Speed Up Your Testing With Acceptance Criteria Conversations

room: Grand Ballroom D North — time: Tuesday 14:00-14:45, Tuesday 14:45-15:30
Level: Introductory

Why do testers on some agile teams find iterations productive and enjoyable, while other teams struggle to “keep up” with testing and get stories to “done done” within the iteration? Succeeding with agile testing is more than just automating tests or sitting with the developers. To create working software quickly, your whole team must be able to build a shared understanding of a feature - and do this rapidly, accurately, over and over again, every feature, every iteration. This hands-on tutorial teaches you how to use the agile technique of acceptance criteria to build shared understanding.


Attendees learn the value and technique of acceptance criteria conversations through lecture, small group exercises, and discussion.

This is a revised version of one section of a successful tutorial I offered last year at Agile 2008. The more times I gave that tutorial, the more I realized that acceptance criteria was the most important section. I realized I could shorten my tutorial and focus on the most important thing.

Beyond teaching the mechanics of acceptance criteria, this tutorial conveys the values behind the technique (Building quality in makes you go faster, Proactive conversations build shared understanding) and anchors the values with exercises. I include a section on understanding and overcoming resistance, so that participants are prepared to return to their work and succeed with acceptance criteria conversations.

  1. Introduction (5 minutes)

  2. Motivation (10 minutes)

    • Guided discussion - Motivation for acceptance criteria
  3. Using Acceptance Criteria (40 minutes)
    • What are acceptance criteria
    • Value: Building quality in is faster than inspecting defects out
    • Value: Proactive conversations build shared understanding
    • Exercise - Iterations using acceptance criteria
    • Debrief
  4. Overcoming Resistance (20 minutes)
    • Guided discussion - Defensive reactions map
    • Value: Understand others motivation
    • Exercise - Role playing
    • Debrief and summary
  5. Question and Answer (10 minutes)

  6. Attendees Ah-has (5 minutes)

Learning outcomes
  • Learn the four keys to effectively use acceptance criteria
  • Practice building simple, effective acceptance criteria
  • Recognize how conversations focused on acceptance criteria build shared understanding quickly
  • Compare acceptance criteria conversations to traditional big requirements up front
  • Understand why acceptance criteria are often undervalued
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