Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No progress over faking progress

One of these days, I was bogged with work - there was just too much of testing to happen, and as usual, I would ask for people from the team to pitch in their efforts. The developers do their best in testing, but we share the feeling that another pair of eyes might sometimes - most of times - do good. So as we were discussing the need for more eyes&brains on testing activities, the team concluded in some fuzzy way that the user interface specialist could help out.

We agreed on who would take on what, and I worked on what ever I ended up with. The other worked on his area.

Three days later, I was good with taking a break on the themes I was contributing, and I checked back  to see how testing with the other area was progressing. I learned "it was done". I asked a bit more: I asked how much time was used, to learn that about two days went into that one.

With a nagging feeling, I turned on the application and the feature I had not been testing. I just wanted to see it, so that I would know what it was like for later testing. I formulated a basic use scenario in my mind, and tried it out. And there were problems.

I felt puzzled, there must be something someone was missing. I looked into the feature a little more, and learned more ways in which it just did not work. I walked around the block to calm down, before I went to ask the temporary tester to work out an explanation with me.

The explanation turned out to be that testing is boring. It's boring enough that when faced with a task of testing, you report it done without doing it. You used time on "testing", so "testing" is now done. No results implied. And if lucky, and less buggy area to test, none would even know.

This left me thinking of the various times something similar has happened to me. Someone promising to contribute on a task of testing, but actually bringing in the hours into activity of coffee drinking.

We had this at a contractor company a lot. The company culture drove people into "invoicable hours",  and testing was the place where people could "work for a few hours in between other tasks". Really,  not.

We had this at a product company I used to work at, when people wanted to use time on their "pet projects", to an extent that I remember an expensive postponing of a release due to one person blatantly lying on their test progress to get time on implementing automation that was not a commonly agreed priority at that time.

Why I started thinking of this is that just before my vacation, I was procrastinating like crazy. I could use hours and not make progress. Getting a grip of myself was a key activity for me. I would still report no progress and feel like a failure. Thinking about this helps me remember that not progressing isn't a failure, when faking progress is a relevant option.