6 Simple Questions for Lisa Crispin

About one year ago I published a series of interviews called "5 Easy Questions". The answers to those questions came from Steve McConnell, Johanna Rothman, Alistair Cockburn, Robert L. Glass, Scott Berkun and many other celebrities.

Well, almost a year has gone by, and I thought "That was great. Let's do that again!" But this time with different people, and different questions…

Lisa Crispin is one of the authors of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams (together with Janet Gregory). She has also contributed to the book Beautiful Testing, of which the proceeds go to a charity, Nothing but Nets, that provides mosquito nets to people who couldn't afford them otherwise.

These are the six questions I asked Lisa, and the answers that she gave me…

1. What has been the most effective motivator for you to do your best work ever?

I think trust is a great motivator. When my team at ePlan finished its
first Scrum sprint ever, we didn't deliver much value, but it was
better than nothing, and the customers were thrilled. As my development
team and I learned more and more about the business, the business
people trusted us to help think of and prioritize features. They trust
us to manage our workload, produce the highest possible quality
product, and they help remove obstacles. We trust them to make good
business decisions and prioritize the right themes and stories. When
someone expects the best, I want to deliver.

I've learned a lot about trust from my miniature donkeys. If a
donkey trusts me and knows I love him more than anything, he will do
anything I ask. If he doesn't, there is no way I can bribe or force him
to do what I want. I think people are not that different!

2. What work has been the most difficult for you to delegate to others?

Lisacrispin Writing the high-level tests and examples of desired behavior for each
user story. I'm too perfectionist about it, I worry about time possibly
being wasted because someone didn't understand how the functionality
needs to work. I have the ego to think I've understood what the
customers want better than anyone, which of course is unlikely to be
true.  Being a type A personality probably helps make me a good tester,
but it doesn't always make me the best team member. Everyone has to be
free to make mistakes, or we can't make progress.

3. How would you define the purpose or goal of your work?

Helping the business to succeed over the long term, helping everyone in
the company do their best work. I really enjoy learning as much as I
can about the domain, about all aspects of the business, not just the
parts we automate with software. This helps us do a lot more for the
business than just waiting for their requirements.

4. How have you tried to achieve excellence in the work you do?

By getting the whole team involved in continually improving what we do,
taking advantage of all the different skills and experience. I want to
do my part to help create a learning culture, where we can look at
what's holding us back, and try little experiments to work better.

5. Of which one of your failures are you most proud?

On a few occasions I've found myself part of an organization that
doesn't really care about quality. I tried everything in my toolbox to
change the culture, for example, getting managers to agree to
experiment with some agile practices on some projects, and applying
agile principles to benefit my own test team. I enjoyed the small
successes, and learned more from the failures, but when I had the
chance to join an organization that was reaching higher, I took it,
even if it meant a financial sacrifice on my part. Being able to make a
difference is more important to me than collecting a paycheck. That
might not always be in my own best interests, but long-term, it's the
only way to be happy and be passionate about the work we do.

6. And which of your successes was completely undeserved?

Gosh, I never thought about that before. They say if you can't be
smart, be lucky, and I've had my share of luck. I think a lot of times
when I've hired a new tester, I got lucky and got the perfect person
for the job. I was lucky to get on my first XP team; some former
coworkers gave me Kent Beck's XP Explained book and told me they were
starting a new company and doing XP. I begged them to hire me and left
a high-paying job to do it. Later I was lucky that Mike Cohn called me
up one day and said he needed a tester on his new team, but the reason
I met Mike was because I co-wrote Testing XP and he liked the book. I
can't think of anything where I was wholly undeserving, but I think
much of my success is the result of my whole team. The efforts of
everyone makes me look good.

Well, these are the answers given by Lisa. I hope you liked them.
Next week: the same questions, but different answers, from Andy Hunt!

Twitter TwitterRss SubscribeEmail NewsletterDelicious Bookmarks

Latest, greatest and favoritest posts:

6 Simple Questions for Alan Shalloway
5 Easy Questions for Ron Jeffries

5 Easy Questions for Mike Cohn
  • Four Kinds of Trust (2): Earn Trust from Your People
  • So Now You’re an Agilist, What’s Next? (Video)
Related Posts
free book
“How to Change the World”