Success Factor #2: Adopt an agile mindset

November 30, 2023     Janet Gregory, Lisa Crispin
success factors     Holistic Testing

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In our series on the 7 key factors for agile and holistic testing success, we’ve worked our way up to number 2: Adopt an agile testing mindset. In our global testing community, some people do not know what we mean by ‘mindset’. It’s all about attitude and the desire to learn and experiment. Carol Dweck has studied what she calls ‘fixed mindset’ versus ‘growth mindset’. People who believe they have only the innate abilities they were born with are said to have a fixed mindset. Individuals with a growth mindset are continually experimenting and know that they can learn as much from failure as from success. They build on whatever abilities they have.


In software organizations that use a phased-and-gated and siloed process, testers tend to focus on finding bugs after the code has been written. In agile development, our goal is to help deliver valuable software frequently, solving our customers’ problems, by doing whatever we can. Our deep skills may be in testing, and as a tester in an agile team, we’re willing to take on any task to help the team, often collaborating with others. We’re not afraid to join in activities on both sides of the infinite loop of software development.  Our Holistic Testing model visualizes this idea. To us, we think of shift left and right as part of the infinite loop rather than a linear timeline. There are so many places where we need to think about testing.

Having an agile testing mindset means getting out of your comfort zone often. Several years ago, Lisa became interested in observability, the ability to ask questions and learn about your system in production without having to ship new code. Learning the basic concepts, but without yet having in-depth expertise and experience, she saw the importance for testers to get involved. She took a job helping to build an observability practice – without already having the skills. Lisa was way outside her comfort zone in this new job. She built relationships with developers and site reliability engineers who were also keen to adopt it. They told her that she added value by asking questions and bringing in new ideas. They appreciated her perspective as a testing and quality specialist. That’s what a growth mindset is all about – being willing to fail, but willing to learn something new, and help the team in the process.


Janet recalls a time when one of her grandchildren, Jo, was learning to surf behind a boat. She was able to stand up on the board, but every time she looked forward, all she saw was the waves coming towards her and she would fall. Finally, Janet and her sister told her, “Look at us instead.” The next time Jo stood up, her aunt said… “Look in my eyes.  Just keep looking at me.” Because she wasn’t concentrating on all the problems, she surfed for four minutes.


The next time you don’t know how to do something, we encourage you to think before you say ‘no’.. Is there an opportunity for you to stretch yourself and learn something new that will help build your own skills, and also contribute to your team’s success?