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The Art of Agile Development

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Exploratory Testing



By Elisabeth Hendrickson

We discover surprises and untested conditions.

XP teams have no separate QA department. There’s no independent group of people responsible for assessing and ensuring the quality of the final release. Instead, the whole team—customers, programmers, and testers—is responsible for the outcome. On traditional teams, the QA group is often rewarded for finding bugs. On XP teams, there’s no incentive program for finding or removing bugs. The goal in XP isn’t to find and remove bugs; the goal is not to write bugs in the first place. In a well-functioning team, bugs are a rarity—only a handful per month.

Does that mean testers have no place on an XP team? No! Good testers have the ability to look at software from a new perspective, to find surprises, gaps, and holes. It takes time for the team to learn which mistakes to avoid. By providing essential information about what the team overlooks, testers enable the team to improve their work habits and achieve their goal of producing zero bugs.


Beware of misinterpreting the testers’ role as one of process improvement and enforcement. Don’t set up quality gates or monitor adherence to the process. The whole team is responsible for process improvement. Testers are respected peers in this process, providing information that allows the whole team to benefit.

One particularly effective way of finding surprises, gaps, and holes is exploratory testing: a style of testing ...

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