Monday, August 31, 2009

One of the "Something Old" Variety

Back in 2007, I started a blog called just “Software Qualities.” Not long after, I needed to change jobs and ended up in a rather restrictive IP situation which caused me to stop blogging after hardly any posts – 2 to be specific. So while I collect myself after Agile 2009 and having caught up on 4 days of meeting notes, I thought I’d repost at least one of the original posts. I've posted it as it was to avoid being revisionist since I don’t think that differently today. So here it is, over 2 years later.


There are a lot of places where people can, and do, write about quality and about software quality in particular. What I hope to do with "Software Qualities" is write about (and have people write back about) ideas on what quality (mostly related to software, but not exclusively) means from a product, process, personal, professional, whatever perspective.

Why yet another place to go on about quality? Because I think it's very important and not just some theoretical subject (though there's plenty of theory out there).

What (finally) prompted me to start this blog was a fortune cookie message that said "Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you." Though it sounds a bit 60's "instant karma"-ish, I think this is quite a practical idea, though not always easy to do on a day-to-day basis.

I wrote a letter to the ASQ's Quality Progress editor a few years ago (and may someday expand into an actual article) which suggested that, in all the years of training, consulting, and speaking, I have never run into anyone who believes they consciously head to work intending to do a bad job. However, I've run into very few people who claim they go to work intending (or at least really knowing how or expecting) to do an excellent job. I also suggested that I thought most people end up do "the best they can" to "get by" that day as various pressures begin to weigh on them.

Then, recently, I was at a local ASQ section talk about management and leadership, which was actually quite good. In the course of the talk, the speaker stated that -- influenced by the style of management and/or leadership -- people will largely do just enough on their job to "stay out of trouble" and that more than 50 percent of people are "disengaged" on their jobs. The speaker stated this was based on formal research and it seemed to match my experiences with people's answers during my training, consulting, and speaking.

Again, nobody intends to do a "bad" job, but whether they really feel they can do their "best," whatever that means to them, let alone do an "excellent" job, whatever that means to them, seems to be a real question.

On the other hand, Deming suggested people "doing their best" was insufficient to achieve quality as he meant it.[1] I've worked several places where that was, indeed, the performance value and suggesting that it was insufficient would produce a reaction somewhat like, "Well, if we cannot rely on people doing their best to get the quality we want, what in the world can we rely on?" I would claim that this approach suggested that, if we were failing to get the quality we wanted, it was because, somewhere out there in the organization, there were people not "doing their best" and this pushed pursuit of quality into a "moral" rather than "engineering" direction. Maybe this is why people just work to "get by" because failure says something very disturbing to them personally give the moral approach to quality that, I believe, it does not have to.

Just some initial thoughts to get this rolling, then.

Do you agree with any of this? Do you experience this yourself or do you see it in others? What do you think "doing your best" has to do with achieving "quality"?

[1] Deming's original statement was “It is not enough to just do your best or work hard. You must know what to work on.”

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