Tests, Exercises and Drills

I know this just adds to the “jargon problem” I so often talk about in my blog posts, but today I am going to use our words to differentiate program testing techniques.

It has become in vogue to say: “We do not ‘test’ our plans; we ‘exercise’ our plans.  Testing implies pass/fail while exercising implies getting stronger.  We do exercises to strengthen our programs.”  (I used to say this, too.  That’s how come I’ve got it down so well.)

Well, that’s great and good – I think exercises are crucial and you do indeed want to strengthen your program – but, I don’t think you only exercise alone.  I think there are times when, indeed, you do want to test your programs, give them a pass/fail grade as a means of validating the ability of the plans and solutions to meet your recovery/continuity objectives.

In fact, I think the first thing you want to do is to “test” your program.  Make sure that it works.  Put it to the test.  Once you have proven the solutions and strategies in place do work and can pass the test, then you start to exercise it to strengthen and improve the process.

Furthermore, I think there is a third technique to employ.  Once you have strengthened your program through a series of exercises you may want to start to construct your sessions as drills.  In a drill you simply repeat a proven and strong process over and over again to condition the participants to react in a certain way when the plans are engaged.  In the military and in martial arts, you drill over and over again to change your reflexive actions so when a particular action is required, you behave in a certain way instinctively without having to think about it, or without having to rely on an instruction manual.

So, in summary, I think in a comprehensive program you want to include:

  • Tests – to validate that the solutions and strategies work
  • Exercises – to improve the effectiveness and efficiencies in executing the solutions and strategies
  • Drills – to condition role players to respond and react in a certain way

I think most programs actually do follow this method, without really knowing it.  And, yes, most programs are at the point in the evolution where exercises are the technique they should be using – they are not quite ready for drills, yet.  I simply suggest that we do not necessarily limit our vocabulary to the use of the word ‘exercise’ at the expense of ‘test’ and ‘drills’.

After all, it would be awful if we strengthened our ability to act in a way that couldn’t pass the test.

Thank you for your input.