I’m not in the Butt Covering Business

I got an interesting chat the other day from one of the developers on my team.  He wanted us to attach testing results to defects so that we could prove what testing had been done as part of the defect fix.  My first question was to ask what was motivating this change.  In the course of the conversation it came out that some of the more senior management had gotten upset about automated regression test passing rates dipping due to changes from some defect fixes and so the developers wanted to be able to point to something that ‘proved’ what testing had been done.  What they basically wanted was some way to cover their butts.

The proposal was that we attach results of test runs to defects.  My ‘I hate paperwork’ flags where up all over the place and we had a conversation about how ISO 9000 compliance does not mean heavyweight, paperwork driven processes like this.  We will also be continuing this conversation in a full team meeting, but at the end of the day the part about this that I really don’t like is the idea that testing is about covering your butt. I think that completely misses the entire point of what makes testing valuable.  I am not in the butt covering business.  I’m in the thinking tester helping to get good quality product shipped more quickly business.  I’m in the helping fix the problems that are hurting our quality business.  I’m in the do what it takes to get our builds running smoothly business. I’m in the help you understand the risks better business.  But I most assuredly am not in the butt covering business.

We will continue the conversation and talk about how to best deal with the concerns senior management has about test pass rates.  We will talk about what the real risks are to the product and how we can communicate those to senior management.  We will talk about what things we can do to ensure that we are indeed doing adequate testing on defect fixes.  We’ll talk about all these things, and perhaps the answer will even be that we need to do more paperwork (I’m trying to keep an open mind here), but if that is the answer, I want us to do it because it helps us do our job better as a team and not because it covers our butts.

It is ok to make mistakes sometimes.  It is even ok to get in trouble once in a while for your goofs.  What is not ok is doing a lot of work for something that does not add any value to the product.  Don’t worry about covering your butt.  Worry about being good at producing high quality software.

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