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Questions to help clarify test status

When I lead testing teams, the teams are typically doing session-based exploratory testing. A big part of session-based exploratory testing is the debrief. When testers complete a testing session (a time boxed testing effort focused on a specific test mission) they debrief with me as the testing manager. That means I might sit down with each tester two or three times a day to do debriefs.

In each debrief the tester walks me through what they tested, what issues they found, we discuss the impact of their testing to project risks and test coverage, and sometimes we review the notes from their testing. There’s a lot that can get covered in a debrief, so I’ve developed a list of questions that I can use to help me make sure I’ve covered everything when I’m debriefing someone.

  • What was your mission for this session?
  • What did you test and what did you find?
  • What did you not test (and why)?
  • How does your testing affect the remaining testing for the project? Do we need to add new charters or re-prioritize the remaining work?
  • Is there anything you could have had that would have made your testing go faster or might have made your job easier?
  • How do you feel about your testing?

I don’t use these questions as a template. Instead I use them to fill in the gaps. I’ll typically open with something generic like, “Tell me about your testing.” Then after the tester is done telling me about their session, I walk through this list in my head an make sure I have answers to each of these questions. If not, then I’ll go ahead and ask at that time.

Recently, during a class on exploratory testing where I review this list I was asked why I include the last question, “How do you feel about your testing?” For me, that’s a coaching question. I’m looking for the tester to express something that they might need help with. Often they do. They might say something like, “I wasn’t happy with my testing of X or Y.” Or they might say they didn’t feel prepared for the session. I’ll use this information to help them with their testing.

When you first start debriefs, they might be slow. Some might take five or ten minutes. But fear not, like anything the more you and your team do it – the easier it gets. Most debriefs take under five minutes, and some can be as quick as 60 seconds. The trick is to just make sure you’re not forgetting anything as you quickly move through the information.

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