At CAST this year, Michael Larsen gave a talk about testing team development lessons learned from the Boy Scouts of America. I have some familiarity with the organization since my kid brother was once a boy scout, my college boyfriend was an Eagle scout, a close family friend is heavily involved in scouts, and I anticipate my husband and both of my sons will “join up” as soon as the boys are old enough. I just might be a future Den Mother.

However, when I was growing up, I joined the Girl Scouts of America through my church. We didn’t have the same models of team development, but we had some guiding principles underpinning our troop:

The Girl Scout Promise
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

The Girl Scout Law
I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

If we as testers live up to these principles of serving, helping, and living honesty, fairness, and respect in our professional relationships, we can become the talented leaders that Michael encourages us to be:

CAST 2011 Emerging Topics: Michael Larsen “Beyond Be Prepared: What can scouting teach testing?”
From boyscouts, watching how people learn and how people form into groups
1960s model for team development

Team stages:

  • Forming: Arrows pointing in different directions; group comes together and they figure out how they’re going to do things
  • Storming: Arrows indirect opposition to one another
  • Norming: Arrows beginning to go in the same direction; figure out what our goal is
  • Performing: Most arrows in the same direction/aligned; objectives clear and we go for it


  • Explain – during the forming stage, leadership role that you take, telling people what they need to know and what they need to know and learn (dictatorship)
  • Demonstrate – show how to do what needs to be done, make it familiar
  • Guide – answer questions but let them do the majority of the hands-on
  • Enable – leader steps out of the way, let the person go their way, “I trust you”

Movies such as Remember the Titans and October Sky demonstrate this process.
Failure to “pivot” can prevent someone from moving through the continuum!
Without daily practice, skills can be lost or forgotten, so may need to drop to a lower stage for review.

After Michael’s lightning talk, members of the audience brought these questions for his consideration:

Q: Is this a model? Or does every team actually go through these steps?
Duration of the steps varies, some may be very brief.
Unlikely to immediately hit the ground running.

Q: What about getting stuck in the Storming mode?
Figure out who can demonstrate. If you don’t like the demonstrated idea, toss it. Just get it out there!

Q: How does this model work when one person leaves and another comes in?
Definitely affects the group, relative to the experience of the person who joins.
May not revert the group back to the very beginning of the process.
Team rallies and works to bring the new person up to the team’s level.
New member may be totally fresh insights, so that person doesn’t necessarily fall in line.

Q: What happens when a group that is Norming gets a new leader?
Can bring the group down unless you demonstrate why you’re a good leader.
Get involved! Get your hands dirty!
Build the trust, then you can guide. Team will accept your guidance.

If this works on young squirrely kids, imagine how well this works on young squirrely developers … testers. – Michael Larsen

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