9.1. Don Quixote, Champion of Quality: What's Your Job, Anyhow?
Don Quixote, the immortal character created by Miguel Cervantes, is a minor Spanish nobleman who decides that he is by birth a knight-errant. Venturing forth on a quest with his squire Sancho Panza, he stumbles into a series of misadventures, jousting with a giant who is actually a windmill, and defending the honor of a maiden named Dulcinea who turns out to be a prostitute.
I admit that I've held some quixotic positions in my career. The most notable came with the title "Quality Assurance Manager." I considered myself the test manager, while everyone else drew his or her own conclusions about what I was to do. With the budget I had, I was lucky to do a passable job of testing. One of my development manager peers suggested that I focus on working with the programmers to build a higher level of quality in the product, but I wasn't appropriately staffed for that role. What my managers wanted me to do, specifically, and how I would know that I was succeeding— in other words, the scope of my job—remained undefined. This was a political error on my part.
I have drawn my own boundaries too widely once or twice as well. It's tempting to decide that you, the test manager, are the lone defender of product integrity. From the point at which you make this decision, it's but a short rid e to the windmill and Dulcinea. Looking back on these events, I feel vaguely embarrassed that I took myself so seriously while playing Don Quixote. ...