Picture of the author
Vernon Richards | Quality Coach

Vernon Richards | Quality Coach

October 24, 2022

If You Can Do Exploratory Testing, You Can Ask Powerful Coaching Questions (And Vice Versa!)

Uh-huh. You sure about that, Vern? Riiight ๐Ÿคจ

Hear me out! It's actually not that outlandish! After testing for 20 years and coaching for the past two, there are definitely some similarities!

Let me show you what I mean.

Where Do You Get Your Clues About What Needs Testing?

My favourite source is WTF/min! ๐Ÿคฌ

I had this one colleague back in the day. He was a really accomplished dev and a great guy. Calm and good at explaining things. So whenever I heard him say, "WTF?!" it got my attention! He was obviously seeing something weird in the code and/or wasn't impressed at all!

But that's not the only source! Check these out:

  • Teammates that aren't agreeing.

  • Words like "never", "always", & "must" are used in stories.

  • How critical a piece of functionality is.

  • When the software will be deployed and released (right before Black Friday, for example).

  • You see, "it's just a simple [insertThingThatCouldntBeMoreComplicated]" in a story that was crammed into the sprint out of nowhere.

  • Little to no unit tests in a particular area of the code base.

And I'm almost certainly missing some!

How Do You Organise Your Testing?

Where do you tend to focus? ๐Ÿง

Perhaps you like to focus on objective facts, i.e. "yes, this is true" or "no, this is false". Or perhaps you prefer to investigate emergent behaviour?

Or maybe you like to use both approaches?

Do you prefer to focus on testing that checks specific facts? Or do you prefer looking for emergent behaviour? Do you prefer using tools to execute the work or using them to amplify your investigation?

How Does That Map To Active Listening?

It's all about noticing and being present.

When we're thinking about risks, we're looking for clues. They may not lead anywhere, but we can figure that out later. What threads can we pull on to unearth some previously undesirable behaviour?

That sounds like active listening to me (pun intended ๐Ÿ˜…).

How Does That Map To Powerful Questions?

This one is actually pretty obvious.

Executing scripts (automated or otherwise) gives us a "pass" or "fail" result.

Closed questions give us a "yes" or "no" answer.

Looking for emergent behaviour doesn't return a "pass" or "fail" result. We get qualitative results.

Open questions cannot give us a "yes" or "no" answer. We get expansive answers.


Now all you have to do is practice!

Don't worry. I'm not talking about rushing out and starting a coaching practice!

Instead, look for opportunities to be what Toby Sinclair calls being coach-like. It's not about beating people over the head with open questions every 2 seconds either! Keep it light and see what happens.

Let me know what happens on your adventures ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿพ.