushes"
  • "I'm a gymnast, so I only do monkey bar work and floor exercises"
  • "I'm a runner, so I only do running stuff"

With such an attitude, we'd fail every one of our challenges.  Instead as an agile team, we need to define ourselves by the activities we have on either our sprint board (if we're agile) or our personal trainers activity board (if we're doing a gym session).

We need to focus on "what needs to be done" and "what can I do".

As I talked in the previous blog on Storming-Norming-Forming-Performing, there's something fascinating about looking at how we make decisions and evolve as groups.  I often feel the even two-week sprints aren't rapid enough for learning.

Earlier this year, a project I was working on arranged a series of bootcamps, and it really helped to connect together everyone who attended - it was all about working together.  Without doubt, if you're starting a new agile team, it's well worth engaging the services of a local personal trainer, and have a couple of compulsory exercises to help the team work out how they approach activities and work together to a common goal.

Tales about team building ..

I’ve recently watched and was inspired by something on Netflix.  I’m not going to tell you the title, but see if you can guess it from the description below …
  • The lead character is a bit of a wash out
  • They are introduced to a group, and time is ticking down to a big event
  • At first no-one gets on particularly well.  They try to prepare for the big event, but it doesn’t go well.  They bicker a lot.
  • Almost when all hope is lost, there is a bit of a breakthrough.  There is a sign of promise, and it bonds everyone together.  The lead character finds themselves stepping up, and suddenly it looks achievable.
  • Just on the eve of the big event, something goes wrong, and it feels like it’s all going to unravel.
  • But when it matters, everyone knows what’s expected of them, steps up as a team, and everything goes off well.

Does that plot sound more than a little familiar?  I’d love to know what program came to mind for you, but I’m actually talking about a Danish TV show called Hjørdis, where they’re putting on a big, anti-bullying show at school.

But this plot has been used a lot in films like The Mighty Ducks, Cool Runnings, Dodgeball to name a few.  It’s what Carl Jung called an archetype.  It’s a kind of tale we find we like to use a lot in storytelling, especially for the genre of sports or "let's put on a show".

Since watching Hjørdis, I've found myself wondering why we like to tap into this kind of story so much.  Is it because it’s just good drama?  Is it because we just love the underdogs who come out on top?

I think far deeper, it’s that although we might like to think a bit of the Star Trek Enterprise model, of a crew all being “the best of the best”, and being able to take on everything the Universe throws at it (from rogue self-aware technology, alien invasion schemes, God-like energy beings, and a profusion of planet-of-the-Nazis), this isn’t the case.  Most successful teams aren’t successful because they have the best people (although ability is a factor), but because of how well they work as a group.

In fact psychologist Bruce Tuckman put together a model for this (and maybe some Hollywood blockbusters should start giving him credit), which is known as Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing.  And it pretty much follows the plot points above.

According to Tuckman, if you put together any group of people, on the way to becoming successful as a group, they will live out the drama of those plot points.

Let’s take the original Star Wars movie as an example, and show those stages.


Everyone meets up with one another.  Luke finds out about Leia and Obi-Wan, and they pick up transport to their destination through Han Solo.  Right now, they’re a group with just loose affiliations with each other, and no general purpose.


Quite literally, they’re storming through the Death Star.  They’re shooting a lot of Stormtroopers, but also taking a lot of shots at each other.  They all have widely different goals, but learning to align some of them, with mixed results,

  • Luke wants to rescue the princess
  • Leia wants to get the secret plans to the Rebellion
  • Han wants to lie low, not get caught, but get out of there (also get paid)

Most of all, they’re bickering.  A lot.

Of course, this is also where much of the best dialogue comes from,

  • “Wonderful girl. Either I'm going to kill her or I'm beginning to like her.”
  • “Look, Your Worshipfulness, let's get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me”
  • “It's a wonder you're still alive … Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?”
  • “No reward is worth this.”
  • “You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought.”


They get away from the Death Star, but they’re some TIE fighters in persuit.  Han and Luke get to the guns.  Leia and Chewbacca take the helm.  The droids run damage control.  Everyone slots into place, and they work together, taking down the enemy.

At the end, even Leia gives Chewbacca a celebratory hug!


Luke flies with a whole lot of other pilots against the Death Star.  His number seems up, when out of the blue, Han Solo flies in to cover his back.  They blow up the Death Star and everyone gets medals.

It’s of course interesting to note that when J. J. Abrams rebooted Star Trek in 2009, he followed a much more Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing plot for his team.

For those of us not writing Hollywood scripts, and just working in software teams, where does that leave us?

When we find ourselves on a team where there’s bickering and tensions are rising, it’s very easy to say “this team is not working”.  But the truth is, it’s a quite normal phase in team evolution.  You need to try and work with the team, coach it, give it time and focus on moving beyond this phase.

For more on dealing with conflict in teams, you might want to revisit my post on the Kobayashi Maru of office relationships.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Project Manager's Yellow Brick Road ...

I've been thinking a lot about this article this weekend - it was originally written and published for Teatime With Testers in 2011.

It was inspired by getting to work closely with a couple of our Project Managers at Kiwibank, in "getting shit done" mode.  Really centrally it is about leadership - and how good leaders help to nurture and also give space to their team, so they have the freedom to do their best work.  [That's what good Scrum Masters do, don't they?]

This theme was central to many of the talks this week at the Agile NZ, and none summed it up better than the talk by Ian Taylor, who has founded and ran a company on this premise since the 80s ...

You might have read the book.  You more than likely have watched the movie.  But are you living the values?

Once upon a time, there was a software engineer called Dorothy who worked for a small Kansas IT company.  But her career felt too restricting, and she yearned to move to a bigger company.  So when she got the offer to up sticks and move over the rainbow to Oz (or was it Aus?) she uprooted herself and followed her dreams.

It seemed that someone had dropped a house on her predecessor, and Dorothy had to step into her shoes.  Yes they were very nice ruby slippers, and brought with them some considerable power, but with one previous owner (now deceased) they seemed a little cursed.

Dorothy was immediately greeted by a delegation of little people from Oz, who truth be told were glad to see the back of the previous Project Manager, who they felt had mistreated them.  It was all quite exciting, but Dorothy realised she didn't have a team yet.

After meeting with Glinda from HR, she was told to follow the Yellow Brick Road.  This was a golden path set out for projects, and the Wizarding CEO at the end expect delivery of a completed project, or would get almighty angry. The Wizarding CEO lived in a gleaming Emerald City - so called, because it provided all the green to fund projects.  But the path before them was hard set, and Dorothy shouldn't deviate for any reason.

All looked like it was going to be smooth until the Disgruntled Business Owner Elphaba arrived.  She had liked the previous Project Manager, and was more than a little annoyed to find Dorothy in her shoes instead.  She told Dorothy in no uncertain terms to "watch out my pretty".

A little unnerved, Dorothy decided to head down the golden path of project management regardless.  The first person she came across was a lion, who was being terrorised by some flying monkeys who were the Business Owners enforcers.

Dorothy managed to shoo the monkeys away, and the cowardly lion was pleased to see Dorothy.  He explained his tale of woe to Dorothy.  He worked as a Business Analyst, but was too scared by the wicked Business Owner Elphaba  and her enforcers.  His work was never good enough, and he just kept having to make changes to it.

Sometimes he felt the changes being made didn't make any sense, but he was too afraid to say, feeling it better to do what he was told, and hope to please her one day.

Dorothy took pity on him as he started to cry, and told the Cowardly Lion, if he'd do some requirements analysis for her project, she'd help to keep the flying monkeys of his back.  The Cowardly Lion was encouraged by that, and promised he'd follow her.

They went further along the golden path to their objective.  The Cowardly Lion had written a few initial requirements down, and was learning to not take it personally when Dorothy made suggestions.  They were not complete rewrites, but enhancements, making better and better requirements.

But they soon realised requirements were nice, but they really needed something developed now.  They came to a field, to see a scarecrow having the stuffing knocked out of him by more flying monkeys.  Dorothy ran after the monkeys, but there were too many of them.  To her surprise, the Cowardly Lion let out such a fierce roar that they soon scattered.

The Scarecrow was a sorry sight.  They gathered him together as best they could.  He worked as a Developer, but he was always being told by the flying monkeys how stupid he was.  He felt he was too stupid to carry on as a Developer he was sure, and was thinking of giving it up and going into something else.

Dorothy told him that was nonsense.  They needed a Developer to help them, and here he was.  The Scarecrow wasn't sure at first.  He finally agreed to take it on, but only until they found someone more suitable and cleverer.

So they set out again.  This time Dorothy didn't seem to have much to do.  The Cowardly Lion passed the Scarecrow his notes, and talked them through a bit at a time, so the Scarecrow wouldn't get overwhelmed.  Every so often they got to something they weren't sure of, and Dorothy would make a decision on what she thought would be right.  But mostly they could sort it out between them.

The Scarecrow seemed to forget his initial reluctance, and got designing and coding, asking questions of the Lion as he went along.  The code seemed to be coming together, but they couldn't really be sure.  What they needed now was a Tester.

As luck would have it, at this point they came to a metal man, who'd rusted into a statue.  He made a plea, but no-one could work out what for.  It was the Scarecrow who noticed that in the metal man's hand was a piece of paper which read,

Category 1 incident

I have noticed I am starting to rust, and require immediate lubrication, as I'm continually losing motor function as the corrosion continues.

The Scarecrow worked out that maybe the metal man needed oiling. He found a nearby oil can, and together he, the Lion and Dorothy oiled and pulled until the metal man could move again.  He said he was called Tin Man, and he worked as a Tester. Unfortunately he'd not got on well at his last project, and was told he raised too many defects. In fact his coworkers told him he didn't have a heart with some of the things he came to them with. So they'd left him outside to rust. He'd tried raising a defect report to get oiled, but no-one helped.

Dororthy couldn't believe her luck, just as she needed a Tester she found one. But she was concerned - the Lion was only starting to find his courage, and the Scarecrow was only starting to believe in himself. A Tester without a heart could set them back all the way to Munchkinland.

"Look", she told the Tin Man, "we have to get this project as finished as possible before we see the Wizzarding CEO in the Emerald City. I need you to really look for the big things, and try not to make too much fuss over the little ones".

"Oh", said the Tin Man. He was quite taken aback. Usually it was his job to point out all the faults in other peoples work, and he was very good at it. But what Dorothy said made sense to him, the big issues were the important ones, and he'd tackle them first, but list the little ones for later reference.

Even so testing did not go well. The Tin Man asked questions of the Lion, who became afraid and lost his voice. When the Tin Man noticed problems in the Scarecrow's code, the Scarecrow said this was proof that he didn't have a brain, and shouldn't be doing this.

But it did get better - as the Scarecrow worked on the bugs, the software became more robust, and the Tin Man remembered to tell him this, and how good the new builds were. The Scarecrow even started making suggestions to improve the design. The Lion began to realise the Scarecrow and Tin Man were deferring to his judgement and calls about how the requirements should be interpreted and became more confident. And the Tin Man began to realise he was a valued equal member of the team, and felt they were all working together to improve quality.

The wicked Business Owner tried many time to take them off course, to send them in the wrong direction or to send them in circles. But Dorothy managed to keep them on the right path and pour water on their problems.

By the time they reached the Emerald City, their work was done.  The Wizzarding CEO was much impressed, and he told them as much in his teleconference.

The Lion had shown his courage, the Scarecrow his brains and the Tin Man his heart. And it was all down to Dorothy's leadership.

The Wizard of Oz is obviously a classic film. What's interesting is that though Dorothy is the heroine, she of herself doesn't do anything that amazing.  Though she defeats both the witches of the East and the West, it's more by accident.

However in her journey she meets a dysfunctional group of people in the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. But through her mentoring and leadership, they become capable of much greater things. This is a quality of truly great leaders.  And thus they are shoes we should all aim to fill ...