Javan Gargus on Underdetermination

Javan Gargus writes:

I was a bit taken aback by your assertion that the testing team may not have done anything wrong by missing a large defect that was found by a customer. Then, I actually thought about it for a bit. I think I was falling into the trap of considering Testing and Quality Assurance to be the same thing (that is a tricky mindset to avoid!! New testers should have to recite “Testing is not QA” every morning. ). Obviously, the testers are no more culpable than the developers (after all, they wrote the code, so blaming the testers is just passing the buck). But similarly, it isn’t fair to blame the developers either (or even the developer who wrote the module), simply because trying to find blame itself is wrongheaded. It was a failure of the whole team. It could be the result of an architecture problem that wasn’t found, or something that passed a code review, after all.

Clearly, there is still something to learn from this situation – there may be a whole category of defect that you aren’t testing for, as you mention. However, this review of process should be performed by the entire team, not just the testing team, since everyone missed it.

Javan raises some good points here, and I think his initial reaction is a common one. The key to me is that the people should be blamed last – the first thing to evaluate is the process. I think Javan is right on the money when he says that reviews should be performed by the entire team. After all, as Deming said, quality is everyone’s responsibility. What the development team (testers, developers and other stakeholders) should strive to do is to become what I’ve read James Bach call a “self critical community”. This is what has served the Open Source world so well over the years. The people are self critical in a constructive sense, and the process they follow flows from how they interact and create working software.