The Unfortunate Triumph of Process over Purpose

James Christie, Claro Testing

As a test manager, James Christie experienced two divergent views of a single project. The official version claimed that planning and documentation were excellent, with problems discovered during test execution being managed effectively. In fact, the project had no useful plans, so testers improvised test execution. Creating standardized documentation took priority over preparing for the specific problems testers would actually face during testing. The required documentation standards didn't assist testing; they actually hindered by distracting from relevant, detailed preparation. It was a triumph of process over purpose. James shows that this is a problem that testing shares with other complex disciplines. Devotion to processes and standards inhibits creativity and innovation. They provide a comfort blanket and a smokescreen of “professionalism” where following the ritual becomes more important than accomplishing the goals. Unless we address this issue, organizations will question whether testers really add value. Testers must respond by challenging unhelpful processes and the culture that encourages them. Purpose must come before process!

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