It was a long and busy day at work. I had several things that had to be done at home before retiring for the day. My five year-old needed a bath and the lawn needed mowing. I asked my sixteen-year-old to put the little one in the bath while I mowed the lawn. She agreed to do so. Mowing the lawn takes about an hour and a half.
When I came back in, I noticed my five-year-old's hair was not washed. I inquired of the older one why this was so. Her response, "you did not ask me to wash her hair." Seriously... seriously?! We had a conversation about implied requirements. I found the whole thing funny, only because I know that the teenage brain does not engage quite as it should, but I also found I was taught a lesson in mediocrity.
Doing only that which is asked/required, in my opinion, is mediocrity.
In my years of working, whether as a tester or not, I have had to work with people who simply do what they are asked/required to do. They do not go beyond the call of duty. I have often found great difficulty in working with people who exhibit this type of behavior. It is easier for me to work with people who openly admit to not "give a damn" then it is for me to work with people who approach a job with mediocrity. How can you argue with someone who actually does what you asked them to do? How can you argue with someone who meets the requirements you laid out?
Here is an extreme example of mediocre performance:
A person gets hired at a restaurant to work in the kitchen on the night shift. He/she is told to do the dishes. The supervisor comes into the kitchen in the morning and sees pots/pans/silverware/glasses/coffee cups all over the counter. A meeting transpires between the new hire and the supervisor.
"You were told to do the dishes last night," says the Supervisor.
"I did the dishes," says the New Hire.
"When I walked into the kitchen this morning there were dishes all over the place," says the Supervisor.
"This is highly unlikely, as I know for a fact that I did all the dishes last night," says the New Hire.
They walk into the kitchen together to see/determine what was going on.
"See, this is what I came in to see this morning," says the Supervisor.
"Yes, this is the way I left the kitchen last night. What is the problem, I met the requirements, I did what I was asked to do," says the New Hire.
"How can you say you 'met the requirements' when all these pots/pans/silverware/glasses/coffee cups are all over the counters?" inquired the
Supervisor in a bit of a surprised tone.
"These are NOT dishes," said the New Hire.
Can the supervisor argue with that? Did the New Hire do what was required? Some organizations would say "yes", but these are not the organizations that excel/succeed/profit. Some organizations would begin to kill trees by creating a procedure/policy for each job. Maybe the kitchen job would have a list of things for the New Hire to do when asked to do the dishes. Some organizations would say "no" and begin to address the issue with the employee. This is Employer/Employee responsibility. This is what is necessary to maintain the health/success of a business.
I stumbled upon a really good article on Motivating the Mediocre, which is from the health care industry. While this article might not be directly related to software testing, but it really addresses the issue of employees who exhibit mediocre performance and the possible ramifications this has on the business.
The article defines two possible problems: "Is it a matter of ability or a matter of willingness?" Some people simply do not know what is required/expected of them or when to step outside the defined task. Some are afraid to venture past the boundaries that they percieve are set. Some people simply do not want to do anything more than what is required of them. Figuring this out requires communication and patience. It also requires a willingness to do something about the problem once it is known/defined.
Are you striving to go outside the box? Once you know what you are required to do, do you ask "what is/are the missing/implied requirement(s)"? Do you approach your job as a service to the stakeholders? Or do you feel your job is a paycheck?
If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to go the extra mile. Do not settle for mediocrity in yourself or in those you work with. Go beyond the requirements, try to understand the needs of those you work with. Communicate with those you feel might be putting forth mediocre performance. This is the beginning of success on a personal level, a team level, and an organizational level.