Defects – Love ’em or Hate ’em. Depends on who you are?

Defects.  Your relationship to the product will likely determine your response to that word, but I don’t believe it should.  I’m a tester by trade (and nature, I like to believe), and my response is glee/excitement (this would be a Love ’em reaction).  Why? There are several reasons, some of which I will elaborate:

* Any defect I find means at least 1 less for the customer or users to find.
* Any defect I find should help improve the product (and, I hope, increases value).
* Any defect I find means my intuition and skills were up to the challenge (rewarding personally…about the only attaboy I normally get), or I was lucky, but I choose to believe the former.

All too often, however, defects can be met with hostility or anger from stakeholders (this would be a Hate ’em reaction).  Why?  Programmers think you’re picking on them, or they’re possibly angry at themselves for making a mistake.  Project/Product Managers are upset the schedule may slip, or defects will cause a loss of features. Sales is concerned that a late shipping product will cause a loss of sales.  Marketing may be concerned about upcoming marketing activities.  You get the idea.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way. I believe all project stakeholders (heck, all employees) should embrace defects for what they are…valuable feedback about the project.  By encouraging a Defects – Love ’em environment, the product should only improve.  Conversely, by encouraging a Defects – Hate ’em environment, you risk project or even company failure.  I have personal experience on both sides of the issue and what can happen in either environment, as I will briefly outline below.

I’ve worked at several places where defects were discouraged, either through developer “feedback” or through project stakeholder “terrorism”.  The “feedback” usually took the form of angry denials, dismissal of findings or outright hostility as if I was calling the developer out personally.  The “terrorism” took many forms, but generally boiled down to threats of firing, loss of contracts or some other disciplinary or retaliatory action.  With 1 exception, the places I have experienced this at have ceased to exist.  The one that still exists is a juggernaut that had (perhaps still has) an elite “class” of employees for whom the realities of rapid development and outsourcing had not yet begun to impact.  Projects at each of these locations often took longer, or went over budget, or both, and were far more of a grind than they should have been (late days, weekends).  That also does not account for the post-release efforts (maintenance, bug fixes), which in at least 2 cases I know of were actually what caused the company to shutdown.  In these cases, the judgment was clear. Defects – Hate ’em.

My current team is very good about encouraging defect discovery and submission.  Of course, they will sometimes groan about them, but most defects are met with the determination to get the product done (and done “right”).  Often there will be some good-natured ribbing amongst the team members about defects in certain areas.  Collectively, the team “owns” the defects found, and actively attempt to discover and fix as many as possible, often poaching each others assigned issues as they work through the list.  To further this model, the team will participate in a collaborative group testing effort we refer to as “test-fests”.  This environment has led to a very successful product, with minimal post release issues encountered.  While this example may not be a clear case of Defects – Love ’em, it definitely qualifies as Defects – Like ’em (a lot!).

While I realize I haven’t provided an overwhelming amount of evidence either way, I hope I have provided enough to get you thinking about your environment and how your stakeholders/team respond to defects.  As a tester, I’d love to see real excitement when defects are found/fixed.  I believe this leads directly to a better product with less issues, and the issues found are dealt with quickly and decisively, without rancor.  In my experience, a Defects – Love ’em mentality will lead to success, while a Defects – Hate ’em mentality will lead to ruin.  Strive to perpetuate a Defects – Love ’em environment by remembering my first 2 bullet points:

* Any defect found means at least 1 less for the customer or users to find.
* Any defect found will improve the product and it’s value.

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