Saturday, March 3, 2012

Context-Driven School (of thought): "I'm not dead yet... I feel happy!"

This is Part III in a series of entries related to the following quote from the "about page" of hosted by Cem Kaner:
"...However, over the past 11 years, the founders have gone our separate ways. We have developed distinctly different visions. If there ever was one context-driven school, there is not one now..."
If you haven't done so already, I recommend starting with:

Ok, so maybe not "happy" but I couldn't resist the Monty Python reference.

James Bach stated on his latest blog update (Context-Driven Testing at a Crossroads):
"I’m the last of the founders of the Context-Driven School, as such, who remain true to the original vision. I will bear its torch along with any fellow travelers who wish to pursue a similar program."
I'm pleased and supportive. Of course, those of you who prefer to avoid discord and controversy are probably not as please and supportive as I. James is certainly a polarizing figure to many. One reason is that James values passionate, intellectual, debate over complying with the protocols of common social contracts. I say this as a person who values the same things. I *know* that my thinking/learning style frustrates, angers, and turns off many people -- it boils down to the fact that most people do not think as well when emotionally energized. I, on the other hand, think best with high amounts of adrenaline in my system. When I'm at my intellectual best, my non-verbal communication transmits aggressiveness, anger, and generally "bully behavior". Now *I* know that I am open to new ideas, that I'm more than willing, even happy, to be proven wrong, because I *love* extending and improving my knowledge, but only my closest collaborators truly understand this. My experience is that James and I are very much the same in this regard -- at least when our "social safeties" are off.

James and I have had some the best, and most valuable, professional debates of my career. Observers moved away waiting for punches to be thrown & furniture to be smashed, yet those thoughts never crossed our minds. We were passionately attacking an idea, not one another. In the end, understanding occured, smiles and hugs were exchanged & observers were confused. I learned. I was energized. I was happy. So polarizing or not, James is a brilliant thinker with amazing clarity of thought, who always (in my experience) has had well researched and well thought out positions, and he is my friend. He and I don't always agree, but I do always appreciate the journey.

In addition to addressing his views regarding polarization, James goes on to discuss the distinction between a "School" and "Approach" -- which I do believe is relevant and important. I happen to be in-line with the distinction he makes -- but is not central to the topic(s) I am trying to explore through this series of blog entries.

What I'm particularly interested in exploring are:
  1. What's the deal with the predominant culture in TesterLand where testers seem to reject professional affiliation, alignment, or activism in any formal manner? Is it simply an unwillingness to be labeled? Is it that folks can't find anything they are in value-sync with to affiliate/align with? Is it just the nature of the tester to not "trust" anyone to represent *any* of their thoughts or ideas? Do they reject the idea of safety/power in numbers? These questions are not rhetorical, I truly don't have any answers that seem to fit.
  2. Why is it that, even with all of the focus on educating & training testers to be able to do "better" testing by scores of organizations over the last dozen years (or more) that testing and testers are no more effective or respected than they were a dozen years ago? 
The first point deserves a thread of it's own -- probably at some later date. The second point is the one that I've been driving toward in this series.

Ponder that while I compose Part IV: A Context-Driven Approach to Delivering Business Value

Scott Barber
Chief Technologist, PerfTestPlus, Inc.
Director, Computer Measurement Group

Co-Author, Performance Testing Guidance for Web Applications
Author, Web Load Testing for Dummies
Contributing Author, Beautiful Testing, and How To Reduce the Cost of Testing

"If you can see it in your mind...
     you will find it in your life."


David Greenlees said...

"that testing and testers are no more effective....."

I'm pondering while looking forward to Part IV, but... are you comfortable with that general statement? Should it be labelled a generalisation?

I think I have become more effective as a tester, but maybe that's because I'm passionate about what I do and the service I provide. The 'general' population of testers maybe aren't so much?

Unknown said...

It is a generalization in the sense that I am referring to a global collective, not any one individual.

Thus is the nature of averages, norms, commonalities, etc. There are bound to be exceptions on either end of the spectrum, but the propensity lies somewhere in between. Focusing on the exceptions can be interesting and educational, but moreso when the lessons are brought to the middle.

It sounds like maybe you are an exception. That's great! I hope you have, and continue, to share your lessons with others, 'cause wouldn't it be nice if tomorrow's propensity looked more like today's (positive) exceptions?

@qamob said...

Why is it that, even with all of the focus on educating & training testers to be able to do "better" testing by scores of organizations over the last dozen years (or more) that testing and testers are no more effective or respected than they were a dozen years ago?"

In 15 years I've seen both the effectiveness of and the respect for testing and testers steadily increase. If you are always working for broken companies then it's easy to focus on the negative. But I assure you there exists many companies wherein the effectiveness and respect are increasing

Maybe the question is why do we only see the bad side of the industry in the twitters and blogs? "Testing is DEAD!" "CDT is DEAD!" "If you do XYZ you are doing it wrong!" "I HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY LISTEN TO ME!!!" Meanwhile average Joe effective tester is busy keeping his head down and doing his thing.

Unknown said...

I've spent a lot of time with a lot of organizations, testers, managers & executives around the world over the last 10 years. Yes, there most certainly are pockets of good out there and I'm please to hear that you are in one of them!

That said, I stand by my assertion. "Average Jane/Joe effective tester" may be effectively achieving or exceeding corporate expectations. S/he may be providing value. But in the overwhelming propensity of organizations s/he is still viewed on the corporate P/L report as an unfortunate necessity.

That, I believe, is the root of the problem. Corporate doesn't understand what value they *should* be getting via testing, and testers don't understand what value they *could* be providing to the business.

That is the topic of the post I'm finishing up now.