As the story goes that some masons were working on a project and a passerby asked the first one: “What are you doing?” The reply was: “Are you blind? Can’t you see that I’m placing bricks” The same question was taken to the second one and he had some clarity and thus replied: “I’m making a wall”. Still not sure so as what is going on, the stranger took the question to third mason and the reply was: “I’m making the front wall of National museum where work from renowned artists will be displayed”. This guy had the complete picture and though he’ll still be placing bricks but with the vision of what the final outcome will be.
Have you seen team members on software project where they are doing some basic work like fixing Defects or executing test plans (let’s call them ‘placing bricks’) but they don’t know the whole story? How many of them you think have the vision comparable to the third mason?
One way of forcing the team to think about the big picture is to introduce Systems Thinking approach. The best and long way is to have them read Jerry Weinberg’s excellent book on this subject ‘Introduction to General Systems Thinking’ and it can change the way you see the world. The short way is to introduce this holistic view of our world and ask around how it relates to the Software we work on, the impact it will have on our organization, the community that it serves and eventually the social impacts of it:
In a recent discussion with my fellow testers, I introduced this picture and asked if they can relate to their work with it. And believe me; we had a very productive discussion. For example, one of the projects that we have is a solution for Mechanical Equipment design which sounds quite boring, right? But how about that equipment is used in chocolate factories and who knows the next ‘Mars’ or ‘Dairy Milk’ I’ll pick from store is coming from the same factory. Wow, you know I’m making those chocolates better by working on my software :)
Another interesting way could be listening to this beautiful golden Hindi song ‘oh re taal milay nadi kay jal say’ which translates to: “the spring of water flows into the stream, the stream flows into the river and the river flows into the sea. And no one knows where the water of sea flows to?”
Do you think that team members need to have this big picture view? And I’ll be very glad to know so as if you have introduced some creative ways to achieve it?