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Search and Rescue vs. Leading/Organizing a Test Effort (Benjamin Yaroch's Blog)

On May 7, 2010, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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I recently said goodbye to one project and hello to another. With this change my mind shifts to how I organize and lead this new project.

For some time now I’ve been trying to find my “style” when it comes to leading and organizing the testing project for which I’m responsible. I work in a very small team, some of that team is in experienced and often contracted/short term. Further its not usual for me to play a duel role of test lead and senior tester. These things alone make organizing a project a challenge but when you mix complex software and short time lines things can get down right overwhelming.

For past projects I  have always started strong with what I thought was a clear vision and focus, but after the twists and turns I began to loose  my way and my focus. I found myself and the team testing for testing sake. While we were providing information for our stakeholders it didn’t feel like we were moving forward. This has become a point of frustration for me.

So during a long drive last weekend to visit relatives I started thinking about what I could do differently to maintain focus and purpose even through the twists and turns. I thought about the things I had read by Bach, Bolton, and Kaner. I also reflected on what Scott Barber had drawn the back of a notepad one evening about how he plans. All of this was good information but didn’t give me the “ah ha” I was looking for nor were they “my style.” I then started thinking about other industries, trades, and fields that might have good models that I could adapt for this task.

Then it hit me, when I was younger I was involved in Civil Air Patrol. One of the primary roles of this organization was Search and Rescue (SAR). I spent many weekends in the woods on practice missions, and had the opportunity to be a part of real searches on a number of occasions. To be involved and take on leadership roles I  had to learn how to read maps, layout search grids, participate in ground and air searches, and coordinate communications.

While this works for SAR I wondered if it could be adapted for software testing. Then I remembered something that Jon Bach mentioned during a class on Session Based Exploratory Testing. He shared that someone had come to him and said the Session Based ET was a lot like Search and Rescue. So if it can work at the micro level in an exploratory session, why can’t it work to organize and lead the entire project?

So in the coming months I hope to leverage my search and resuce skills (which are rusty) to lead this project. I’ve already begun comparing SAR concepts to my test project and many are lining up (search grids vs coverage areas, ground team member vs software tester, search types (air, ground) vs breadth/depth) I’m excited to see where this leads.

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