I hate the cliché “Move Quality Upstream”. I mean it. I detest it.
Those words have justified changes in staffing, automation strategy, process changes, milestone dates, etc. The end result: More of the things that changed, but the product still falls apart at the same places. Long stabilization milestones are still needed. All that work to move quality upstream and it gets flushed back down. Code velocity probably increased and the cost of doing business certainly increased, but did quality move even an iota forward? The phrase tells us what to do, but not how to do it or how to know we acheived it. It’s inactionable.
The NFL has had similar problems. They have been improving helmet technology for years, but concussion rates have kept pace. One study I read recently – but not so recently that I can find it again… Grrr! – mentioned that the improvement in the helmet tech might just be the cause.
Basically, how it works:
- NFL players are incented to hit hard ($$, glory, competitive nature, etc.)
- The better helmets function, the more confidence the player has in safety
- The more the player believes he’s safe, the riskier behavior he takes on
- the riskier behavior he takes, the higher the chance of injury
I was watching the 49er’s pummel the Seahawks the other day (Go Niners!) and the referee called a penalty against one of the players. The tackler had initiated a helmet to helmet tackle and this is now a NO-NO in the NFL. The announcer mentioned “the referees were all asked to call the penalty even *if* they weren’t 100% sure”.
Will this fix the problem? Maybe. I think it could help. This shows that the NFL is viewing these concussions as a behavior problem of the player and not a failure of the equipment. The penalty is one of the worst in the game. However, the powerful incentives still exist in the game and penalties happen all of the time. How often will it be the cause of a loss? Probably rare.
Ok, Brent. Neat story, but…
“What does this have to do with Testing?” you ask. As I mentioned last time, Testing minimizes risk “of injury”. Far too often, we are the ever-improving Helmet and our development team plays the part of the NFL player. The more we improve, the more dev trusts the safety net we’ve provided, the faster dev goes…
But not better. Instead of moving quality upstream, we’ve made the stream faster.
I’ll go into what to do about it next time.