A coaching framework for testers

Sometimes testers need to “coach” and when I do I use a coaching framework to help me. At the weekend I coach junior cricket and I use what I have learned from cricket to help me as a tester. The PoP framework we use in coaching cricket can be useful to us as testers.

 In cricket we practice player-centred coaching using PoP because we want to focus on the players’ needs. PoP helps us do that. Pop stands for Player, Outcomes, Practice.

I’ll first show how I use PoP when coaching cricket and then show how it can be used for “coaching” as a tester.

PoP starts with the needs of the Player. What are the needs of the player? When looking at the needs of the player we need to look at the whole person, including their stage of development as a player. It could be, for example,  that the player is relatively new to the game and that the players’ drive shot is great but that their forward defensive shot could be better.

We should then decide on the Outcome for the practice that meets the players needs. If you were working with the batter in the above example you could aim to have an improved forward defensive shot as the outcome of the practice.

We then design a Practice to help the player achieve that Outcome. 

After each practice it is important to reflect on the practice to see what you learned as a coach as there is always something to learn. Sometimes a practice does not go as well as you had hoped, this is something to reflect on and learn from.

This coaching framework followed by reflecting on the practice works as a plan-do-study-act cycle. PoP gives you a structure to plan your practice, you then do the practice and then reflect on the practice. Reflecting on the practice enables you to study and learn from the practice. What you learn from reflecting you can take into planning the next practice. 

The PoP framework can help us as testers when we need to “coach”.

If you want to coach or a group of people a testing technique you can use PoP. You should start by thinking about the needs of who you want to coach, then consider what outcome you want before designing a practice for the coaching. The framework means that you consider the needs of the person or people being coached before you consider the outcome that you want to achieve. 

This coaching framework can be useful for working with your team, for example when you are planning a retrospective. You can view the team as the Player and the retrospective as the Practice. If you want to plan a retrospective for your team you will want to consider the needs of the team. Maybe the team needs to get a better understanding of a particular issue at the retrospective, so the team getting a better understanding of that subject would be the Outcome you want from the retrospective. You would then design the retrospective to achieve that Outcome. After the retrospective you should reflect on what went well, what went badly and use the knowledge gained when planning the next retrospective.

If you have reports then you will want to help them develop themselves.When I’ve had reports I found this framework useful for planning 1:1’s and annual reviews.  In these situations the Player in PoP is your report and the 1:1’s or reviews are the Practice in PoP. The Outcome that you want from the practice will help you plan the review or 1:1. The framework encourages the manager to think about how to develop their staff  because it helps you think about the needs of the person you manage and how to help them grow.

When using this framework you will also need to think about what practice will work in the team’s cultural context. It is useful to listen to others and take advice to help ensure that what you plan works within your team’s culture.

Published by Mike Harris

Mike has been working in testing for 20 years and is currently the lone tester for Geckoboard. He has been a Test Lead and has also worked as a part of waterfall, lean and agile teams. He is also Programme Secretary of BCS SIGiST. Mike has a B.Sc.(HONS) from Middlesex University and is an Associate of the University of Hertfordshire. He has set up and led a Testing Community of Practice and been part of a successful agile transition. He is Co-Programme Chair of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing. He also contributed to the e-book Testing Stories and has had articles published by the Ministry of Testing. Follow Mike on Twitter: @TestAndAnalysis

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