Cynefin, testing & auditing

James Christie's Blog

Over the last few weeks following my CAST 2014 talk in New York, while the Stop 29119 campaign has been raging, I have been thinking more about some of the underlying issues.

One of these has been the idea of “best practice”, which led me back to the Cynefin Framework. If you don’t know about Cynefin then I strongly recommend that you learn about it and reflect on its implications. The article is a good start, not least because Dave Snowden, Cynefin’s creator, keeps an eye on it. This short presented by Snowden is also helpful.

An overview of the Cynefin Framework


I have carelessly described the Cynefin Framework as being a quadrant in the past, but that was sloppy. It isn’t. It merely looks like one. It is a collection of five domains that are distinct and clearly defined in principle, but which blur into one another in practice.

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“Software testers balk at ISO 29119 standards proposal” – my interview

James Christie's Blog

This is the full text of the email interview I gave to , which appeared on August 25th. They used only part of it, which was fine by me. I was delighted they approached me and was happy to get any part of my message out.

What don’t you like about ISO 29119? Will this “standard” have much impact anyway?

ISO 29119 puts too much emphasis on process and documentation, rather than the real testing. Of course that is not its purpose, or the intention of the people who have developed it. However, I have seen in practice how people react when they are dealing with a messy, complex problem, and there are detailed, prescriptive standards and processes on hand. They focus on complying with the standard, and lose sight of the real goal. This sort of goal displacement is a familiar problem in many situations. It is frustrating that…

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“ISO 29119: Why it is Dangerous to the Software Testing Community” (from uTest)

James Christie's Blog

This article orginally appeared on the appeared on September 2nd.

Two weeks ago, I gave a talk at CAST 2014 (the conference of the Association for Software Testing) in New York, titled “Standards: Promoting quality or restricting competition?”

It was mainly about the new ISO 29119 software testing standard (according to ISO, “an internationally agreed set of standards for software testing that can be used within any software development life cycle or organization”), though I also wove in arguments about ISTQB certification.

My argument was based on an economic analysis of how ISO (the International Organization for Standardization) has gone about developing and promoting the standard. ISO’s behavior is consistent with the economic concept of rent seeking. This is where factions use power and influence to acquire wealth by taking it from others — rigging the market — rather than by creating new wealth.

I argued that ISO has not…

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