Why test “by the book”

The other day I was reading a blog post on agile and why agile will fail in many instances. One of the comments got my specific attention, the comment states the following:

” a process with little Agility due to the remains of the “old process”. ”

This is why by-the-book scrum is so powerful. Too many agile consultants try to fit agile into the existing org structure and processes, thereby allowing existing dysfunction to remain, or worse, covering it up. They try to modify everything right out of the gate, instead of just choosing scrum.

This got me thinking about why so many methodologies seem to get followers who treat “their” methodology as a religion. I have been pondering about the different development and testing methods, such as XP, Scrum, Lean for development life cycles and ISTQB, TMap and such for testing in particular.

In religions it is generally considered bad to be extreme in following the rules, hence the term extremist, whether this is an orthodox, katholic, jewish or islamic extremist, they are always considered to be dangerous to society. Isn’t it the same in software development and testing? Aren’t the people who go to extremes to follow the rules as dreamed up by some author also extremists that seem to lose sight of the context?

Thus far the best implementation of any methodology I have seen, is a form of hybrid, or as the Dutch would call it a “polder model”, where you make a compromise between “the book” and “what actually works for us as a team or organization”.

Are methodologies best practices then? Aren’t methodologies meant to help people get a frame of reference and fill that in for themselves, by thinking about the frame of reference, critizing it, adjusting it to their needs. Shaping the method in such a way that it works optimally for you, in this situation, in this particular context. When moving on to a new task or assignment, you can take these learnings with you and see what of it works for you within this new context and adjust whatever doesn’t work.

Maybe it is time for a new methodology, which ties in well with a solid development method by Zed A. Shaw. A possible working name could be “Testing, fuckwit!”.

2 thoughts on “Why test “by the book”

  1. Comparing testing and religions does not make sense. One is based on faith, the other on fact. Some things are best done by-the-book. You wouldn’t want to fly in a plane, or have surgery, without having the pre-flight/pre-ops checklist followed ‘by-the-book’, right?

    Also, I’ve seen a couple of companies that claim to scrum, but don’t. E.g.: Standing next to a whiteboard and making a daily todo list is not ‘doing scrum’.

    • The idea of comparing methodologies, not the act of testing, to a religion is not my own analogy. I took it from several places, one of them being Cem Kaner (http://context-driven-testing.com/?p=23) and others being colleagues and customers I have worked with who preach a certain method or methodology (Scrum, TMap, ISTQB, PrinceII etc.) as if it were a religion. Getting close to the situation where “if you’re not with us you’re against us.

      To me your analogy doesn’t work for me in this context, a pre-flight checklist is just that, a list with items on it that need to be checked. Somewhat like a test script or automated testing, it is a set of checks that can pass or fail and based on the outcomes you make a decision.

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