My father, whom I’m very proud of, was a firefighter and EMT for most of his working career. In firefighting when you arrive on scene you need to quickly assess whether there are victims or occupants in the structure that need rescue. The first step and most important duty of the responding firemen is to perform a “Primary Search” of the structure. This search is typically a wide sweep of the structure but more often than not doesn’t include the entire structure.
Take a look at this article about the challenges of a Primary Search: Conducting a Primary Search
This really caught my attention because this is similar what I face as a tester on a daily basis. Granted what I’m dealing with is not life or death but the environment is equally uncertain. As testers we can’t go everywhere in the software looking for problems. As testers we must learn how to quickly assess whats important, and recognize that each situation is different. Frequently I find that what worked last time won’t work this time, which means I must be cognizant of my context as it changes and switches.
Just as each fire scene is unique, each application, project, build, and request is unique. Like firemen we need to know how to do a Primary Search of our software knowing that it might be different each time. Project to project, week to week, day to day, we need to be flexible and willing to change our approach.
Ultimately there is no one right way to do this search , but search we must. Embrace your changing context and change with it.