Ivory Consulting’s CEO Scott Thacker provides advice and counsel to equipment lessors and lenders on the best ways to improve customer satisfaction and profitability using modeling and pricing techniques. His colleague David Holmgren contributed to this article.
In my role as CEO of Ivory Consulting, one of the three most important facets of my job is to ensure that our quality assurance activities are executed to the best of our ability. Toward that end, we have an initiative at our company known as QA First. It means that everyone must engage our quality assurance group at the beginning of each customer or internal project – it’s the most efficient way to ensure our quality assurance is the best it can be.
David Holmgren has led Ivory Consulting’s quality assurance efforts since he started working with us in 1996. Each month, David writes an internal blog known as the QA Corner. As David goes into his 10th year of blogging, I asked him to share with all of us one of his favorite posts. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
The Broken Window Theory and Software Quality Assurance
In 1982 a pair of social scientists introduced a theory about the effects of a broken window on social norms and disorders. Their proposition was that if a would-be criminal sees a broken window, he may conclude that this reflects the normal neighborhood condition, that further broken windows might not be noticed and that no one is in charge. The thinking goes that the would-be criminal would be more likely to attempt break-ins or other crimes. A similar image is that of an old abandoned bicycle. Left tied up on the sidewalk for a while, someone may steal the bell. After a while, the bike will magically fall apart as parts are stolen, as if rotting. The theory in both of these cases is that fixing small problems will prevent larger ones from developing. Numerous follow-on experiments have generally substantiated this.
A number of pundits have suggested a software corollary to this syndrome. (A related malaise is software rot or technical debt.) If small problems slide by unaddressed, could there be a risk of people assuming that bigger problems can go unaddressed as well? If no one fixes a newly-introduced bug promptly, then the impression could arise that no one cares. If resources cannot be found to fix easy bugs it might be even harder to find resources to fix the hard ones.
To quote Peter Antman, a respected software development manager and consultant to SmartBear Software:
“There are deep ramifications for software developers here. A broken build that is not fixed quickly is like a broken window. It signals that no one cares. It signals that it’s okay to break the build. Gradually, the morale will decrease. I’ve seen this happen, time and time again.”
His description may be harsh, but it makes a point. I hope that keeping quality assurance foremost in our minds will keep us from suffering a similar fate.
Let’s fix as many broken windows as fast as we can!
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