Monday 6 July 2015

Testing Coach Cafe Service Menu

One of the things I've been thinking about is how I can get more involved with the work of individuals in my team without being a nuisance. I have deliberately avoided scheduling recurring one-on-ones or continually dropping by desks to see how people are doing, but I do want to be more actively involved in helping people tackle their testing problems and improve their skills.

At the recent Nordic Testing Days conference I had the opportunity to speak with Stephen Janaway, a former Test Coach based in the UK. I mentioned my conundrum and he shared a solution from his organisation. They moved to a pull system where their coaches created a service menu for the development teams that explained what the coaches are available to help with. Stephen spoke about this system during his presentation at the conference and posted a real example of A Coaching Cafe Service Menu on his blog.

I really liked this idea and decided to adopt the same approach with my team. With a little re-use and a bit of fresh thinking, I created a Testing Coach Cafe Service Menu for my organisation:

The A3 poster version of the Testing Coach Cafe Service Menu

The menu provides an overview of some of the ways that I'd like to be working with each of the testers in my team. I hope it will prompt them to ask me for assistance -- a pull system rather than me imposing myself on them -- and clarify my role as their Testing Coach.

I'm keen to do more individual coaching sessions that are focused on what people really want. If a number of people are requesting similar things, I plan to start running small group sessions. If I don't have the skills requested, I can find resources in the community, call on others in the team, or use external providers who may be able to help. And, if there's something that people want that isn't listed, then I've encouraged them to ask for that too!

To share the menu with my team I created a printed brochure for every individual and an A3 poster that has been posted on our Testing Wall. I like the tactile nature of physical information, I think it helps emphasise important messages and creates serendipitous continued reminders. I also added the content to our organisation wiki and shared a soft copy of the brochure version via email.

Brochures and A3 poster versions of the Testing Coach Cafe Service Menu

Alongside the information, I've made it clear that people can ask for these services anytime - online or in person. As well as seeking new skills, I've encouraged people to start "putting their paddles in the air" based on a recent post from Lillian Grace:

... in the back of my mind I felt a bit guilty, like I shouldn’t be asking for help unless it was absolutely critical - and then I quickly realised, but that’s not how I like to be treated. Asking for help isn’t what you should do when you’re desperate, it’s literally when you would like help. I dearly appreciate it when someone surfaces an inkling of a concern in time for me to deal with it.

The initial reaction to the Testing Coach Cafe Service Menu has been very positive and I hope that it will help me better serve my team.


  1. Katrina - thanks for sharing this brilliant idea! I look forward to your experience report!

  2. Very interesting, Katrina. I look froward to hearing about your experiences using the model.

  3. Has there been any follow up to this? We are thinking of following a similar approach within our internal test community so interested in experience and lessons learnt