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The Five S’s create a structure for test automation

I use the Five S’s to create a disciplined structure that helps me create and maintain automated tests. Mary and Tom Poppendiek recommend using the Five S’s to create the discipline necessary to develop quality software. They wrote that “the five S’s are a classic lean tool to organise a workspace” [1]. 

Mary and Tom Poppendiek describe the Five S’s by translating the original Japanese words into English and give examples of using each of the S’s in the kitchen, in the workplace and for a java development project. I have taken their idea and created a table showing the translation of the Japanese words and examples of using the Five S’s in the kitchen, workplace and test automation.

JapaneseEnglishKitchenWorkspaceTest Automation
SeiriSortSort through kitchen tools and throw away any unused tools.Sort through the servers, and find old files that will never be used. Delete or back them up.Remove dead code, unused imports, and unused methods.
SeitonSystemiseFind a place for everything and make it easy to find.Craft desktop layouts and file structures so that things are easy to findOrganise projects and packages so that everything is easy to find.
SeisoShineClean the kitchen.Clean whiteboards and desktops.Resolve TODOs and improve performance.
SeiketsuStandardiseFill and run the dishwasher every nightPut automation and standards in place.Reduce complexity and improve ease of maintenance.
ShitsukeSustainKeep up the disciplineKeep up the discipline.Use and follow standard procedures.

I am sure that you can think of additional examples of how to use each of the S’s to aid your test automation. 

Test Automation is software development and benefits from the disciplines that are used in software development. The Five S’s can help improve test automation that uses test frameworks such as Selenium and Playwright. They also can help automation projects that use low code tools such as Ghost Inspector.

I have found that sustain is the most important of the Five S’s because if you do not sustain the standards and practices that you have created with the other four S’s you can not improve. Sustaining standards and practices is a practice where value is gained.

My thinking about how to automate tests and maintain the tests has been shaped by the Five S’s. This is because the Five S’s enable me to view the issues I encounter, such as how to maintain a library of functions, through a framework that helps me improve the tests. 

The Five S’s help me keep my automated tests in a state where they are easy to maintain, have no flaky tests and are easy to read. I hope that the Five S’s can help you do the same.


[1] Implementing Lean Software Development By Mary and Tom Poppendiek


Published by Mike Harris

Mike has been working in testing for 20 years and is 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 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 Vice-Chair of the British Computer Society’s Specialist Interest Group in Software Testing. He also contributed to the e-books Testing Stories and How Can I test This? and has had articles published by the Ministry of Testing, LambdaTest and The QA Lead.

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