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I Will Test With Gumbo!

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Pay back.

I was at a conference recently and one of my tens of fans approached me in the hallway after one of my highly spirited anti-Agile presentations.  More of a critic than a fan really.  She basically asked me:  “If you hate Agile so much, what can you give us that is better?”  Good point I guess, even though my entire presentation was related to doing things in the true spirit of Agile stressing, of all things, flexibility.  She admitted she had not attended so I cut her some slack.

Her comments stuck with me though – it was time for me to put up or shut up.  This wasn’t the first time I had been challenged on my Anti Agile-ness.  I once had an extensive e-mail/text message conversation with one of the authors and staunch proponents of Agile.  To their credit – they offered their side and listened while I presented mine.  We agreed to disagree and parted on good terms.  I have huge respect for this author! 

But – even though I have always offered an alternative to Agile, I never gave it a catchy name.  Until now.  Ready for it?   Drum roll….   Gumbo!

I thought about this long and hard before I came up with Gumbo.  I wasn’t crazy about the name at first but after some thought, I’m quite satisfied with it. For those of you not familiar with Gumbo let me explain.  Gumbo is very popular in the Southeastern United States – particularly Louisiana.  Gumbo is basically a soup or stew.  Required fare on Mardi Gras Day!  Gumbo chefs in the southeast, amateur or professional, each have their own unique gumbo recipe.  Kinda like chili or Bar-B-Que in Texas.  I’m no exception.  Although I hardly consider myself a chef.

There are some core ingredients to most Gumbo recipes, and then each chef provides their own unique twist.  They may modify the ingredients a bit – usually by adding or substituting something.  Most gumbos have some kind of seafood – usually shrimp – unique to the region.  I adjust mine to the intended diners.  I add what they like.  Subtract what they don’t like.  Or substitute something.  I hate seafood, and my son is allergic to it so I don’t use seafood.  Instead, I substitute chicken and sausage.  Everything else is pretty much traditional.  Not any kind of sausage mind you.  The sausage is unique – when I can get it.  I prefer andouille sausage.  Andouille is a French sausage made with pork, pepper, onion, wine, and seasonings.  It is huge in most Cajun cooking.  In Louisiana, its readily available.  In Colorado, not so much.  Sadly, I’ve yet to find an adequate substitute.

Anyway….I told you that to tell you this.  I apply a similar approach to software testing.  Let’s call it – The Gumbo Process.  There, I named it.

The Gumbo Software Testing Process (patent pending) is much like it’s inspiration.  Whenever I’m on a consulting engagement I typically bring my collection of testing recipes.  Depending on the client, I may use a different recipe or develop an entirely new one.  There are some core practices that I bring with me, and others I may add or subtract depending on what tools are available, tester experience, etc.  No two solutions are exactly the same.  Similar – maybe. Identical – rarely.

That was my initial understanding of Agile.  Flexibility!  Sadly, Agile authors and consultants have destroyed the original intent.  Agile has become a “named process” with very strict rules as to what is and what isn’t Agile.  There are Agile books, conferences, seminars, courses, etc.  I’ve seen Agile evangelists go into companies and thoroughly remove a well working process because it wasn’t “Agile”.  That’s when I jumped off the Agile bandwagon (well that, and it was full!).

So there it is…my alternative to Agile.  Gumbo!  Take it or leave it.  Just remember, I said it first and my brother is an attorney.



  1. LOL!

    I eagerly await the posting of the Gumbo Manifesto.
    I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

  2. Cap'n Dave says:

    Thanks Joe!

    There are only 2 items in the Gumbo Manifesto:

    1. If it works – do it
    2. If it doesn’t work – don’t do it

    Oh and its not really a manifesto – that’s a scary word. It’s more like a code. Actually they’re really just guidelines. 🙂

  3. David Kramer says:

    Sooo.. Gumbo isn’t actually anti-Agile. It’s anti-orthodoxy “Tho Shalt Follow These Strict Processes Always” (i.e. strictly following all of Scrum. or all of Kanban, or all of Lean without thinking what’s right for the project.

    While I’ll agree that a fair number of Agilistas are very strict about “It Ain’t Agile If You’re Not Doing $FOO”, their numbers are waning. Agile, as with religion, forms of government, and cooking, works best when you bend the recipe to suit the environment.

    The part that takes experience and knowledge is knowing how to come up with the right mix that still accomplishes the same thing. Taking out peer programming and not adding some other practice that supports code quality would be like substituting pineapple for your anduille sausages.

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