A Bug is Just an Unwritten Test That Failed

This is how Peter Antman in his short eBook Stop The Line describes a bug.

It happened that I’ve read his book a few years ago, but opening it again these days, I found it as confirmation of the efforts doing lately in my organization. Peter outlines the necessity of short feedback loops, testing code as soon as it is written and verifying it as frequently as possible.

The book presents the roots of the automation process started a hundred years ago by Sakichi Toyoda- years before Toyota became an automotive company. Automation with human touch was the aim.

The aim to build quality in is the core of the famous Toyota Production System. It is called Jidoka (autonomation), i.e. automation with a human touch, which is a process of bringing the human detection in discovering quality problems when
they appear. Every worker in his reach has an alarm button (called andon) to signal any abnormality, problem or a quality issue. Such an act may bring the whole production to stop – literary.

jidoka andon

Now, compare this to the process of software creation. We have a number of tools to speed up the coding and testing, like syntax and semantics instant checkers, automatic build, automatic tests… continuous integration (CI).
How often do we stop all developers when build is broken and CI tests fail?
A CI failure is not really a halt in the process, it is rather a call for an action, a request to investigate what went wrong and WHY. With the CI, we have a mechanism to create the CULTURE (see the post about culture) of  learning and thinking about quality.
As Peter says:

If you – as a developer, as a manager or as a company – are not prepared to change the culture and, at least initially, pay the price of stopping the work and start chasing defects, I would question the value of having automated continuous integration tests. It’s even worse than that. If you have a continuous integration environment that is frequently (or always) red and you don’t stop the line, the system will decline over time. Each instance that the line
is not stopped will result in a push for producing more bugs.

3dhologramPerhaps in the future we will invent a new paradigm of creating faults-free software when we just specify our wishes, or our thoughts and a 3D hologram will present the solution/product in front of us.
Hmm, not a bad idea – such a pity I shared it publicly…

However, till then, try to follow the practice which is holding now for a hundred years… and gives results. Give me your thought on this – I will HIGHLY appreciate them!

Polygraph vs. Agile

After the jogging session with my wife today, we stopped at the nice spot near the lake for a freshly squeezed orange juice to regain some energy. The inevitable routine is to check the app on my iPhone how running went. Not particularly well today. But the weather was perfect for a workout.

Lie-Detector-TestTaking the moments of muscle relax, I grabbed the newspapers (so unusual act in the era of new mobile technology). Skimming through the pages, I stopped at the article writing about the company that was performing the polygraph testing (a lie detector) on its employees. The purpose of the testing was to check the employees’ loyalty and how much  are they responsible in handling the company’s properties. The story happens in Croatia and the whole article can be found here.

After the first shock (yeah, I was deeply surprised), I tried to analyse the leadership “performance” in this case and evaluate it with the values we promote in the agile community.

Starting with LEGAL law – I surfed the net to find some sources. In some countries employer use of lie detector tests is limited by the Employee Polygraph Protection Act. It seems – not in this case.

TRUST – more than obvious, trust was not built between the management and workers. And, to my understanding with a number of assumptions I could unfold, there is a strong CULTURE of control – typical for Taylorism in the beginning of the 20th century where high level of managerial control over employee work practices was existed. The command and control culture (see the post about culture) is usually leftover from manufacturing practices in the last century and inability of management to learn and consequently to engage and motivate people.

TRANSPARENCY – if there is a need to check and control employees on polygraph, it means that the whole system is obscure, where information need to be extracted and verified in order to make decisions on a higher level. It further means, that there is a lack of transparency and obviousness which is a prerequisite for every successful and efficient process. Even further, it means that the HIRING process in the company is inconsistent, non-existing or wrong. Why would you hire incompetent people or people you don’t trust?

So, the whole GOVERNANCE is suffering because of the bunch of wasteful management activities being focused on tracking people, instead of creating the environment of visual management. The good example of visual management origins from the concept of JIDOKA – which is sometimes called autonomation, i.e. automation with human touch/intelligence. It gives machines the ability to distinguish good parts from bad autonomously, without being monitored by human. This eliminates the need for people to continuously watch machines. The same principle is valid for the relationship between management and employees. According to Daniel Pink and his great book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us“, the things that creates MOTIVATION are purpose, autonomy, mastery. In this case, it seems that it was easier for management to INVEST a couple of thousand bucks into the polygraph machine, rather than build the high performing environment highlighting the real purpose, educating people and giving them empowerment to perform. It’s an investment shortcut… hm!

The management should go to the polygraph test in this case, to check whether they care for the best company’s properties – people.  No polygraph is needed to detect the lack of contemporary management practices and basics of human psychology to lead 21st century workplace.

Here is the illustration showing distinction between management and leadership:

Managers Leaders fire

A Blog Guide to Go And See

invisible-manAre you familiar with the comics’ hero “Invisible Man”?
The more invisible he is, the more powerful he appears to be – as well as the perception around him.
He can appear at any moment” – people would whisper, carefully looking around. He is the (hidden) authority that everyone respects.

A fair share of management appears to be like hero(s) – perhaps visible to their peers and superiors, present in difficult situations/escalations, solving problems and… quite distant and invisible to the people they lead. Since managers determine people’s salaries, they are respected and represent the formal authority to make decisions. Their absence from the place where daily work is done seems to emphasize their just described reputation. This is a bit of an issue for a manager – how to keep authority and respect by being visible?

scratch-animated-animation-smiley

 

Once a manager is there, attends daily team’s stand-up meetings, hears what people say, what impediments they have, she/he could take those moments to understand better and find out how to add value.

There are few additional reasons why a manager needs to be at gemba (the real place – where work is done):

  • Manager should demonstrate a real interest, thus respect towards the work done by the people she/he leads. That creates mutual understanding and trust.
  • It eliminates the need for unnecessary reporting and steering forums being the time eaters and wasters (see the related post about waste).
  • Since, teams may be sometimes blind towards own work, managers, which are supposed to be the coaches, are there to help them to discover their blind spots, by finding the root causes for the problems they have.
  • Managers should make sure that a new energy is added to the team activities. There is no point to control how teams do the work, but to check how to help out.

The last point is essential. If people closest to the process, which execute value added actions are supervised and told what and how to do the job, then they lose ownership upon the actions and intrinsic motivation to continuously make improvements. The energy, once manager leaves, is simply sucked out, following the law of entropy – gradual decline into the steady, low engagement state.

The managers’ role is to make work easier for the teams, not for themselves. That is true respect. The managers are paid for it, and no one promised them an easy job.

A warmly recommended reading goes to 2 books:

I would appreciate to share a piece of your experience by commenting to this blog!
Thank You!