The Zero-Defect Vision: Error-proofing Your Way to Quality

Bob Schatz helps you develop strategies to eliminate errors and prevent defects in your product or service.

How many times have you had the conversation at work about how software is so complex and it should be an accepted fact that there are going to be a significant number of defects? Would you be comfortable if your doctor, surgeon, airline pilot, bridge-builder, car manufacturer, or pharmaceutical company had similiar conversations?

It’s time we all started to take our profession to the next level of quality and stop making excuses. We need to go to war on our own behaviors and processes, working toward a goal of zero defects. We need to follow in the footsteps of the masters and learn from what companies like Toyota have achieved through the teachings of W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran. It is time to bring our own industry into the twenty-first century and stop living in the shadows of the 1970s.  Error-proofing—preventing errors from happening instead of detecting them at the end—is the path to higher quality in our products, processes, and people.

The Goal
Zero defects is an achievable goal for an organization and a bold statement regarding your tolerance for errors. I’m sure you’re already thinking of skipping this article because it’s not for you … stop! You might be the greatest barrier in achieving high-quality results like zero defects, because you believe that it can’t be done. Do I have your attention now? Please stick with me and read on. Maybe you’ll learn something that will help you and your organization break the barrier.

You’ll need six elements to get started:

  1. Desire: There has to be a desire from everyone to improve. If there is not a sense of urgency to change, then it will not happen.
  2. Knowledge: Once there is a desire to change, your organization must acquire knowledge on what to do.
  3. Skill: After everyone increases his knowledge and visualizes a path forward, he needs to develop skills. The organization needs to practice techniques that enable small wins.
  4. Determination: There will be many times when it gets frustrating or seems impossible to move forward. People seem to get focused much too quickly on what can’t be done versus what can be done. This is where the determination to get better must overtake the pain of the change.
  5. Courage: We must have the courage to change and challenge the patterns that we’ve learned from the past. If nobody has the courage to put everything on the line, change is much less likely to occur.
  6. Humility: Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to get things right, stuff happens. Having the humility to understand that we are all human and mistakes happen, keeps us open to being able to learn from those mistakes.

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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