Responding to the "Thread-Based Test Management" introduction

First of all, James Bach and Jon Bach, thank you for you discussion-worthy blog posts, here and here. It’s time to wake up the testing scene and your blog posts keep on doing this. Chapeau!

Because i have a few goals of my own, where one is to enhance my blog writing skills, i decided to write my reaction to the recently introduced “Thread-Based Test Management” blog posts on my own weblog (instead of commenting on Twitter). During the writing of this post, i also discovered something new. The translation part of my brain doesn’t seem to keep up with the story telling part of my brain, resulting in having difficulties writing down in English what i want to say. So i tried a heuristic which i’m going to name “simplifying before clarifying“. Basically it’s: write down what you have to say in your native language, which should give you enough time to think everything through, discussing with yourself and statements by others, and translate them afterwards. Very basic, but it seems highly effective for me!

Jon and James…As a reply to the introduction of T(B)TM, i posted the following comment on Twitter:
@jbtestpilot @jamesmarcusbach Hmm, I’m having a bit of a “huh?-really?-so?” feeling about T(B)TM. Can’t put my finger on it, yet. Pondering…

A little while Jon responded. I even discussed it a bit with Jon. A very useful discussion, but it deviated a bit from the issue i was pondering about. Yes, a new thread 😉

James, you answered:
@MichelKraaij I tried to answer the huh/really/so questions in my entry. What did I miss?

Because a good response takes time to work up, i didn’t immediately respond on Twitter, but write it down in this blog post.

About TBTM. Maybe I’m missing one or two points, or maybe I’m off totally. I’m hoping you guys can help me out a bit. When I’m analyzing your blog post, i read the following. I see a mocked-up example:

Test Facilities

  • Power meter calibration method
  • Backup test jig validation
  • Create standard test images

Test Strategy

  • Accuracy Testing
    • Sampling strategy
    • Preliminary-testing
    • Log file analysis program

What i see here is a to-do list. A list with topics hierarchical arranged. Yes, a list like this does look like a thread. Defining threads in a to-do list does have benefits over a list with no hierarchy. You are able to keep a clear overview of the tasks that belong together. I personally even add “estimated-times-required” per item. For me, creating such a list gives advantage during some chaotic running periods (like when I’m testing in two or three project simultaneously). But the concept itself is nothing new. I do it almost every day… And as i read, so do you…

Next, pick up these issues and work them off, preferably in their hierarchical order, through use of time boxes. In some cases you first need to pick up an item from a different thread, because they depend on each other. But nevertheless, you work through the list in a hierarchical order, until you finish a complete task. By setting time boxes you are able to predefine a daily schedule. At the end of the day you have the honorable job of checking off several accomplished items and leave home with a smile on your face.

For me, TBTM seems actually nothing more than a hierarchical to-do list which is finished point by point, through time-boxing. Of course you can nominate this as a methodical approach and give it a name, but I see nothing more than two subjects that I already do in my daily work:

  1. Creating a hierarchical drawn, checklist-like, to-do list;
  2. Carrying out items from this to-do list, by use of time boxes;

To address James’s initial question: “What did i miss“. Maybe he didn’t miss anything. In fact, I even think that James and Jon thought it through very well. The story is clear and complete. But to me it isn’t new. Or did i miss something myself?

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3 Responses to Responding to the "Thread-Based Test Management" introduction

  1. jonbox says:

    Michel,On Twitter you seem like a thoughtful, incisive tester "who gets it." I invited critique and you gave it. I'm also impressed you did it in English, which is a far cry of what I could do in Dutch, so thank you!You said: "TBTM seems actually nothing more than a hierarchical to-do list which is finished point by point, through time-boxing"Here's my rebuttal:1) Where did you get the time-boxing idea? There's no time-boxing with TBTM. For that, we recommend *S*BTM — session-based test management. For TBTM, when you think a thread is over, it's over. When you want to stop it because of something more important, drop it in favor of the thing that's more pressing. It defines clear paths underneath rapid change and chaos, not time-boxes them.2) You haven't mentioned paths. A thread may branch, backtrack, loop, dead end, etc. What do you do now with a to-do list you're pursuing and it spawns new directions? Do you make new to-do list items from those? With TBTM, we say you could either consider those new directions a part of traversing that thread or important enough to spawn a new one.3) Organize and report: How do you organize and report the to-do list items you worked on — a mind map? Excel? Sticky notes? These three items are some of the core notions of TBTM. Yes, working in to-do list style activities may be exactly what we all arleady do, but now that there is a notion that these activities can be threaded — branched, interrupted, resumed, organized, and reported upon — we can actually talk more about progress in our knowledge work in the ways you questioned above.I enjoyed your questions because it gave me a chance to clarify what this method could be. I invite more dicussion on this, and thank you again for your thoughtful critique.

  2. Hi Jon,Thanks for your thoughtful comments! I really appreciate it. I'll try to address your points mentioned:1. Where did i get the time box idea? That's easy, it was an addition of my own. I tried to clarify that in my blog in saying: "I personally even add "estimated-times-required" per item". But now that you mentioned it, i see i got a bit carried away with my own addition and mentioned it in my summary :DNevertheless, most project leads are very eager to hear "estimated times". In my experience, i hardly ever get a free pass in budget and time. And indeed, this is where STBM comes in handy.2. I took the idea of a to-do list from James's posting. What would i do if new ideas spawn new directions? Just add them! I do see a challenge in here. If you would add new ideas, those could possibly influence previously "cleared" ideas. Which is not bad, but might give challenges.You also mentioned looping threads. How do you picture a looping thread in TBTM? Iterations of a task?3. How to organize and report? The organization part would depend on my own preference (and the preferences of my fellow co-workers). To me, mind maps come in favor of checklists. Sticky notes are also a great example, but tend to have a mind of their own and fall off ;)How i would report depends on the person or group to whom i'm reporting to. If it's a group of persons that is primarily visually oriented, then I would use a different approach than to a group which is not. In that case, mind mapping would maybe more suitable than Excel. But basically, it would depend on the group, not on the approach.I have a feeling we'll be discussing TBTM lots more! I hope you are willing to try and convince me some more, because i still have some sceptical feelings right now. Regardless of any feelings, you and James have again triggered me to ponder about interesting topics. Which i REALLY appreciate! Feel free to challenge me again, and i will do the same :)Thanks for your comment!

  3. I will answer you by adding a section to my original post called "How is this different than keeping a todo list?"

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