Friday, June 07, 2013

Are you measuring something that easy to measure or something that is important ?

Measurement is fabulous – Unless you are busy in measuring what is easy to measure as opposed what is important. – Seth Godin

... And what is important (and to whom and when) is often subjective and context based.

Thank you Mr. Godin for your sound advice that is useful for software folks
I have confirmation bias for bad metrics and measurements. We have obsession for measuring things to demonstrate that we are rational and objective humans (which we are not). It's amazing to see how Seth Godin in above post demonstrates "measuring sometihng that is easy to measure is waste".

"As an organization grows and industrializes, it's tempting to simplify things for the troops. Find a goal, make it a number and measure it until it gets better. In most organizations, the thing you measure is the thing that will improve"

Many people blame growth, size to "metrics menace" and say "how can we manage such volume of work if we do not have right metrics". Remember the thing that you measure will be victim of gaming and match fixing - people will change the behaviour to look good in terms of what is being measured. Look at our testing metrics - all easy to stuff to measure (sorry - simply count) - number of test cases, defects (and all dimentions of it), number of requirements (this is really bizzare), defect detection percentage, defect leakage rate, cyclomatic complexity and list is long - mostly all easy stuff to measure (in fact - simply count).

While what our users care is how software works (or does not work) - it is about those emotions (frustration, anger, happyness etc). Since these are important but difficult to measure (in some easily understandable numbers of percentages etc) - we take easy route. Pretend as though these do not matter at all or when confronted, wear "rational" hat and issue "scientific/engineering" statement "anything that cannot be measured - cannot be improved".

"And this department has no incentive to fix this interaction, because 'annoying' is not a metric that the bosses have decided to measure. Someone is busy watching one number, but it's the wrong one."

-- So true for software - our bosses (influenced by high flying software engineering/process consultants) have choosen to turn deaf ear to real "metrics" (that are tough to measure). Thus software developers or testers appear to have no incentive to "listen" and "fix" important issues that matters to users.

Software is developed, tested, used and maintained - in, for and by social enterprise and people are irrational, implusive, greedy and look for instant gratificatoin. Society (a name given to large number people living together) amplifies such indivitual traits.

We, software testers - need to adopt social sciences approach and stop aping practices of "enngineering processes" of a factory assembly line.

- Shrini

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