A Fable about Developer/Tester Relationships

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Summary:

Does trying to get developers to test their code feel like trying to get your children to clean their rooms? Some say yes. In this column, the author spins a tongue-in-cheek fable about room cleaning strategies. Your comments are invited.

Once upon a time in a land far away where many fables took place, there lived groups of parents and their children. The parents and children were locked in constant conflict. Every day the parents said to their children, "Clean your rooms." Every day the children refused. The parents asked again and again. The children refused again and again. Discouraged, the parents consulted with each other. They decided that clean rooms were important. They also decided that their current approach was not resulting in clean rooms, so they decided to formulate a plan.

The first strategy the parents used was to shout louder at their children. "CLEAN YOUR ROOMS" was their cry. The parents repeated their demand over and over but the children did not respond. In bewilderment the parents asked, "Why won't you clean your rooms?" The children gave the following excuses: One said, "My room's only a little messy." Another replied, "It's not fun to clean my room. I'd rather play with my friends." A third responded, "It's not intellectually challenging." A fourth said, "Make me clean my room and I'll run away from home." Frustrated, the parents met together to devise another approach. They hired a consultant who quickly exclaimed, "Of course your children don't clean their rooms. They don't have the necessary room cleaning skills. They need training!"

So, the second strategy was to train the children in the science of room cleaning. The children were sent to training seminars. Room cleaning courses were brought in-house. Attendance at national cleaning conferences was made mandatory, but the children still didn't clean their rooms. Frustrated, the parents met together to devise another approach. They hired a consultant who quickly exclaimed, "Of course your children don't clean their rooms. They lack proper motivation!"

So, the third strategy was to motivate the children. Posters proclaiming Room Cleaning Is Job One appeared overnight. Motivational speakers such as Colin Powell, Barbara Bush, Zig Ziglar, and Debbie Fields were recruited to sing the praises of clean rooms. Each child was given a copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Room Cleaners, but the children still didn't clean their rooms. Frustrated, the parents met together to devise another approach. They hired yet another consultant who quickly exclaimed, "Of course your children don't clean their rooms. Your children are incorrigible. They simply can't clean their rooms."

So, a fourth strategy was chosen. The parents hired professional room cleaners to clean the children's rooms. It was a brilliant idea. Of course, it was expensive and it seemed somehow wrong that strangers had to be involved, but the results were fantastic. The rooms were spotless. Everyone lived happily ever after.

Now, you might think that this is the end of our fable, but there is more. Every year the room cleaners meet together in exotic places at conferences to learn the latest room cleaning techniques. Experts in the field give lectures such as:

  • Measuring Room Cleaning: Are You Getting the Results You Want?
  • Room Cleaning Under Impossible Deadlines
  • Heuristic Room Cleaning
  • Stepwise Improvement of the Room Cleaning Process
  • Five Reasons Your Room Cleaning Program May Fail

Each of these conferences contains the obligatory question and answer session in which a panel of experts pontificates on the great issues of the day. Without fail, a new room cleaner will ask this question, "Why don't the children clean their rooms?" What would your response be?

About the author

Lee Copeland's picture Lee Copeland

Lee Copeland has more than thirty years of experience in the field of software development and testing. He has worked as a programmer, development director, process improvement leader, and consultant. Based on his experience, Lee has developed and taught a number of training courses focusing on software testing and development issues. Lee is the managing technical editor for Better Software magazine, a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com, and the author of A Practitioner's Guide to Software Test Design. Contact Lee at lcopeland@sqe.com.

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