Lessons from our Unicorn Detectives

At the Agile Testing Days 2018 we did the workshop ‘Be a Detective, use Forensic Sciences, Improve your skills‘ This workshop was about using your agile & testing skills to help solve the mystery disappearance of the Unicorn (the Agile Testing Days symbol).

This blog is dedicated to the top 5 lessons that people can take from this workshop. Things that helped during the workshop & things that could have helped during the workshop. We had 3 sessions, all different, all having different valuable lessons in them.

Structure

A lot of teams started to tackle the problem in an unstructured way, led by their emotions and going about it without thinking about the bigger pictures. To make the investigation way more effective one of the things they should have done is create a structure.

A structure that at least has some basic things like: Teams, and what will each team investigate. When to share information. But also where to leave the evidence.

We all learn about creating structure via the Scrum framework. Use those things we already know and apply it also to this situation.

Two of the groups almost lost a valuable piece of information because of the way the handled the evidence.

Communication & Collaboration

Alignment of communication was something that was a big challenge in this workshop. What we saw happening is that it’s not only important to share information, but also with who.

If they would have created a collaboration structure with teams, which some groups did, you could have focused your investigation (Sprint Goal) and have one report back in a group-leader group. Because not all information always need to be shared with everybody and have 2 or 3 moments to share information with everyone.

All groups tried to share all the information people found, but ask yourself “is it important to share this information with everyone”? Some information had no value or value yet, why share it if it is not important?

Time boxes

Because of the massive amount of parts that can be investigated it’s good to set a goal and a time box for certain investigations. Teams sometimes were stuck for a long timen on minor details without having a clear goal in mind.

One of the examples was the password of the camera. This was a enormous waste for teams and not a real big gain in information. If they would have used a time box they would not have lost hours of time in the workshop in guessing a password.

None of the groups were working in time boxes. Yes ,they tried. While some teams started with a time box, they never kept to the time box or appointed a timekeeper. They never finished a time box.

Proper investigation

A lot of the times clues where forgotten. To find something that you don’t know you are looking for is hard. That really requires you to investigate properly. This is something all teams had problems with. Once you have created a picture of the scene, take it apart. See what you can find. Do not stop when you found a clue, there are probably more to find.

Like testing, back trace steps, go forward, take it apart and strip it. Do propper investigation! Think about things that could have been hidden and you should not stop when finding one or two clues. There are so many more clues for you to find.

In total the 3 groups only 70% of the clues. We also needed to help you to find a clue if to really needed to solve the mystery. There was way more fun stuff to discover.

Clues are like bugs, you don’t stop testing when you find one. You start testing more, because there might be more interesting things to find.

Scaling

When dealing with multiple teams or large groups of people you need to scale. Create small teams and not too many teams. To not have too many communication lines within teams. Communication lines make communication and collaboration hard.

We would have suggested groups of 4/5 people in the first two session we had to create 3 or 4 teams. For the friday sessions with 34 people in it, we would have suggested 5/6 people in a team and create 6 teams. This reduces the communication lines to a minimum in teams and between teams to a minimum.

There was also a lesson for us, as facilitators. The last group was 34 people in size. That made it hard for the people attending, because there were only so many spots to investigate. The group also posed even more difficulties when sharing information. This lead to people not being part of the investigation sometimes.

When you set a maximum of 25 people, stick to it and say “no” to extra people that want to attend!

Concluding

These lessons were a bit foreseen by us. If you would have watched the lessons in the Unicorn Police learning box, we had all these amazing lessons and answers for you already. Besides all the information you learned during the Agile Testing Days.

The movies of the ATD Unicorn police box are found on Google Drive, if you want to continue learning.

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