Hi, I’m a creator

🥧 Pie mail - Exploration over planning

Published over 1 year ago • 4 min read


Hope you're all having a great week. For me it's been working from home with a sick child, which means I've had a guest star in a lot of my meetings.

I'm grateful that I work with a team that's understanding about those sort of interruptions!

Today's pie mail is about test planning. Or, not planning. Here's what I've been thinking about!

🗺️ Exploration over planning

Someone asked me about test planning this week, and I thought I'd address it, because it comes up a lot.

Usually it's something like "how do I write a test plan?", or, "Have you got a good test plan template?".

The context here, is that a large piece of work has been broken down in to small tickets, and the asker wants to add a test plan to each ticket.
I’m not talking about large scale projects here - that’s a different question to answer (maybe next time).

Thing is, I can't really give a good answer. I don't like planning tests this way - I think it can devalue testing.

I’ll try and explain using a video game analogy.

I like role playing games. Final Fantasy, Zelda, that sort of thing.
These games usually have an open world you can explore, but there's a defined path to follow to within that world. Complete these tasks, defeat the villain, save the prince/princess, that sort of thing.

But the fun thing about these games, for me, is the discoveries along the way. Like hidden treasures, bonuses, and side quests.
The things you find by going off the beaten track.

If I a player sticks to the path set out for them, they may finish the game - but - they won’t have found any of the interesting stuff.
So, I like to explore. If the game tells me to go right, first, I’ll go left and see what’s there.

Testing is kinda the same. Sticking to a plan means you’ll only ever find the expected things.
But it’s the unexpected things that are more interesting.

That’s why I struggle with detailed test plans - it feels like sticking to a script, and can mean less discovery, not more.

That doesn’t mean no planning at all - I guess I'm saying that a plan should be high-level, loose and flexible.

If planning means a set of things to do before going ahead with the testing, here's are some questions I like to ask myself:

  • Do I understand how this task fits in with the wider project?
  • Do I understand how this task could affect other pieces of the product?
  • Do I understand how this works at a technical level?
  • Have I talked to the designer / product owner / developer who has worked on this?

If these reveal any specific gotchas:
✅ write these down as things to investigate as part of the wider exploration;
❌ but don’t turn it in to an exhaustive list of things to check

Then, explore and discover!

If struggling to come up with exploration ideas, a cheat sheet like this one from Elisabeth Hendrickson, James Lyndsay and Dale Emery can be of use.

Hope that helps you on your next testing adventure!

🖥 Neat stuff from around the internet

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  • I liked this episode of Screaming in the Cloud. Good stuff about honesty in interviews, empathy and being a good manager.

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🎟️ Events coming up

It never rains but it pours... lots happening!

We're all flawed Product Managers (Aug 24, Auckland or Online)

Graham and Jacs from Mind the Product will share about some of the many layers of challenges that Product Managers can face, and being your "whole self".

OWASP Global Appsec Conference APAC (Aug 31 - Sep 1, Online)

A free virtual conference from OWASP. Too many speakers and interesting topics to list here - check it out and see if there's something that strikes your fancy!

AWS Hāpori Wāhine (Sep 5, Online)

The launch event for the SheBuilds CloudUp event in New Zealand - a free course for women to help gain AWS certifications.

UX for Goverment Services (Sep 5-9, Wellington)

A free UX course for anyone working in government services. UXGym courses are great, so if you work for a government department, would really recommend getting to this.

How to build great products (Sep 8, Online)

Two for the price of one - Leading the Product present Nir Eyal and John Cutler on product strategy. Should be great!

Unicode Security: How Emojis Can Be Bad for AppSec (Sep 20, Auckland)

This sounds really interesting, and I hope I'm going to be in town for it! AppSecNZ presents Dr. Pedram Hayati from, to talk about the security risks of emoji. 😱

Increasing Analytical Thinking in Agile Teams (Sep 21, Online)

Sky City's Nick Foard will be hosting a session for Agile Auckland on how to apply analytical thinking in agile teams.

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