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On Unintended Consequences or Self-Blindness to Risk (Rhythm of Testing)

On April 1, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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As I write this, it is the early afternoon of Sunday, April 1, 2012. 

I was sipping a cup of very nice coffee, reading student self-reviews for the Foundations Course of BBST that I am an assistant instructor for (this go-round!)  and a story on the news threw me back 1 day shy of 30 years.

On April 2, 1982, military forces of Argentina invaded the British holding of the Falkland Islands.  There had been a long-standing dispute over Argentina gaining/regaining control over this small archipelago that had been a British possession for generations.

There was a large naval battle fought between Germany and Britain in December of 1914, during the First World War.  At the time, it was an important refueling and resupply depot for the Royal Navy – if Germany could seize the island group, it would prove to be a heavy blow to the British, and replace the base the Germans had lost at Tsingtao a short time earlier.  The German squadron could also refuel themselves since coal was in short supply.  The Royal Navy scored a decisive victory there, sinking or capturing six of the eight ships in the German squadron.  The naval victory in 1914 put the Falklands in an almost mystical place in the history of the Royal Navy.

In the midst of growing economic unrest, the military junta ruling Argentina decided that it was time to more aggressively act to raise patriotic sentiment and firmly grasp a nationalist ambition by regaining sovereignty over this small collection of islands off their coast.  It was believed that Britain was unwilling, and possibly unable, to respond militarily to a challenge in the South Atlantic over the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Remember what the economy was like globally in 1981 and 1982?  Argentina was not the only country that was having economic problems.  They seized a holding of another country that was also having its own economic problems, with a Prime Minister who was not terribly popular at the time.

The small Royal Marine contingent was overwhelmed and surrendered.  Word of the invasion reached London.  There was a furor over the Argentinians attacking/seizing/invading part of the British pantheon of Naval Victories.  The Empire struck back.

A task force was dispatched and the Argentine forces in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, surrendered after a string of British victories.  Yes, there were a series of blows that hurt the British – two destroyers and two frigates were sunk, along with two other ships that were destroyed, and a number of aircraft.  The Argentine forces lost a submarine and a cruiser, a World War Two vintage ship that was sunk by a British submarine, along with scores of aircraft.

Both sides had their operational problems that led to mistakes that led to lives lost and failed operations.  There were some 3,000 people killed or wounded in this brief fight.  There were over 11,000 Argentine military forces captured.

Margaret Thatcher soared in popularity for a time.  The protests against the Argentine junta  increased and it eventually collapsed – the exact opposite of what their planners intended.

Two things stand out in my mind from this that apply to testing:
1. Deluding yourself over the potential for failure can be career (or at least job) ending;
2. Evaluate the real risks involved, honestly.

Know what the risks are.  Know what the likely results are.  Know what the possible results are.  Know that you can not control everything – and sometimes you can control nothing.  Plans are great, as long as you don’t expect them to be carried out precisely as they are written.  Planning helps us understand what problems may be encountered.  No plan survives initial contact with the enemy.

Oh.  One positive thing did come out of this.  A really nice pipe tune was written by a bagpiper in the British Army who fought in this campaign.  The Crags of Tumbledown Mountain is a really nice tune on pipes.

 

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