The other day I was watching a fantastic discussion on SBS TV regarding one of the fastest growing epidemics in the western world – Type 2 Diabetes. The discussion centred around claims made by UK-based TV presenter Dr. Michael Mosley, who has recently published a book based upon scientific evidence (provided by another UK based specialist) that we can now reverse the symptoms (and sometimes cure) Type 2 Diabetes. There were many Type 2 Diabetes sufferers in the studio audience and they were all asked if they would follow the dietary regime prescribed in Dr. Mosley’s book (800 calories on food per day for 8 weeks), if it meant that their Type 2 Diabetes would go away. At this point I should highlight that Type 2 Diabetes can cause blindness and limb amputation to name but two rather nasty issues. It can also lead to death at a much earlier age than expected for your socio-economic group. On top of the book/study evidence there were other audience members who had reversed/cured their Type 2 Diabetes just by changing their diet.
The body of evidence for reversing/curing Type 2 Diabetes seemed pretty damn strong to me. The option of changing ones diet (and, remember, in Dr. Mosley’s book for just 8 weeks) also seemed pretty straightforward. So, I was completely gob-smacked when the majority of Type 2 Diabetes sufferers in the audience said they would NOT consider changing their diet to reverse/cure their illness. To me, the thought of going blind, just so that I can continue to eat a MacDonald’s whenever I felt like it, seemed ludicrous in the extreme, but people in the audience (who appeared to be of, at least, average intelligence) seemed more than happy to continue along a path to more pain and suffering. Surely, the evidence was strong enough. Surely, the likely adverse outcomes were scary enough. Surely, just changing your diet for 8 weeks was worth the effort….
To me, this story is akin to hundreds of discussions I’ve had over the years with people who don’t respond to the software testing is good for you body of evidence. If an above-average intelligence human being is comfortable with going blind, just so they can continue to eat their favourite ice-cream three times a week, then what chance do we have of convincing someone with a similar belief system to spend time and money testing software.
I have spent hundreds of hours building Business Cases for software testing initiatives only to be told – “We can’t afford it” or “My business partners won’t agree to delaying the launch of our product”. I have spent even more time demonstrating likely (non just worst case) scenarios for adverse outcomes, if insufficient testing is performed, and still I get the cold shoulder!!
So, what is it that causes rational, intelligent human beings to ignore scientific evidence and obvious personal/business risk and take a punt on Lady Luck? In my experience there are many reasons, but the most common are ego and apathy. Ego rears it’s ugly head on so many levels when it comes to decision making – especially among alpha males – and there usually plenty of those of major software projects. I can usually deal with egos (in fact it’s quite easy to manipulate someone with an oversized ego) but apathy is another story. Apathy has no energy to tap into. Apathy is like a black hole in the solar system. Apathy is usually catching, in that it spreads like a fungus throughout organisations. Apathy is the half-brother to cynicism. Apathy sucks the life-blood out of people.
In my experience there are two options when it comes to dealing with apathy. The first is to just walk away and let some other poor sap waste their time and energy – I’ve certainly done this in extreme situations where my best efforts were wasted/ignored. The second option is to provide real life examples (based upon the context within which the organisation is operating) of what will happen when a specific problem is encountered. The most effective way I have found to do this is to model the business (or part thereof) and create the adverse outcome deliberately and then watch what happens when the penny drops with those present. I’ll share an excellent example of a challenge I was having with a logistics company where I was having trouble getting sign-off for a specific set of test scenarios for their delivery drivers….
We wanted to conduct a series of tests relating to the vehicles’ GPS. The client believed that the technology was solid and proven and that no specific testing was required. I then created a situation where the GPS failed at 4pm on a Friday afternoon during a completely separate set of physical tests with the delivery vans. Six drivers were on the road in various parts of London at this time and we were able to crash all of the GPS devices remotely. What happened next was priceless. Only one of the drivers (a woman) followed the training they had received and called base for instructions. The other five drivers (all men!!) tried to navigate their way to their next few deliveries before returning to base. None of these five drivers completed their delivery schedule. All of the drivers were late with the deliveries they had scheduled and when we contacted the (test) customers later all said they would have cancelled or thought seriously about their future buying intentions. They also all said that they would have accepted later deliveries if they had been warned of the problem. This example ended up being a combination of both of the issues I mentioned earlier – ego AND apathy. Ego reared it’s head with the drivers not believing that they needed to ask for help and apathy came from the head of logistics.
In truth, I didn’t expect such a spectacular fail, but from that day on I had no trouble convincing the heads of departments regarding the test scenarios that we planned to initiate.
Dateline: Melbourne, Tuesday March 8, 2016