Monday, March 16, 2020

The Uruk-Hai

This is the third in a series of posts.The first is here. The subsequent one is here.
This saga continues below.
 
Halflings! But they are only a little people
in old songs and children’s tales out of the North.*
 

Working in isolation of others was considered wrong in prior ages. Then
it became normal. Each person had a specific role to play. Each person
had a specific function to fill. Project work lined up for Business Analysts,
Designers, Developers, Testers and everyone else. The Project Manager
kept things moving. The Project Manager kept people on time and on
task.

Of course, it was not quite stated that way. 

There was talk about “industry standards” and “best practices.” There
was talk about how the goal was to deliver value. There was talk
delivery and “stretch goals.” There was talk about how the “stage
gates” would ensure everyone was in agreement, and how thrash
would be reduced if not prevented.


Making a change to anything became huge after there was a “sign-off”
at the “stage gate” for that area. “Why wasn’t this found before? How
come no one raised this issue?”


To drive efficiency the thinking process of people who found solutions
to needs by software was replaced by templates and tools and “linear
process models.” The people doing the work became less important than
the process.


To emphasize this point, people doing specific tasks were given special
rewards. They are needed to make things happen. Differences in pay 
rates were introduced. People not in those roles were told their role, in 
relationship to the more special people.

Training programs in companies, then colleges, universities and even 
trade schools emphasized “write code” over everything else. There was
little attention paid to other aspects for some of these.

Ideas around “why” were replaced by technical “how.” Exposure to logic 
and systems thinking were reduced to elements of a survey course, 
instead of being courses themselves. Testing was mentioned less and 
less. In the end, a basic mention of “unit” testing might occur. 
Depending on the school or training facility.

The results were predictable.

Developers became “ninjas” and “rockstars.” Everyone else served 
them. People not willing to work in those circumstances and conditions 
drifted away to other fields.

Other people became comfortable with this way of working. They 
were paid reasonably well and as long as they did not rock the boat 
too much, there were no real problems.

Until something did not work or something went wrong.

Then all the attention landed on the people doing testing. They must 
not be testing “right.” Because, if they were, there would not be any 
problems and the code would be bug-free. And problems in “production”
would never occur.

The fault must lie in how the testers were testing. Because the 
developers were ninjas and rockstars.

The idea of “designing” tests was considered ludicrous. There was no 
real “design” needed to write test scenarios. After all, the requirements 
were very clear. There was no way the testers could have misunderstood.

There is no way the testers could have interpreted the requirements 
differently than the developers did. And if they did, it is because they
are not ninja rockstars!

So a pack of Orcs are turned loose on the testers. 
“Where there’s a whip, there’s a will!”**

Testers are driven with whips and threats and clubs to do exactly what 
they are intended to do and not contradict the developers because the 
developers are ninja rockstars and the testers are not. And so, after 
berating the testers, the Orcs force the testers to apologize and make 
all their tests pass, because everything is as the developers meant it 
to be.

Until the people who asked for the software, the users and customers, 
try using it.

Then the testers are berated for “not thinking outside the box.” 
Because if they had, they could have reasoned with the developers 
and explained, politely and with soft, understated voices (so as to not 
offend the developers) why they thought something “might be wrong”
with the solution designed by the developers.

So, forced to drink the foul drink of Orcs and blamed for things being 
wrong, even when they tried to warn people that things looked wrong, 
the testers settled into a simple, plain existence. They simply said 
they’d “do better” on the next project.

And they documented how their test scripts lined up with the 
requirements and the design and how they could make everything line 
up perfectly. As long as people did not mind that things were not really 
right. But because they did precisely what they were told to do, they 
hardly got yelled at at all.

So, they grumbled a bit and got used to it. They went to the Green 
Dragon in Bywater and drank their beer and ale.


*JRR Tolkien, The Two Towers, ©JRR Tolkien, 1954, renewed 1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Boston, 2014, p 424. 
**JRR Tolkien, The Return of the King, ©JRR Tolkien, 1954, renewed 1982, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, Boston, 2014, p 910.

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