downstream testers: better is worse

This week I’ve been reflecting on why it is that some “agile” teams seem to really fly, while others never seem to get out of second gear. Part of the answer, at least in the teams I’ve looked at, lies in the abilities of their testers. I wrote about the phenomenon over three years ago:

The tester in Team 1 was very good at his job, whereas the tester in Team 2 wasn’t. And as a result, the developers in Team 1 produced significantly poorer code than those in Team 2!

Have you seen this effect? What did you do to harness the skills of your great testers so that they constructively support your great coders?

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5 thoughts on “downstream testers: better is worse

  1. Move the testers upstream.

    Bring them into the sprint team. The testers partnered with the business group (customer, analysts, or product owner depending on your organization) write the acceptance tests during the sprint (we used FitNesse).

    The story doesn’t go to sprint/acceptance review unless the code passes UT and AT. This forces the developers to meet the tester criteria while doing the work.

    Not only does this increase the quality gate for the developers, but it also forces a cross-pollination within the team between tech, analysis, and testing.

    I think the problem in your situation lies in the delay between testing and story completion. Story completion includes testing completed (including full regression). Of course for this to be successful, it requires well thought out CI.

  2. Pingback: Good testers = crap code? « Crossderry Blog

  3. @Kevin — Yes, moving testing upstream is the solution.

    @Paul — By quoting the word “agile” I was hoping to convey the fact that the organisation thought it was agile, when in fact it clearly wasn’t. I need to be more explicit.

    The thing that intrigued me about this situation was this: The pursuit of quality led to an improvement in testing, which in turn led to a reduction in code quality, which in turn led to a reduction in throughput. I’ve seen it in practice now in several organisations.

    So in some circumstances, having no downstream testing can increase quality. Which at first glance is counter-intuitive.

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