The windmills in Campo de Criptana in Spain still stand tall after centuries. They are famous for their appearance in the 1600’s novella Don Quixote, where a delusional Spanish noble set out to battle the windmills mistaking them for giants.
The story is a symbol of battling imaginary opponents. And what I find interesting is that those battles are impossible to win.
For the past decade, I’ve had the privilege to listen to testers and their troubles. I’m one myself after all. One of the biggest reasons why testing professionals complain about their work is the mindset problems they face.
Outsiders see testing as the downstream activity of development. Hence software arrives to us testers too late. We would like to test early and often.
There aren’t enough resources and time to do testing. We would like to test thoroughly and to get coverage and confidence.
The background information and specifications are always inadequate for doing the job. We would prefer deep and detailed release notes.
We talk about how our world should be in our seminars and conferences. We complain in the coffee rooms and plan strategies on how to change the organizations, processes and the mindset of other people. And we are right about it all. The world could be a better place regarding testing.
But at the same time, we fight a losing battle much as Alonso Quixote did in the books with the windmills.
Now you might say that the windmill giants were imaginary, but our testing problems are real! But let’s consider this further.
We only have a mental image of the ideal world for testers and what we perceive as problems are just the gap between the reality and our imagination. So I propose that our issues are as illusory as the giants were.
In testing, we are the hardcore professionals of the truth.
Our job is to see the product that we test as it truly is. Then we produce that objective information to our colleagues, clients, and bosses about it. This info comes for instance in the form of bug reports.
At the same time, we fail to deploy the same objectivity on our profession. What if we decided to see the world for what it really is and then start acting accordingly? What if we just accepted the fact we never have enough time, resources and information for testing? How would you change your practice to match the situation?
There is a two-step process for true professional level ups.
1. See the world as it actually is.
2. Do what works in relation to it.
In other words, the fastest way to mastery is not to complain in an attempt to change the world. Instead, we need change ourselves and our relationship to what already is.
And suddenly what at first seemed like a giant is a mere windmill once more.