At a fine dining restaurant if I complained that I did not like the food; immediately the chef, waiter and the food taster run to the dining table to assure that I don’t feel disappointed and provide me an alternative as soon as possible. If you take a look behind the kitchen door then we will come to know that they take lots of precautions to make sure that this never happens at the dining table. Chefs have a tough time to keep taste and quality up to the mark irrespective of the availability of ingredients and limited time.
A typical restaurant is staffed with a chef, chef’s cooking assistants, butcher, waiters, manager, janitors, food tasters and a lot of machines which speed up the process of cooking. Cook’s best use of time is spent cooking the food, but does it mean the cook should not get a feel whether the food is cooked and is it as per the customization the waiter described?
Let us a take a scenario where the manager is able to hire more food tasters and shifts the burden of the quality to the food taster. Cooks will be able to create lots of dishes as per the recipe given by the chef without giving a second thought about the balance of ingredients, texture and the level of cooking required. The dish will ready to present in a finished state when it reaches the food taster, if any fault is found then the dish had to done from the beginning which will increase the workload of the cook further and reduce the output considerably as the reworks are expensive, eventually will make the customer wait more or increase dining table incidents.
What looked like a clever idea on paper backfires as cooking for fine dining is not something that could be made into a template and responsibilities could be in silos; it is a complex system with a strong feedback loop at every stage. The scene at programming is similar at many cases, developers are encouraged to write only the code and leave the testing to the QA as the perception is that the best use of a developer’s time is to make her code. Seasoned programmers know better that unit tests are also code, if you are not testing then you do not know what you program.
Programming is an emergent practice, which matches the complex domain in the Cynefin framework by Dave Snowden. Each project will be unique and a pattern will emerge over time which will be efficient for the team if there is a strong feedback loop. Trying to separate out of responsibilities like testing to just one small group will push the team into a cycle of code, test and fix with long feedback loops, eventually causing delays. Quality has to be assured at every stage of application development, responsiveness determines who is competitive in a complex environment.