Testing Culture – Excuses, Blame and Fear

I came across an interesting article which discussed common excuses that testers make:
http://thethinkingtester.blogspot.com/2019/05/seven-excuses-software-testers-need-to.html

There were 3 which I found particularly worrying:

  • The other tester on my team missed the bug
  • If I log the bug I found in production, I’ll be asked why I didn’t find it sooner.
  • There wasn’t enough time to test

If a tester needs to use these excuses, then the issue might not be with testing but with the company culture.

A company culture where colleagues are encouraged to make excuses, attempt to shift the blame on someone else, or instil enough fear so someone is afraid to report something critical is not a good one.

“There wasn’t enough time to test”

This particular excuse will always exist and it is a valid one. There will be strict release deadlines which can’t always be pushed back. When the software has to be released, it has to be released. The tester has very little control over this. However, it doesn’t mean that the tester is entirely blameless if a critical bug makes its way to live.

It is the testers responsibility to ensure that the tests are optimised and prioritised. Tests covering the most essential features should be run first. Tests should also be optimised so that they are run as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Occasionally, the tester may be in the unfortunate situation where there isn’t enough time to test even the most essential features. It is also the testers responsibility to communicate what the overall test coverage it to those making the decision to release. They need to be aware what was tested and what wasn’t tested. This allows them to make an informed decision about if the software can be released or not.

Provided the tester prioritised and optimised their tests, and accurately communicated what was and was not tested, they can hold their head high. They tested everything to the best of their ability with the resources they were given.

“The other tester on my team missed the bug.”

With the increasing complexity of software applications, it is likely that not all members of the team will have been involved in testing every single aspect. However, is it really worth blaming the sole tester who was testing that particular feature?

Instead of blaming a single tester, we should look at the overall testing process. If there was only 1 tester validating this particular feature, maybe assigning additional testers to each feature can prevent bugs slipping through the net.

We may also want to look at how the feature was tested. If the tests were conducted using manual or automated test cases, was this particular scenario covered? If not, then the test case should be reviewed and the test coverage assessed. It may even be worth including some exploratory testing so additional unscripted scenarios are covered.

It should be recognised that we are part of a wider team and we should all be working together to improve the quality of software applications. When a bug makes it through the cracks we must remember that testers are human. They are bound to miss things out. It is not possible to investigate every possible decision that could be made when using the software.

“If I log the bug I found in production, I’ll be asked why I didn’t find it sooner.”

First of all, the person blaming the tester needs to realise that it is better that the bug was found sooner rather than later. It will be much worse if a customer finds and reports the bug.

Second, when a defect is found in production, it still needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Reducing the impact of that bug for the customer should be top priority. When a fix has been released, we can start investigating what went wrong. However, the purpose of the investigation should not be to find out who to blame but to prevent a similar situation happening again.

Finally, if there are employees terrified enough not to report critical issues, then what else are they holding back on? Employees will work much better if they are not afraid of management. Honesty should be encouraged so any mistakes can be rectified sooner rather than later. Otherwise, it will be worse for the business.

I will repeat what I said earlier, testers are human. A few bugs are likely to make it through the cracks. Software is becoming increasingly complex, there are just too many ways for the software to go wrong.

Final point…

There is a TV series that is shown in various countries – The Apprentice. It involved a several candidates who are applying for a highly paid job or money to invest in a business. The candidates are split into teams and are given a business related task. The team that makes the most money from that task wins the round, and 1 person from the other team is fired. The firing process involves the candidates being interrogated in a board room. The candidates are encouraged to blame others for the failure, and defend their own actions. One person is eventually fired.

Personally, I hate this show. It promotes a toxic culture of fear and blame. What does this actually achieve? Isn’t it better to focus on learning from the mistakes, preventing them from being made in the future and improving the process?

If the tester is forced to use any of these excuses, then it might indicate an issue with the overall company culture, not the tester.

Main image taken from publicdomainpictures.net

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3 thoughts on “Testing Culture – Excuses, Blame and Fear

  1. robertday154

    Absolutely right. I’d go further.

    You said:
    ‘ “If I log the bug I found in production, I’ll be asked why I didn’t find it sooner.”
    First of all, if a tester really felt this way, they need to realise how much worse it will be if a customer then reports it. ‘

    I’d say that the person who needs to ask that question is the person who needs to consider how much worse it would have been if a customer had found the bug. If they are criticising someone for doing their job, then they need to consider their position.

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    Reply
    1. Louise Gibbs Post author

      Thanks for replying, I’ve decided to rewrite this paragraph as a result. The tester should never feel that they need to make this excuse. The person who is making the tester feel this way is the one promoting a blame culture.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. robertday154

        Yes; not only are they promoting a blame culture, but they also don’t understand testing – and they make the tester suffer as a result. (If this applies in any given organisation, then there’s an uphill battle to be fought there. How often that battle gets fought and won is another matter.)

        Like

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