Learn the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Agile Testers

Turkey could well be Europe and the Middle East’s new center of software quality and testing innovation. Our CEO, Philip Lew, was in the ancient city of Istanbul on April 25 to deliver the closing keynote for TestIstanbul, an international tech conference that focuses on software quality assurance and testing.

TestInstanbul attracted an elite audience of worldwide entrepreneurs and engineers to discuss the latest trends and developments in software testing practices, and Phil was blown away by the response to his presentation, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Agile Testing.

“The audience was great,” Lew says. “Even though it was late in the day and I was the last to speak, people stayed right to the last word. Then they came up and talked afterwards. I was quite honored they stayed to listen to me rather than go home early to beat the traffic.”


Agile and Smaller Teams

Diving deep into every step along the agile software development path many audience members were particularly interested in team size. The presentation emphasized that smaller teams are far better from an agile perspective than are large teams.

“And when I went through my definition of trust and how to develop trust within a team, I think it opened many eyes,” Lew said.

Lew has been heavily influenced in his career and life by Stephen Covey’s landmark nonfiction work, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” and modeled the keynote around Covey’s work.

phil in istanbul

Phil Lew in Istanbul, courtesy of @selintaskazan

Since XBOSoft’s founding in 2006, the company has been supporting clients in migrating toward agile practices and optimizing their software QA processes.

Agile offers many advantages to developers — it’s quick iterations lead to shorter feedback loops, more team-oriented processes, and inherent properties of reducing work in progress  speed products out the door faster. But the downsides can be fatal.

In an agile development team’s rush to push out a product, testing the software before shipping it can come as an afterthought crammed into the final hours. The result: Bug-filled software that doesn’t perform up to customer expectations.

What are the “7 Habits”?

As outlined in the keynote, the 7 Habits are:

  1. Focus on Efficiency and Effectiveness
  2. Treat the User as King or Queen
  3. Maintain an Improvement State of Mind
  4. Be agile then do agile
  5. Think Tasks, Not Roles
  6. Focus on the Customer
  7. Think Long Term

As Lew told his TestIstanbul audience, “These seven habits have evolved over the years through working with clients that had software quality issues after implementing agile development. Some people think agile development will solve all their problems.” He stresses, “Well, it can solve some, but if poorly implemented, it can cause many others. I’ve been able to boil it down to these 7 habits as a way to continually ‘sharpen the saw’ and root out problems one by one.”

XBOSoft has found — through extensive surveys — there are eight primary reasons an agile process can fail to produce a software product that meets customer requirements.

Percentages in graphic based on survey results from trade shows, online, and in-person at meetups and other audience polls.

Top reasons for agile failure

They are:

  • Process inconsistency: 19 percent
  • Agile Doing — Not Being: 18 percent
  • AgileFall: 18 percent
  • Resistance to change: 13 percent
  • Requirements churn: 10 percent
  • Retrospectives not valuable: 8 percent
  • Lack of Customer/User experience: 8 percent
  • Lack of test automation: 6 percent

“It’s important to follow Covey’s first habit of being proactive, and that means understanding the sources of failure,” Lew told the TestIstanbul audience. “That process inconsistency ranks No. 1 reveals that many development teams have a lot of work to do to improve their overall development process.”

He finished, “Creating great software isn’t just about getting the bugs out of the product — it’s about getting the kinks and snarls out of how the agile team develops the product.”