Quality Engineering Basics: Bug Retrospectives
Part 2 of Quality Engineering Basics. In this series, I’ll cover some of the basics of Quality Engineering and Software Testing. Today's topic is Bug Retrospectives.
Ever finished a project and wondered how those pesky bugs got through? It's something we all face. That's why I want to chat about Bug Retrospectives – a tool we can use to learn from our bugs, not just fix them.
This post has been adapted and expanded from a How-to: Bug Retrospectives guide that I wrote for work in 2023. ChatGPT helped write this!
What is a Bug Retrospective?
A Bug Retrospective is a collaborative review of recent bugs—from automated tests, hands-on testing, or even post-release issues reported by customers. It's not about blaming but figuring out together why these bugs weren't caught earlier. The aim is to dig deep, understand the root cause, and brainstorm ways to catch or prevent these bugs sooner.
Why Bug Retrospectives Matter
Think of Bug Retrospectives as a focused team huddle to boost product quality. It's a chance for the team to come together to refine processes and improve testing strategies. If you aspire to build a culture where everyone owns the quality of the product, bug retros can be a catalyst for better practices, and quality ownership. Each person brings their unique knowledge of the code and product, its quirks, and challenges. Each bug is a lesson and you can learn from it to make the product tougher, more resilient, and better overall.
Getting Them Rolling
If you're new to this or thinking about bringing this to your team, here's how you can start:
Select the Bugs for Review: Start small. Pick a project or a set of bugs that stood out recently.
Gather your Team: Identify the devs, testers, and anyone involved in the project you want to participate. Make sure everyone knows this is a blame-free zone – you’re here to learn and improve.
Choose a Discussion Platform: Choose a tool that allows team members to contribute asynchronously, such as Slack, Google Docs, or any online collaboration tool such as Mural or Miro. This will encourage thoughtful responses and allow more time for investigation.
Share the list of Bugs: Share a document or spreadsheet listing the bugs identified for review. Add relevant data like how it was found, who found it, and its severity and priority.
Set a Deadline: Given this is an asynchronous discussion, set a clear deadline for when inputs are due. This provides a timeframe and flexibility for team members in different time zones.
Kick-Off the Discussion: Create and share a thread or document where team members can discuss the bugs.
Encourage Root Cause Analysis: Ask team members to provide insights into why the bug occurred. You might even try the 5 Whys Technique.
Promote Discussion on Improvement: Ask questions like, "What tests could have caught this?" or "What can we learn from this?"1
Open Floor for Best Practices: Invite team members to share their thoughts on best practices that could minimize such bugs in the future.
Compilation and Review
Summarize: After the deadline, compile the key points, suggested actions, and notable insights.
Create an Action Plan: From the discussion and summary, create a list of actionable items for bug prevention and early detection.
Distribute the Summary and Action Plan: Share this with the team and stakeholders.
Bug Retrospectives are a simple yet powerful way to up our game in quality engineering. They encourage a team approach to quality and can really change how we handle bugs for the better. Give them a try and see how they work for you!
NOTE: I’ve indicated this should be an asynchronous meeting, as I was working with a global team at the time I originally wrote it. If your team is all at the office or in similar time zones, feel free to run this as a live meeting.
Does your team already do something like a bug retro? If so, do you find them useful? Why or why not?
Until next time,
Suggested Discussion Prompts
What was the root cause of this bug?
Aim to go beyond the surface-level issue to understand the underlying problem.
Could this bug have been detected earlier in the development process? If so, at what stage?
This helps in assessing if there are stages in the workflow that could be improved to catch bugs earlier.
Were there any pre-existing automated tests that should have caught this bug but didn't?
This could expose weaknesses in your test suite.
Was the bug a result of technical debt, and if so, how can we mitigate similar issues in the future?
This encourages the team to think about long-term solutions and the impact of technical debt on quality.
What steps were taken to resolve this bug, and how long did it take from identification to resolution?
This helps in assessing the efficiency of your bug-fixing process.
Were there any communication breakdowns that led to this bug or hindered its resolution?
This can uncover issues in team communication or documentation that need to be addressed.
How was this bug prioritized compared to other tasks, and was that the correct decision in retrospect?
This helps to evaluate your bug triage and prioritization process.
What documentation, if any, needs to be updated as a result of this bug?
This encourages maintaining up-to-date documentation, which can be invaluable for future debugging and onboarding of new team members.
Are there similar areas in the codebase that might be vulnerable to this type of bug?
This could prompt a more thorough review to catch related issues before they become bugs.
What lessons have we learned from this bug, and how can we apply them moving forward?
This turns the retrospective into a learning opportunity and could lead to actionable improvements in the development process.