Posts Tagged “assurance”
Jul 19, 2009
Those who know me professionally know that I care a lot about software quality assurance. I think it’s a mostly misunderstood field, and generally “the world” would be better off with more QA (and/or better QA). Of course, I’m always looking for more arguments to support my view :-D and the last one I found came from a very interesting blog post, Plane Crashes, Software Failures, and other Human Errors. This post explains how mistakes are made in the aviation and healthcare industries, and claims something that sounds shocking but actually makes quite a bit of sense: “errors occur most often when a senior, experienced person is performing”. The reason why it doesn’t happen as often when the less experience person is performing (again according to the blog post): “because it means the second pilot isn’t going to be afraid to speak up”.
That got me thinking. No matter how expert one person is, he can’t take all the right decisions without help and feedback: a second opinion is always useful and can save the team from embarrassing (or, in some cases, fatal) consequences. A second opinion can give perspective or aspects not thought of by the first person.
If you apply this to software development, I can’t help thinking that one of the roles of QA fulfils this need: being experts in the field that provide second opinions and critiques on anything the team decides or produces. And they shouldn’t feel afraid to speak up because… well, it’s their job after all. And while yes, fellow developers could serve as “second opinion” too, having a more or less formal position for a “Quality Assurance Engineer” is helpful for a variety of reasons. First, as I said the chances of being afraid to speak up are much lower, because it’s their job. Second, not producing the result themselves gives some perspective that people having to fight with everyday details can have, but usually don’t; at least not as much. And last but probably important, it’s their job so they can focus on it and they don’t stop doing it because “they have deliveries soon” or because “they don’t have time”.
Finally, there is another blog post, linked from the above, that also supports my vision of QA: Toyota “Stop the Line” mentality. But this one is about processes and taking a step back when something is wrong, trying to find the root cause instead of an immediate solution. Enjoy the blog posts :-)
Dec 17, 2008
That’s the title of a really good book by Scott Berkun, the fella that was project manager for Internet Explorer when it could still be called a browser ;-) The Myths of Innovation is very easy to read, funny and has some food for thought. It dissects a bunch of myths about innovation and innovators, points out typical difficulties and dangers that innovators face, and analyses why these myths are common, why people like them, and why they are so handy to refer to the history and reality of innovation, which is of course much more complex.
One chapter that made me think a lot was chapter 7: “Your boss knows more about innovation than you”. It explores the relation between (traditional) management and innovation, and claims that managers can work against innovation if they just try to increase efficiency and keep things under control. In that sense, quality assurance engineers can be like those project managers, so I wondered a lot about my role and my duties with regards to innovation. On the one hand, you do have to control things that are being done and be conservative to a certain extent. On the other hand, innovation is such an important part of an IT company (particularly if it’s Internet-related) that you really don’t want to risk blocking or stifling it.
Fortunately, it also explains how to keep the workplace open to innovation, including things like having toys and “funny” things at the office. It turns out that they’re not there to spoil the employees, but to provide an environment where people feel free to “think different” and are not afraid of new ideas or to say what they think.
All in all, I think it’s a great book. Recommended!