The Zero-Defect Vision: Common Sources of Errors in Development

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Summary:
Examine the common sources of errors in product development activities. By being aware of the things we can change in our environments, we can reach our goal of preventing errors. Then, a number of techniques can be employed in order to help teams work towards a zero-defect goal.

In part 1 of "The Zero-Defect Vision," I explore how to develop strategies to eliminate errors and prevent defects in your product or service. Here, I will examine the common sources of errors in product development activities

People
In order to be able to recognize, and prevent, human error, it is important to understand that developing technology is a people business. Completely eliminating human error is not possible, so we should focus on minimizing the conditions that increase the possibility of error. Some of the factors to pay close attention to are:

  • Lack of knowledge, skills, or ability
  • Mental errors
  • Sensory overload
  • Repetitive strain or exhaustion
  • Distractions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of emotional control

This is where we rely on other parts of the organization to help employees ensure that a good social environment exists, and that the right people—with the right skills—are put in the right positions, giving them the best chance for success. Managing by spreadsheets has been the worst violation I have seen in our industry, because it takes the human element out of the picture. Managers move people around, often overloading them on project assignments as long as their full time equivalent total is within their budget. This practice is unrealistic and causes much stress in the worker ranks. In fact, I deplore the use of the term “resources” when talking about people. In any conversation, when I hear someone use the term “resources” when talking about people, I stop them and say, “Do you mean people?” That catches on pretty quickly and has a way of changing the way they think.

Methods
It’s important to have the right people in place, and you must set them up in the right conditions for developing a product. You need to have a good set of methods to use in the development process, including process steps, transportation (information, people, technology), and decision making. Improper methods are often the cause of errors. Methods include:

A good process will quickly expose the problems that exist in creating value for a customer. Having courage and determination to face these problems head-on while making changes to improve is key to producing products faster at higher quality.

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About the author

Bob Schatz's picture Bob Schatz

In July 2006 Bob Schatz started Agile Infusion LLC in order to provide advice, consulting, and training to companies using agile development techniques such as Scrum and XP. Bob served as VP of Development for Primavera Systems, Inc. where he was responsible for leading the highly-successful adoption of agile development techniques starting in 2002 for the team that develops Primavera’s software solutions for Enterprise Project, Resource, and Portfolio Management. Before joining Primavera, Bob spent seven years at Liquent, Inc., managing the development of publishing software targeted for the pharmaceutical market, and 12 years at GE Aerospace/Lockheed Martin, where he held various management positions for large-scale development projects for US government agencies and the Department of Defense. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Temple University and a Masters degree in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania. Bob is a leader in successfully implementing agile development techniques, such as Scrum and XP, and driving culture changes in organizations. He and his team have been featured in a number of industry articles. Bob often speaks at industry events talking about the benefits and challenges of bringing agile techniques into an organization.

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