I wrote about Goal displacement part I here. Surprisingly .. no comments yet ... :(
Here is example # 2
Software Testing Certifications: A conversation between a certification enthusiast (CE) and a critique (CC – that is me)
CE : Do you know about this certification for software testing, this is very popular in Europe and US?
CC: Yes, I do but I am not sure if this really helps in evaluating skills of our testers.
CE: I think it does. I have heard about exam it seems pretty exhaustive and coves all aspects of testing.
CC: Umm … what do you think the certification is testing? What and how does it evaluate testing skill of the candidate?
CE: Certification tests the “knowledge” of the tester, familiarity to terms, definitions and experience of the candidate…
CC : Really? How? How a certification tests knowledge and experience of the tester?
CE : By carefully selected questions and evaluation by testing experts. The certification exam is based on a body of knowledge and questions – mostly objective type. I think one can rely on the exam.
CC : So … you are saying an objective (yes/no and multiple choice) type question paper is used to test the skill and experience of a tester. Does the exam allows theory type of questions? Can the tester debate on an issue? Does the exam involve any kind of putting the tester into real testing situation? Does it observe the tester in action ?
CE : Come’on, how it is possible? Certification bodies have their limitations, they can not set up “practical exams” to watch tester doing testing and then rate. Do you want certification body to set up a audio/video facility to allow for debates, questioning and real time situation simulation?
CC : Don’t you think, that you would right and reasonable way to assess the skill of a tester not using a fixed set of questions that emphasizes on memory recall, reproduction of text of study material?
CE: That is right … Look at feasibility of having such exams … what about cost of administering such tests? What about evaluation? It would be costly. That is why the certification bodies might have created a scheme of tests that are easier to evaluate and conduct on mass scale. This will enable a relative cheaper exam and allow more people to take the exam Right?
CC: Well …good point. But what is the goal of certification exams? What they attempt to achieve?
CE: Evaluate and Assess skills and experience of a software tester.
CC: But your current exam seems to be structured in such way that it is easier to administer and evaluate.
CE : Ummm… that is correct.
CC: See this is what I call as Goal displacement. Certification bodies wanted to design, administer and evaluate a system of exam to evaluate and assess skill of a tester. But they seem to have taken the path of designing an exam system that is easier to administer.
The goal of software testing certifications is to act as a mechanism of evaluating skills in software testing and provide a benchmark for the talent in that space. As the popularity of such certifications grow, so grows the need for system for mass administration and evaluation. This causes the change in the examination pattern and evaluation mechanism to facilitate the mass administration. Any part of the exam that is good from skill evaluation perspective will be dumped if that does not lend itself to easier evaluation of exam results.
Software estimation models (especially test estimation models) often suffer from Goal displacement problems. Other day I told my colleage " The reason why we struggle with test estimates is that we use simplified model of testing while estimating but reality is different hence estimates are typically go wrong". For that he said -- "OK .... we know that actual testing models are complex (non linear and involve critical thinking/Questioning etc). That is why we use simplified models of testing ".... How strange ..!!!!
This is another example of goal displacement right away ... To make estimation possible - change the testing model itself ... use a simple one. So the goal of using a good and resonable testing model that happens to be complex (and does not lend itself that easily to estimation) is replaced by a goal of finding a testing model that is simple and easier to estimate ...
what should be your goal - good testing or estimation?