Testing Mixtapes with Janet Gregory

Get to know Janet Gregory, author of several Agile testing books and courses and co-creator of Quality Practices Assessment Model (QPAM).

Testing Mixtapes: Quality beats, curated by testers is an interview series by Qase. For each interview, we ask leaders from the QA, software development, and testing industries to share a little about themselves, dig into a topic they’re passionate about, and create a mixtape that matches their vibe.

Pull up the latest Testing Mixtape and tune in while you get to know Janet Gregory

Can you share how many books you’ve written and their titles?

When I started my author journey, I never anticipated that I would write six books.

Two with Selena Delesie

Four with Lisa Crispin

  • Holistic Testing: Weaving Quality Into Your Product, downloadable mini-book, 2023
  • Agile Testing Condensed: A Brief Introduction, LeanPub 2019
  • More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team, AW 2015
  • Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams, AW 2009

Plus two courses with Lisa Crispin

  • Holistic Testing for Agile Teams
  • Holistic Testing for Continuous Delivery

Can you give us an overview of what QPAM is?

QPAM is a model to help teams and organizations assess their quality practices and behaviors across ten quality aspects and four dimensions within each aspect. It is meant for teams that are using agile practices but could really be used by anyone.

The ten quality aspects are feedback loops, culture, learning and improvement, development

approach, quality and test ownership, testing breadth, code quality and technical debt, test automation and tools, deployment pipeline, and defect management.

Our quality practices assessment model (QPAM) is not a maturity model, but a way to look at a team’s journey through four dimensions: Beginning, Unifying, Practicing, and Innovating. For example, a team may be in the Beginning dimension for some quality aspects while in the Innovating dimension for others. Each team can decide which state of operation is best suited for them. This means there is no need to progress to the most advanced dimension across all quality aspects. Each organization can choose the most important aspects in their context and use our model as a map to help change as needed.

We read that Alan Page’s research helped to inspire the model, can you share a bit about the origins of QPAM?

The motivation for this book began with a client asking me to complete an assessment of testing and quality practices in an agile organization — but do it remotely. I have done many quality assessments over the years, but only in-person, and nothing with any formal structure. Assessing an organization remotely had many challenges, and I realized I needed something different since I couldn’t walk around and talk to team members in the same way.

Lisa Crispin, my ever-present partner, suggested looking at Alan Page’s Quality Culture

Transition Guide. It was very similar to what I was considering, but still didn’t have all the structure I needed. I invited Selena Delesie to help me enhance the model. We thought we were

formalizing how we approach assessments while creating a variant of what Alan had crafted to provide a more structured assessment technique. It quickly grew into something more than either of us anticipated.

Can you explain a bit about the aspects the model uses?

The three quality aspects we considered the most important are the three social aspects: feedback loops, culture, and learning and improvement.

When organizations don’t take these into account, it is really difficult for teams to get good at any of the other aspects. For example, feedback loops in this instance are about how teams communicate and collaborate within the team, with leadership, other delivery teams, and stakeholders.

The next two are the development approach and quality and test ownership. Both of these have a bit of a social aspect to them as well as technical components. These two emphasize whole team ownership in how they approach the development cycle and quality.

The last five are technical aspects: testing breadth, code quality and technical debt, test automation and tools, deployment pipeline, and defect management.

Quality and testing are not at the top of the list, why is that?

Quality underlies all of the aspects. A team cannot think about quality after they build something, it must be in from the beginning. It must be part of the organization’s culture. The only aspect that really talks about quality is the quality and test ownership.

Testing is important, but not the most important — testing on its own does not assure quality. Many people equate testing to testers, and that isn’t what we mean either. Like quality, testing is a shared activity. All team members need to understand what testing means to them, and how they can contribute. I like the holistic testing model to show all the testing activities that are possible and when they can be done.

One question I get asked a lot is why isn’t defect management higher. Selena and I thought seriously about not including it at all. If a team is doing really well, they likely have very few defects, and those don’t need to be managed. It’s only when a team is struggling that defect management is important, and fixing that process does not help the quality of their product. So many other things they can do first.

Can you share a bit about the 4 dimensions?

The four dimensions we identified are: Beginning, Unifying, Practicing and Innovating.

Beginning is where a team usually starts — they know they have a problem, they might feel like they’re in chaos, and they want to change. Unifying is where they adopt some framework such as Scrum or Kanban to work within. They are getting used to the rules, and starting to see some improvement. Practicing is where they are doing fairly well, consistently delivering value to their customers. Most teams I see that have been working well, fall into this dimension and are feeling good about what they do. Innovating are those teams that feel the magic. They’ve figured it out — working closely with their customers, understanding the business motivations, and helping solve their problems.

Context is a large part of teams being in Practicing or Innovating.

Switching topics — we hear you love dragons. Can you tell us why you love them and how they inspired your tattoo?

I am a reader of fantasy books and a watcher of fantasy movies. Dragons are one of those mythical creatures that caught my attention and became meaningful to me. My favorite series is Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern — those dragons are loyal and fearless. My tattoo (which I’ve had for many years) is something that spoke to me. I got it shortly after I graduated university when I was about 40. I had to be fearless to go out in that brand new world of tech.

What is the one piece of advice you feel is most important for the testing community to hear?

That’s a very difficult question, but I think I would say — Be open to new things. Be curious. Be true to yourself and know what you want to do, and don’t want to do.

Tell us a bit about putting together your mixtape

Open playlist in Spotify

Janet wanted us to curate a mixtape for her based on her musical taste, here are our thoughts about a few of the songs:

We looked for songs that fit Janet’s musical taste but also had lyrics that speak to testers. A couple standouts include:

“Don't know where we're going but the outcome comes with a little bit of trust” from “Didn’t Even See The Dust” and the chorus of “Reach Out and I’ll be There,”
When you feel lost and about to give up
'Cause your best just ain't good enough
And you feel the world has grown cold
And you're drifting out all on your own
And you need a hand to hold
Darling, reach out, come on girl, reach out for me

And of course Dolly Parton’s 9-5 — that song speaks to almost everyone, right?

Where can we find your work?

Books and courses

  • Assessing Agile Quality Practices with QPAM on Leanpub or Amazon
  • A Guide to Facilitating Qualty Assessments with examples using QPAM on Leanpub, print version will be available on Amazon soon
  • Holistic Testing: Weaving Quality Into Your Product, downloadable mini-book on Agile Testing Fellowship
  • Holistic Testing for Agile teams and Holistic Testing for Continuous Delivery courses on Agile Testing Fellowship
  • Agile Testing Condensed: A Brief Introduction on LeanPub in several languages or on Amazon
  • More Agile Testing: Learning Journeys for the Whole Team on Amazon
  • Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams on Amazon

You can follow my work on Agile Testing Fellowship or Agile Tester, both of which I run with Lisa Crispin. You can also find me via my consulting business, DragonFire, Inc and follow the Donkeys and Dragons podcast on YouTube.

Don’t forget to listen to Janet’s Testing Mixtape!

Want to make your own Testing Mixtape? Fill out this form to be considered!

Testing Mixtapes: quality beats, curated by testers was inspired by the Tester’s Island Discs podcast originally created by Neil Studd and sponsored by Ministry of Testing. We are grateful they’ve allowed us to continue the concept to showcase some of the valued members of the testing community.

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