A Skype chat with James Bach

I had originally proposed a hypothesis about James Bach & his Testers Commitments in my previous post & the only way I could think of proving or disproving it was to ask him in person (well, over Skype at least!)

This resulted in an impromptu coaching session, which I really wasn’t expecting – I wouldn’t recommend a coaching session when you are not very adept at using a software keyboard!

Throughout the session it dawned on me that the hypothesis wasn’t needed in the original post & I decided to break it out into its own post.

The entire transcript can be found here.

So here are the questions ([10/01/2012 22:26:01] in the transcript):

I wonder if James’ view on testing stems from the fact he now largely acts as a consultant? This would fit my definition of testing as a service.

James appears to have been a consultant since 1999 (taken from Satisfice.com) before which, apparently he was in permanent positions.

My next question would be that since software delivery has changed enormously since 1999, in which time James hasn’t been ingrained on a team, is James missing something regarding the change in team dynamics?

My thinking behind the question was that, in my opinion, the development lifecycle has changed considerably (for the limited number of industries I am familiar with) since James James was last embedded in a development team.

James was very frank in his response & happy to help me make sense of the answer, which I greatly apprciated:

well, it’s a reasonable issue to raise

I have done some project work in recent years. I’m on a medical device project right now, for instance.

But I have a special status

I haven’t been an “ordinary tester” or “ordinary test manager” on a project since 2001


I have visited many many companies

I have dipped into teams and seen how they work

and heard them complain to me

and sat through sprint planning meetings


so, it’s not like I’m completely isolated

Here’s some things to think about though:

The last time I handed the list of commitments, as such, to a developer was 1999. Since then I’ve not been in a position there I was working regularly with any specific developer, and close enough where they knew who I was, really.

that’s one thing

another thing

is that my personality is assertive

even combative

so when I make commitments like I do

my personality colors it

in other words

people don’t really walk all over me

unless I let them

But maybe for other testers, people more easily take advantage of them

You could reasonably raise the point that my sense of my own personal power makes something like these commitments easier for me to work with

and finally

you should raise the issue that my commitments are part of a bigger thing: which includes my hope that the developer will make a personal commitment to excellence, too

it is true that, even making these commitments, if a developer is chronically sloppy or uncaring, I will escalate that

So the 4 points that James drove out in response to my question were:

  • James recognised the fact the last time he used the commitments was in 1999, but this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that he has still been involved with projects in some capacity.
  • The respected position James has worked so hard to get himself into enables him to use the commitments & for Programmers to respect those commitments.
  • James’ commitments are part of a bigger picture to help develop quality software & if a Programmer isn’t part of that bigger picture then they will be called out.
  • Finally, but it covers all the previous points, James knows his stuff & has a very strong personality which prevents people from walking over him & these attributes enable him to get his point across.

Does this response answer the questions?

I know I wasn’t expecting a yes/no answer, but I never really thought about what type of answers I might expect before asking the questions!

By the looks of it, the changes I have noticed in the development lifecycle haven’t impacted James method & style of working. The commitments are also still as relevant (for James) today as they were when they were originally written. This kinda renders the questions to James irrelevant.

I’m thinking the questions should be aimed at me – I’m a contractor, not a permie. Would I have different set of commitments to a permie?

I am going to write my own commitments to a Programmer, but I do really want to write commitments to other members of the development team as well. I have a coaching session planned with James at the end of April – we’re going to try and draft some commitments from Programmers to Testers in that session. It would good to have my commitments boxed off by then!