Agile Testing with Lisa Crispin
Providing Practical Agile Testing Guidance

Janet Gregory and I enjoyed participating in the Quality in Agile conference in Vancouver April 20-21. We paired on a keynote: “Do testers need to code… to be useful?” Our opinion in a nutshell: testers need technical awareness to collaborate effectively with all their team members, but our software delivery teams already should have expert coders!

Even if they don’t write code, testers need to participate in automating regression tests and other useful automation, in collaboration with programmers, business stakeholders and others. Janet and I facilitated an all-day workshop on advanced topics in agile testing, with a focus on automation.

Challenges around automation

After some introductory slides, the 15 workshop participants self-organized into three smaller groups, choosing to sit with people that had similar goals for the day, or who had experience related to their goals. Each person listed their team’s impediments to automation, one per sticky note, and we grouped these on a big wall chart.

Automation Challenges

Automation Challenges

Next, everyone dot voted on the topics they wanted to tackle during the workshop. The top three vote-getters were:

  • Culture and responsibility – whose job is it to automate?
  • Lack of time for automation activities
  • Things that make tests hard to automate, such as complexity

(Note, you can find higher resolution photos of all the session wall charts, including those not on this post.)

Formulating the problem and brainstorming ideas to overcome it

Mind map and problem statement for cultural challenges

Mind map and problem statement for cultural challenges

Each group was tasked with writing their own problem statement for the culture and responsibility topic. It is challenging to write a good problem statement! You can see an example at the bottom of the mind map at left. Once the problem was defined, everyone picked up a Sharpie and each team mind mapped on their big piece of easel pad paper. IMG_4427

One group focused on a lack of shared vision and investment in automation at the company level. Another saw a lack of education on both sides.

Third group's mind map is on the right - my individual pic of it was blurred

Third group’s mind map is on the right – my individual pic of it was blurred

I thought it was interesting that the third group exploring culture and responsibility mentioned doing social activities together, and honing soft and tech skills including being respectful of each other.

For topic #2, after each group wrote their problem statement around the lack of time for automation, we tried a different brainstorming technique: Brainwriting. Each person wrote their ideas for dealing with complexity and other things that make automation difficult on a plain piece of paper. Every three minutes, they passed their paper to the group member to their right. They read what was written already, then wrote more ideas. This continued until each person within the group had written on each paper. Most people agreed that reading other peoples’ ideas jogged new ones for themselves. This technique lets people who might not be comfortable coming forward to draw on a mind map or say their ideas aloud contribute equally.


Example problem statement


Ideas for dealing with a brittle app


Ideas for good code design and for collaboration

For topic #3 (sample problem statement to the left), we did “brainwriting with a twist”, an idea of Janet’s. Each team started by drawing, mindmapping or brainwriting ideas on a big flip chart page. After 10 minutes, each group moved to the next group’s flip chart, read the problem statement and ideas, and added their own. Some specific ways to design better automation code came out of this, as well as ideas for better tester-coder collaboration and ways to make these problems more visible.

Designing experiments

Example experiments

Example experiments

Screen Shot 2015-04-26 at 1.11.02 PMOf course, there is more to problem solving than brainstorming ideas. Janet presented a model of Esther Derby’s (left): define the problem and desired outcome, understand the context and requirements around potential solutions, design experiments, try them and evaluate the results. Each team spent time coming up with experiments they will try when back with their own teams. We hope that participants will report back to us on how their experiments went!

Got automation challenges – or any challenges related to quality and testing, for that matter? Get your team together, try out some brainstorming techniques, make it comfortable and safe for each person to contribute their ideas. Identify the biggest problem, brainstorm a couple of experiments to try to make that problem smaller, and use your retrospectives to evaluate the results. Keep experimenting, inspecting and adapting. Over time, your problems will be smaller and your successes bigger. But remember to celebrate even the small successes!

I learned a lot at Mile High Agile last Friday. Here are some notes from sessions I attended. I never heard the for-sure count of attendees, for sure it was well over 700 people. The fun part was running into people I worked with 15, 20 or more years ago, I think pretty much the whole tech population of the Front Range was there.

Mike Cohn, keynote, “Let Go of Knowing: How holding on to your views may hold you back”.

I expected magnificence from Mike and I wasn’t disappointed! (I worked for Mike back in 2003-4 and have learned so much from him over the years. Plus, the books I’ve co-written with Janet Gregory are part of Mike’s Signature Series of books with Addison Wesley.)

It’s hard to sum Mike’s talk up briefly. One theme was “intellectual humility“, being able to say, “I think this is the best way to do X, but I could be wrong”. He talked about the Dunning-Kruger effect – the less we know, the less we think there is to know.” Lots of interesting studies around that which are worth looking up.

Mike pointed out that process != a list of rules, and encouraged everyone to avoid “brand loyalty”. Don’t go only for one “brand” of agile – Mike pointed out that though Scrum is his bread and butter, he is known for user stories and estimates, which both came from XP. Question assumptions, lose your grip on certainty. Too many of us aren’t as open-minded as we should be. When we’re willing to be wrong, we have a new path to growth.

Mike Clement, “The Quest for Continuous Delivery at PluralSight”

  • One of Mike’s main messages was that the whole project team needs to get involved in CD. Most of this wasn’t new to me: “you should be able to push a button and have confidence, get ideas to market quickly” – amen. “Source code control for ALL THE THINGS”.
  • Mike’s team strongly favors feature toggles over feature branches so that they’re integrating continually. They can conveniently toggle off in prod if there are problems, instead of rolling back.
  • They use TeamCity for CI and seem to like it.
  • They’ve ben using a homegrown deployment tool. Mike strongly advises against this. They’re switching to Octopus (they are a .Net shop).
  • They use alerts in New Relic. They’ve been able to get better monitoring and live testing with New Relic (my team does this too).
  • They embrace DevOps as a culture, not a role, tho their Ops team is separate from their Dev teams.
  • He likes saltstack for server management, they treat server management as code.
  • They use Cassandra database scheme to automate modifications.
  • Their staging environment is not enough like prod and they’re working on that.
  • The goal is immutable infrastructure and continuous deployment – they aren’t there yet but still working towards it.

Mike wrapped up with a picture of Picasso’s Don Quixote and quoted the lyrics of “the Impossible Dream” which seemed appropriate for our quest for CD! But hey, we just need donkeys, right?

Paul Rayner, “Lean UX: Want to get better at the Lean discipline of ‘Deliver Faster’?

Paul highly recommends Jeff Gothelf’s book and video course on LeanUX. Check out his review of the book.

  • agile + design thinking + Lean startup = Lean UX
  • “requirements don’t exist. What you really have are unvalidated assumptions”. Question what’s in your backlog. Ask why.
  • UX design is a call to action on the part of the user, for example, “next step”.
  • Use a MVP to validate learning. Five properties of MVP:
    • Clear and concise
    • Prioritize ruthlessly
    • Stay agile – if it’s not what you need, fix it. Inspect and adapt.
    • Measure behavior – a lot of people don’t do this.
    • Use a call-to-action. Just give user one thing to click on.

Chris Shinkle, “You Can’t Manage What You Can’t See”

Visuals let you communicate a lot of information quickly. Chris had pictures of how they manage all the jets and traffic on a huge aircraft carrier – on a big table with little models of all the planes and equipment that the person in charge moves around manually. It was pretty impressive. Here are some more points I noted:

  • Make sure everyone’s looking at the same information. Visuals lead to better decision making, shared understanding (he quoted Jeff Patton’s book that we just read in our book club).
  • Chris advocated simple, low overhead visuals, making progress visible to all, identifying impediments to progress.
  • His teams use a combination (physical) Kanban and Scrum board, it was pretty interesting. They don’t just have cards on the boards, also lots of pictures and drawings. They use little tricks such as a story card turned sideways to remind them to talk about it in the standup. He feels physical boards and other visuals help people feel connected.
  • Remote people have a “sticky buddy” in the office to move their cards/stickies for them. They try to get things out of computers and up on walls.
  • They do use electronic boards as well, for history and analytics. He said people grumble about keeping both a physical and online board up to date, but in truth it isn’t a big amount of time.
  • He recommended something by Arne Roock but I’m not sure if it was his book or what.

My own workshop, “Building Your Agile Testing Skill Sets”

I had a lot of people in my own workshop, “Build your agile testing skill sets“, and a good diversity of roles, about a third testers, a third developers, and the rest BAs, managers, ScrumMasters and the like.

I guess it was around 60 people. It was mostly group exercises, each group brainstorming about what skills testers need and teams need to succeed with testing, what specific skills their own teams are missing, and ideas for experiments to obtain the missing skills.

I was surprised that overall, the knowledge of testing was lower than I expected. There were some highly experienced expert practitioners, but many people seemed to be beginners at both testing and agile. A lot of people were in companies who have silo’ed “QA teams” and where testers were considered “second class citizens”.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the discussions and sharing of lots of interesting ideas. I hope they each got a couple of ideas to try for baby steps towards doing a better job of building quality in.

Bernice Niel Ruhland, a director of quality management programs, contributed so much value to  More Agile Testing. In addition to sidebars where she explains ideas she uses for training and managing testers, we refer to several stories and ideas we learned from her. She also read every draft of every chapter at least three times and gave us invaluable feedback to help create the final book.

Janet Gregory and I are so excited that Bernice has shared her experiences as a More Agile Testing reviewer and contributor. I hope it will inspire you to write about your own experiences, volunteer to review your colleagues’ draft publications, and perhaps read our book!

And while you are there, keep on reading. Bernice blogs regularly and I’ve learned so much from her stories. For example, I love her tribute to Leonard Nimoy and her stories of how he influenced her career.

Bernice’s creativity extends beyond her testing career to other pursuits, one of which is cuisine. She has a wonderful cooking blog, Realistic Cooking Ideas. This has inspired so many wonderful meals at my house! Don’t read it, though if you are hungry!

Thanks so much to Bernice!

Pairing FTW

Pairing FTW!

This post benefits from a bit of context: my day job is as a tester on the Pivotal Tracker team. Tracker is a project tracking tool with an awesome API. Our API doc is awesome too. It’s full of examples which are generated from the automated regression tests that run in our CI, so they are always accurate and up to date.

Oh, and part of my day job is to do customer support for Tracker. We often hear from users who would like to get a report of cycle time for their project’s stories. Cycle time is a great metric. The way I like to look at it is, when did you actively start working on a story, and when did that story finally get accepted? Unfortunately, this information isn’t easily visible in our tool. It’s not hard to obtain it via our API, but, the best way to get it is not immediately obvious either.

For a couple of years, I have wished I had an example script using our API to compute cycle time for stories that we could give customers. Sadly, I’ve had to let my Ruby skills rust away, because at work I don’t get to automate regression tests (the programmers do all that), and I spent most of the past couple of years co-writing a book.

Recently, our team had three “hack days” to do whatever we chose. One of the activities I planned was to work on this example cycle time script. My soon-to-be-erstwhile teammate Glen Ivey quickly wrote up an example script for me. But my own feeble efforts to enhance it were futile. Unfortunately, all my teammates were engaged in their own special hack days projects.

I whinged about this on Twitter, and Amitai Schlair, whom I only knew from Twitter, offered to pair with me. This was good and bad. One the one hand, awesome to have someone to pair with me! OTOH, gosh I’m terrible at Ruby now, how embarrassing to pair with anyone! I started thinking of excuses NOT to do it. However, Amitai was so kind, I faced my fear. We paired.

First we had to figure out how to communicate and screenshare. We ended up with Skype and Screenhero. Amitai introduced me to a great concept: first, write what I want to do in psuedocode. Then turn each line of that into a method. Then, start fleshing out those methods with real code. Amitai’s instinct was to do this TDD. But due to time limitations, our approach was: write a line of code, then run the script to see what it does. We worked step by step. By the end of our session (which was no more than a couple of hours), we had gotten as far as showing the last state change for each of the stories that were pertinent to the report.

After competing priorities led us to stop our session, I identified an issue with our new code. A teammate paired with me to show me a way to debug it and we were able to fix it. The script still wasn’t finished. Luckily, my soon-to-be-erstwhile teammate Glen later paired with me to get the script to a point where it produces a report of cycle times for the most recently accepted 500 stories.

The script runs way too slow, and Glen has explained to me a better approach. I await another pairing opportunity to do this. So what’s the takeaway for you, the reader?

Pairing is hard. You fear exposing your weaknesses to another human being. You feel pressure to keep up your side. But that’s only before you actually start pairing. The truth is we all want each other to succeed. Your friends and teammates aren’t out to make you feel stupid. And pairing is so powerful. It gets you over that “hump” of fear. Two heads really are better than one.

Is there something you’d like to try, but you feel you don’t know enough? Find a pair, and go for it!




I just received a flyer in my snail mail for yet another conference where four out of the five keynote speakers are white men and only one is a woman. Are you kidding me? And this is a testing conference. Testing is a field that does indeed have lots of women, I would guess a significantly higher percentage than, say, programming.

I know the organizers of this conference and they are good people who aren’t purposely discriminating against women (or minorities, for that matter). But they aren’t trying hard enough, either. I’ve personally sent long lists of women I recommend to speak at their conferences. True, most of these women aren’t “known” keynote speakers – maybe because nobody ever asks them to keynote. These women are highly experienced testing practitioners who have valuable experience to share.

This same company has an upcoming testing conference with no female keynoters, so I guess this is an improvement. But I’m not letting them off the hook, and you shouldn’t either.

What do you value more: a highly entertaining, “big name” keynote speech? Or an experienced practitioner who competently helps you learn some new ideas to go and try with your own teams, but maybe isn’t as well known or flashy?

You probably don’t get to go to many conferences, so be choosy. Choose the ones with a diverse lineup of not only keynoters but presenters of all types of sessions. In fact, choose conferences that have lots of hands-on sessions where you get to learn by practicing with your peers. We have the choice of these conferences now. And I hope you will leave your favorites in comments here. I don’t want to make my friends unhappy by naming names here, but email me and I’ll give you my own recommendations. (Another disclaimer – I’m personally not looking for keynoting gigs, so these are not sour grapes. I don’t like doing keynotes, and I know my limitations as a presenter).

The organizations sponsoring and organizing conferences are pandering to what they think you, their paying audience, wants to see. If you’re going to conferences to see big names and polished speakers, and you don’t care if the lineup is diverse, go ahead. If you want a really great learning experience, maybe do some more research about where your time and money will reap the most value for you.

I’m not trying to start a boycott, but I am saying: we are the market. Let’s start demanding what we want, and I know these conference organizers will then have to step up and try harder.

Since publishing More Agile Testing with Janet Gregory, I’ve enjoyed time for writing new articles and participating in interviews. Please see my Articles page for links to these. I’d love to hear your feedback on any of these. Have you tried any of the practices or ideas discussed in the articles or interviews?

In the past couple months I blogged about the spike that JoEllen Carter (@TestingMojo) and I have been doing on automating UI smoke tests for our team’s iOS app: Pairing on a Mission and Continuing the Mission… and continually improving. Today we did a tech talk for our team reporting on what we’ve done so far and asking for help in choosing our next steps.

Tech Talk Mind Map

Tech Talk Mind Map

We used this mind map to guide our talk. We explained the goals for our spike: find an automation solution for consistent, repeatable UI smoke tests that would keep bad regressions out of the app store. We demoed one of our test scripts, showed how we had designed our tests, explained how discovering ‘search with predicate’ made our scripts much easier to write and maintain. We went over the pluses and minuses of our experience so far, pointing out the frustrating roadblocks we encountered, but also the pleasure of learning and working on something fun and cool.

We shared our thought that now is a good time to assess the value of the automated UI tests and how to move forward. Our iOS app is being completely redesigned, so the scripts we created for our spike will have to be re-done from scratch. We still have to solve the problems that keep us from putting our tests into our CI.

There are several options. We could try an external service provider. We could try other tool sets and frameworks. Should we abandon the UI automation idea and spend our time doing manual exploratory testing? Our iOS app already has about 6,000 unit tests and a number of integration tests that operate through the API. However, we have had bad regressions before that could only be found via the UI, so we know we need something.

We got some good ideas from the rest of the team. One was to ask the developer community within our company if they have any iOS UI automation experiences to share, since we know there are many other iOS projects. We posted a question on the development forum and have already had some good input.

This effort is inconclusive, so why am I blogging about this? Right before I started writing this, Jason Barile posted an interesting question on Twitter:

“…is your team really clear on what problems you’re trying to solve with automation and what success looks like?”

Our team has a long history of incredible success using test-driven development and automated regression tests at all levels from unit to UI. We have our share of “flaky tests”, but we get a good return on our automation investment. That doesn’t mean that automation is always the solution. We’ll have to figure things out.

Personally, I don’t like doing manual regression testing, so I hope we can find a way to run high-level UI automation smoke tests in our CI. Then we’d have more time for manual exploratory testing, and I’m learning that could be even more critical with mobile apps than other types. We shall keep experimenting and collaborating, and finding ways to shorten our feedback loop and ensure our users have a good experience with each new release of our app.


In the delightful keynote “Insights from Happy Change Agents” from Fanny Pittack and Alex Schwarz, I learned a new way to share information with others. Rather than providing a recipe for success, or even a takeaway, we can offer “giveaways”. I shall offer you some giveaways that I received at Agile Testing Days.

My PotsLightning sketch notes

My PotsLightning sketch notes

Sunday I joined the PotsLightning session for the morning. PotsLightning is open to anyone, not only conference participants, and is a self-organizing sort of thing, a combination open space and lightning talks. Maik Nogens facilitated. My main giveaway was the diversity of conference participants. There were people from as far away as New Zealand and Saudi Arabia. There were several women. Participants had experience testing all kinds of software from tractors to music. My sketch notes show, rather illegibly, some of the topics we covered, such as embedded systems, guilds, and automation.

My next sketch note reminds me that someone – unfortunately now I don’t recall who it was – showed me how he uses mind maps for test reporting as well as planning. He embeds screenshots and screencasts, and uses the time machine feature of MindMeister to show progress. I love the visibility these practices add, and I’m keen to try it.

There was so much packed into the conference sessions, mealtime conversations, and hallway discussions. I even learned things in the vendor expo. Here are just a few of my favorite giveaways that stick in my mind, in no particular order.

  • The leader of the mobile testing dojo asked if we had an app we’d like to use for the dojo. I suggested my team’s app, and the group agreed to try it. I got a lot of useful insights, not only into mobile testing techniques, but into how new users perceive our app! Lots of room for improvement in both!
  • I’ve followed Bob Marshall (@flowchainsensei) on Twitter for awhile. His keynote gave me so much to think about. I need to work on my non-judgmental observation skills. Non-violent communication is critical and helps in so many of the problem areas currently getting in our way in the software business.
  • Providing a “crash pad” to cushion failures, and re-thinking failures as simply “learning”. This came out of several sessions including Roman Pilcher, who showed climbers “bouldering” with a crash pad in case they fall.
  • How to nurture testers? This came up in the tutorial Janet Gregory and I did, as well as in Lean Coffee. Janet held an Open Space on it, so I hope she will share what came out there. I think one way is to have fun, and you can see in the photo that testers had fun at the Carnival party during the conference!

    A Carnival of Testers, including Bart Knaack, my husband Bob, me, David Evans, someone I don't know, Alex Schladebeck, Thom Roden and Gareth(?) from RedGate.

    A Carnival of Testers, including Bart Knaack, my husband Bob, me, David Evans, someone I don’t know, Alex Schladebeck, Thom Roden and Gareth(?) from RedGate.

  • Lars Sjödahl did a nice consensus talk on how we don’t notice what we aren’t expecting. It’s a good reminder to me to use my peripheral vision and Spidey sense when exploring our software, and try to see what I’m not looking for. Dan Ashby’s session similarly reminded me to think laterally as well as critically.
  • Janet and I find David Evan’s Pillars of Testing so important, we asked him to write it up and used that to wrap up our new book in the last chapter. I so appreciate his shout-out to the book and our many contributors in his keynote. Plus he always cracks me up while I’m learning something new. Do watch the video of his keynote (I don’t know when or where they’ll be posted).
  • Antony Marcano’s “Don’t put me in a box” keynote is a reminder of how much we can learn from hearing others’ stories. For example, his story about how he had to work with programmers who were on the other side of a big atrium, and simply moved himself over to their side in order to collaborate and build relationships with them. Fanny and Alex emphasized that it’s all about relationships! Alan Richardson showed the power of short, crisp stories in his keynote. We can learn so much by sharing our experiences.
  • Daniël Maslyn’s talk on robotics showed how exciting the future of testing really is. We tend to get a bit blasé, but that’s a whole exciting world we could enjoy learning about!

My previous post has a list of blogs from Agile Testing Days participants, please check those out for more!

In other news, we are honored that LingoSpot listed Agile Testing as one of the top 16 books every software engineer should read!

Agile Testing Days 2014’s theme was the future of agile testing. What challenges are ahead, and how will we address them? Janet Gregory and I facilitated a workshop with experienced agile practitioners designed to identify some of the biggest issues related to testing and quality, and come up with experiments we can try to help overcome those challenges.

goalsFor me, it was exciting that we could get a room full of people who truly had lots of experience with testing on agile teams. We had a diverse mix of testers, programmers, managers, coaches, and people who multi-task among multiple roles, willing to share their experiences and collaborate to generate new ideas. In fact, many of the participants would be good coaches and facilitators for agile testing workshops themselves! More teams are succeeding in delivering business value frequently at a sustainable pace (to paraphrase Elisabeth Hendrickson). Testing and testers are a part of this success.

However, we all still face plenty of problems. During our first exercise, each participant wrote down the biggest obstacles to testing and quality that their teams face. We used an affinity diagram to identify the top three:

  • Whole team testing: how to get all roles on a team to collaborate for testing activities, how does testing “get respect” across the organization?
  • The “ketchup effect”: like getting ketchup out of a bottle, we try and try to deliver software features a little at a time, only to have them come gushing out at the end and making a big mess!
  • Agile testing mindset – how do we change testers’ mindsets? How do we spread this mindset of building quality in, testing early and often, across the organization?

We used several different brainstorming techniques to come up with experiments to work on these challenges: impact mapping, brain writing, and diagramming on a whiteboard (everyone chose mind mapping for this). You can see the results of some of this in the photos. Then we used a different technique to think about other challenges identified, such as how to build testing skill sets, building the right thing, and the tester’s role in continuous delivery.

Building Skill Sets

Building Skill Sets

This last technique was the “giveaway” (to borrow a term from Alex Schwarz and Fanny Pittack) I was the most happy to take from the workshop. Janet and I gave general instructions, but the participants self-organized. Each table group took a topic to start with and mind mapped ideas about that topic. Some teams supplemented their mind maps by drawing pictures. Then the magic happened – after a time period, the groups rotated so each was working on another group’s mind map and adding their own ideas. They rotated once more so that each group worked on each mind map.

You can see from the pictures how many ideas came out of this. Like brain writing, it is amazing that you can write down all the ideas you think you have, then, seeing someone else’s ideas, you can think of even more. I encourage you to take a look at these mind maps, and choose some ideas for your own team’s small experiments. Even more importantly, I urge you to try a brainstorming exercise such as the group mind mapping, rotating among topics, and see the power of your collective experience and skill sets!

Cube-shaped tester

Cube-shaped tester

As we rotated among the different topics drawing on mind maps, one participant, Marcelo Leite (@marcelo__leite on Twiter), made a note on the skills mind map about “cube-shaped testers”. Janet and I talk a lot about T-shaped testers and square-shaped teams, concepts we learned from Rob Lambert and Adam Knight. We asked Marcelo to explain the cube-shaped idea. As with the Rubiks cube, we have different “colors” of skills, we can twist them around and form different combinations. This way we can continually adapt to new and unique situations. A broad mix of skills lets us take on any future challenge.

I’m out here now working on my cube shaped skills. How about you? I’d love to hear about your own learning journey towards the future of agile testing.

You can take a look at the slides for our workshop, and email me if you’d like the resources list we handed out. Also do check out the slides from our keynote, which sadly the audience didn’t get to see as the projector malfunctioned.

More blogs about #AgileTD:

I know the Agile Testing Days organizers will post a list of all blog posts about the conference, but here are some I made note of (and I still haven’t read them all!) I’m sure I missed some, so please ping me with additional links if you have ’em.


  • (be sure to go back from here and read all of Pete’s blogs including his live blogs from AgileTD)

userStories  This new book by Gojko Adzic and David Evans is deceptively slim. It’s not just 50 ideas to improve your user stories. It’s 50 experiments you can try to improve how you deliver software. For each experiment, David and Gojko provide you with information and resources “to make it work”.

One chapter that has caught my eye is “Use Low-Tech for Story Conversations”. Gojko and David advise holding story discussions in rooms with lots of whiteboards and few big tables. When everyone sits at a big conference table, looking at stories on a monitor or projected on a wall, they start tuning out and reading their phones. Standing in front of a whiteboard or flip chart encourages conversation, and the ability to draw makes that conversation more clear. Participants can draw pictures, connect boxes with arrows, write sentences, make lists. It’s a great way to communicate.

I’ve always been fond of the “walking skeleton”, identifying the minimum stories that will deliver enough of a slice to get feedback and validate learning. Gojko and David take this idea even further, they put the walking skeleton on crutches. Deliver a user interface with as little as possible below the surface now, get feedback from users, and iterate to continually improve it. As with all the ideas in the book, the authors provide examples from their own experience to help you understand the concept well enough to try it out with your team.

David and Gojko understand you’re working in a real team, with corporate policies and constraints that govern what you can do. Each story idea ends with a practical “How to Make it Work” section so you can get your experiment started.

Again, it’s not just a book of tips for improving your user stories. It’s fifty ways to help your customers identify the business value they need, and deliver a thin slice of that value to get feedback and continue to build it to achieve business goals. It’s a catalog of proven practices that guides you in learning the ones you want to try.