Monday, February 4, 2013

A Lesson From the Super Bowl: Never Underestimate Momentum

No, I really am not going to pontificate on the Super Bowl all that much today. To tell the truth, I'm not all that much of a football fan. Sure, I'll watch a game here and there, but I'm nowhere near as obsessed as many of my friends are. Even with the teams including my home town 49ers, I really didn't pay that close attention to this season, so I was watching mostly out of curiosity and home town pride (and since I was working my way through a Selenium book, half an eye, at that).

So many are going to talk about all of the things that happened, the early dominance by the Ravens, the lights going out shortly after halftime, and the miraculous comeback of the 49ers that came oh so close to tipping the game, and had they done so, would have set a Super Bowl record for the greatest comeback win in SuperBowl history. Granted, that didn't happen, but the game went from what looked like a sure blowout to a "very near run thing". The factor in each case? Momentum.

Momentum is one of the great laws of physics. In fact, it's Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion, paraphrased as "an object at rest tends to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to stay in motion". Another way of looking at this is with the Law of Inertia:

A body will preserve its velocity and direction so long as no force in its motion's direction acts on it.

In short, once an object gets momentum, it takes great force to turn the tide. Great discoveries are made with momentum. Great obstacles are overcome with momentum. large lineman and fast receivers are likewise hard to overcome without great force and speed. For the first half of the game, it looked like the Raven's had the whole game bottled up.

...and then the lights went out. This caused a delay of game for about 20 minutes. It also snapped the momentum of the Ravens. For all practical purposes the second half of the game was dominated by the 49ers, and the Ravens watched their lead shrink to just two points towards the end of the 4th quarter. They were able to widen the lead by three additional points and ultimately win the game, but up until the two minute warning, it really looked like it could go either way. That's the value of momentum, both physical and psychological.

Testers, we often get to have momentum used against us. We hope to test, but we often get crushed by the speed and the urgency of a release. The momentum is on movement, and thus, we can be put at a disadvantage when we as "special teams" are deployed too late. Instead, it would be wise for us to create our own momentum, both with when we test and how we test. To overcome momentum crushing us, we need to get into the testing game early. When? First requirements development. We have a chance to test even at this early stage, and we can provide a strong voice of clarity to help this process and, yes, perform real testing early in the process. Wait too late and a discovery of a flaw in a requirement will not just be difficult to overcome, it may be impossible. Instead, let's do what we can to tackle those issues before they get momentum.

Also, have you noticed that when you get into a solid groove with your testing, when you're "on a a roll", you find so many more interesting things than when you are rushed or have to focus on a lot of different things? Momentum works for us here, too. It may not be practical to invest several hours into testing a particular area, at leas not all at one time, but set up sessions that are timed and focused anyway. Using allotted time and a narrow focus, you can develop momentum that can really get you moving, and then you'll be amazed at the ground you cover.

Momentum just plain works. It works in sports, it works in government, it works in finance, and it works in testing. Don't be one who gets acted on by momentum, do what you can to be part of the initial process and then build the momentum necessary to win.