Maybe my title enticed you to read this, because that was the idea. Well something must have done, otherwise you would not have got as far as these words. However, it is not just an eye-catching title; it does relate to the content. And the content is testing!
In December 2013, I read a good article on-line by Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue Airways and attached to Stanford Business School. In this, there were some really solid ideas of useful things to pass on to the next generation, and particularly aimed at parents whose off-spring were about to spring off. With a title like “Life Lessons to Teach Kids Before They Leave Home”, it’s what you would expect! Things like ‘There’s no substitute for hard work’. Check it out if you’re interested. There were also some responses to the ‘lessons’: “good point”, “how about ….”, but the one that grabbed me was “Where is ‘Stay away from the Tattoo Parlor?’ ….”
Now I am not sure what James Funk (Vice President at F.C. Ziegler Co.) meant by his response. Did he meant real Tattoo Parlors? For me it meant situations where it is easy to decide in haste, and regret at leisure. So I am told, having a tattoo in the first place is so much easier and cheaper (and ‘guaranteed of success’) than having it removed. So in these circumstances, it is better to be really sure of your decision before it is too late. The removal of a tattoo could involve physical pain, financial cost and reputational damage. Do we want those in our working lives?
At the end of this article, I will leave you with some working-life tattoos I have seen, but before I do, I would like to expand on the three things that having to remove “a tattoo” could involve in the working environment. Physical pain could mean working excess hours (paid or unpaid) to resolve the situation. For many people, it is not whether it is paid or not paid that is the issue. Unexpectedly being required to rectify something can mess up all kind of plans, especially if it is something that with a little foresight could have been avoided. There is not only individual financial cost (and in one of the items listed below, it cost an employee his job!), but sometimes corporate cost – the product could not ship in time, or the volume of support calls meant 3 extra staff were required. Reputational damage can be harder to quantify, and can sometime be far more significant that the other two.
So, on to some ‘tattoos’. These are in no particular order, but each is a small action that caused real work far in excess of the time/money saved in the first instance.
- Removing comment lines in code (to make it run faster)
- Taking regular back-ups with no check that the back-up could actually be restored successfully
- Physically deleting all un-started test cases (to make the statistics look better)
- Not recording defects – tomorrow you may not remember
- Closing defects, merely to meet completion criteria
- De-scoping functionality that is required for other not de-scoped items to work. That is de-scoping without considering all the consequences
- “The Friday afternoon fix” – a small one-line change that we have not got time to test.
- “We will test it in Production”
- Leaving the Test environment in a broken state
- Manipulate the Test environment so that it is even less like Production
We live in an imperfect world, and in many situations there is never sufficient time to perform the testing that was planned, or in some cases is necessary. When advising on ship/no-ship decisions, there are difficult choices, and hard decisions have to be made. When making these hard decisions, consider whether we are truly staying away from the Tattoo Parlor. Hasty ‘Tattoo Parlor’ decisions can cost us all dear, and be difficult/lengthy to rectify, if this is possible. Even then, some tattoos are almost impossible to completely remove!
Peter Morgan, Freelance software tester @MorganpPeter