Getting Good at Being Bad

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Now, I'm not advocating that we become whiners, wallowing in past mistakes or dwelling on dire predictions. But there is a big difference between dealing with issues and covering them up. Successfully dodging a hail of bullets on your way home is not the same as living in a safe neighborhood. Just because production wasn't down (or at least not for long) doesn't mean there was no impact: There is a very real cost in terms of loss of productivity, lower morale, and increased stress. And, of course, every so often there is a problem that can't be covered up or recovered from quickly enough.

The best strategy is somewhere in between whining and denying. It should be imperative to identify any issues that occur in production and perform some degree of root cause analysis—not for placing blame but for figuring out how it could have been prevented. These incidents should also be tracked for trends—is production becoming more or less stable over time? Are process improvements having any effect? One of the most successful test managers I know of consistently receives his requested budget by demonstrating a direct impact on production incidents.

What is the culture in your company? Is everyone so focused on how things look that they are ignoring how they really are, or is honesty permitted, even encouraged, as a means of improvement? Does your management really grasp the risks of cutting quality corners along the way, or do they think they are getting away with it?

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