Archive for May, 2010
Since I was young I was involved in team sports. I played little league baseball during my elementary years, in junior high I switched to football, and in high school I played lacrosse. Growing up on the right (east) coast of America a lot of us boys would also play pick-up pond hockey when the rivers and ponds froze over in the winter. Hockey has always been a passion of mine, and I am a big Bruins fan (perhaps because Maryland didn’t have a hockey team), and Bobby Orr was amazing!
There is an ice rink very close to my home, and my daughter started skating at 4 years of age. She has no ambition to be the next Nancy Kerrigan, but she loves to ice skate. She also loves to watch hockey (she is a die hard Penguins fan and her favorite player is Sid The Kid).
The past few weeks I have been involved in a hockey tournament in conjunction with my regular Monarchs schedule, work schedule, and getting the boat ready for the up-coming Leukemia Cup Regatta and summer sailing season. (I’ll use that as an excuse for my long absence from the blogosphere.) In the tournament we won some games, and we lost some games. Eventually our team won the silver medal yesterday afternoon in the final match of the series. One thing all this practice and play has reminded me of is the importance of the team. Whether it is playing hockey or shipping software a team that plays well together is required for success.
Playing well together is more than simply showing up on the ice. Each player has a position, each player is expected to communicate effectively to move the puck around and “read the play,” occasionally players will “block a shot” on goal, and when you are on the ice you give 150% (which is why the shifts (time on ice) are short). Essentially no player can do everything alone, and the weakest link means that others on the team must take up the slack (which eventually leads to mistakes and players getting “out of position”).
I play defenseman, and usually left defense.There are general skills for the game that all players must have, but there are skills and strategies for defense positions that are different than for forwards. And although the 3 forwards and the 2 defensive players must work together as a team to score (or prevent a goal) the responsibilities of each position are different, and each player must play their position.
I have read a lot of analogies between individual sports such as martial arts and the discipline of software testing. These analogies are sometimes good in that they help testers understand why they must constantly learn new things and practice in order to grow in our (or any) professional discipline. Similarly, I could make an analogy between the defensemen on a hockey team and software testers. But, while we might all aspire to be a “testing ninja” (or a Bobby Orr) in our career, we also need a team of other professionals each doing their part to ship a great software product.
When players in the software game are out of position or not playing their best the team is looking for a loss, or at best a very hard earned win (that usually burns players out). For example, program managers who don’t to provide useful customer scenarios or models of potential feature designs, or developers who fail to unit test their code or run unit tests that are only slightly better than “does it compile” put the burden on the test team (the defensive players) to hopefully “score the goal.”
While a defensive player may occasionally score a goal, their primary role (on offense) is to put the puck in front of the opposing net. As defensive players we must be able to read the play (understand our customer scenarios and analyze abstract models of a design and provide critical feedback). Communicate effectively to other defensemen and forwards to get the puck into position, or protect our goal (put the important information in front of those who make the critical business decisions).
At times defensemen need to help the forwards by driving the puck out of the zone, but without the forwards doing their part the defensemen would surely get exhausted very quickly and the outcome would not likely be favorable. Likewise, if the forwards don’t help defend their goal it is likely the opposing team will wear down the defense and score.
So, while we (as testers) sometimes like to think that the success or failure of a software project depends solely on our defensive skills to find bugs and drive in quality, the simple fact is that we need a team of professional to be successful and “quality” depends on the value each player brings to the table. If we don’t start a game with a good strategy and people playing their best in their assigned positions the likelihood of success is marginal at best. A strong defense is critical, but no one ever wins by playing defense.
"In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of the weakest link of the chain, whatever may be the strength of the rest." – Thomas Reid’s Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, 1786