Agile Testing vs Exploratory Testing

This month I will be doing two sets of training sessions - one for Agile Testing (AT) and one for Exploratory Testing (ET). I have extensive experience with both and I enjoy teaching and coaching both activities. This is the first time that I have been asked to do both training sessions at basically the same time, so I have been giving the relationship between the two some thought.

Over the past decade I have sometimes struggled with the difference between the two. I admit that I have on occasion even described them as being the same thing. Having given it some thought, I now think differently.

The insight came to me when I had a conversation with someone about both topics recently. The courses I'm doing have different audiences, different outlines, and different expected behaviours/outcomes. Yes, there is some overlap, but not much.

I have written previously about what I believe is ET (it's an interesting post - I suggest you take a moment to read it if you haven't already). Near the end of that article, I mention Agile Software Development and the Agile Testing Quadrants, so there is some relationship between the two.

ET is sometimes described as an exemplar of the Context-Driven Software Testing community. If you read through the seven basic principles of the Context-Driven Testing (CDT) School you may see where there are similarities in the philosophies between it and the values & principles listed in the Agile manifesto. Things like:
  • CDT: People work together to solve the problem
    • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
    • ...face-to-face conversation
    • Business people and developers work together daily throughout the project
  • CDT: Projects are often unpredictable
    • Respond to change
    • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development...
    • Deliver working software frequently...
  •  CDT: No best practices
    • Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design ...
    • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams ...
And we could probably make a few more connections between Agile and the CDT principles.

So what are some of the differences?