The delivery of the last release took weeks of delay, only to realize that the features are not suitable for customers. Despite sprints and colorful graphics, the quality is not there. The board decides to act.
We are asking you for a concrete and actionable investment plan to reverse the trend starting next week. The need to use modern solutions is clearly stated. You have to “capture value” and “quickly”.
Hitting a wall is one of the triggers for investing in software quality. Businesses often want quick, short-term results. We want to act as in everyday life, where we get value by the satisfaction of an act of purchase.
Some organizations seek to buy quality for their digital products, transforming themselves into Quality Shopper. Without discussing the value of the shopping activity, resorting to it for quality is far from providing value.
Let’s start by exploring the motivations behind this shopping habit before analyzing its impact on quality.
We have lived without shopping
Without political or critical objectives, understanding human evolution up to our current culture is helpful in understanding behavior. The influence of our consumer society impacts the perception of quality. To this end, I highly recommend the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
Initially, hunter-gatherers, our needs were fitting into the equivalent of a backpack being in perpetual migration. Consumption activities were essential within nature: finding something to eat, building a weapon, building a fire. We were therefore far from shopping.
Sedentarization followed, intending to expand the population, leading to the specialization of individuals and the need for trade. From this stage, the exchange of the perceived value of products and services materialized through the creation of currencies. It was the beginning of the shopping and buying acts. The difference lay in the inhabitants’ relatively poor quality of life, apart from rich family heirs. Another element was that the available wealth remained fixed.
We note a first interesting element concerning quality: even if the overall value was present, his perception of quality was significantly different according to the individuals. The saying “quality is value to someone” takes on its full meaning here.
To accelerate this growth of value creation, the company has resorted to one of the essential collaboration mechanisms at scale, culture.
Our culture has embraced shopping
We have arrived at the model of consumption in large part of the world, based on founding principles: growth and confidence in the future to support continuous reinvestment. We create more value at the cost of shopping to buy (often) unnecessary things to support growth.
These trends influence our software ecosystem. We must succeed in accelerating, providing better value in a globalized and innovative context. The behavior of individuals is primarily influenced by this culture of associating shopping with well-being. Promises of purchases that alone will solve our problems: “Lose 8 kilos effortlessly with this pill”, “Feel good with this jogging in promotion”.
“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”– Vicki Robin, Your Money or Your Life
These promises are often illusory while being far from the actual needs. Start With Why complemented by the 5 Why methodology can also open our eyes to the real motivations, more meaningful and adding value. We are nowhere near how easy it is to use your credit card and supposedly feel good; it is undoubtedly more comfortable than doing sport by changing our habits and enduring a bit of pain.
This consumer culture is found in our companies. Buying products or services should allow us to solve our problems. We have all come across a Quality Shopper, someone purchasing the latest well-known and trendy SaaS tool, only to find that the gains are not there. Capital allocation creates an expectation of return on investment to measure our famous global increase in value. It is a biased debate that you can find in this sharing on the ROI.
A focus on value is therefore necessary, from its articulation to its perception.
Quality lends itself poorly to shopping
The value proposition of quality is a real challenge for organizations. Stereotypes of quality control, testing, and integration at the end of the chain are still very present struggles. Therefore, the subjectivity of quality requires influence and change management.
The subjectivity of value implies an adaptation to the context and interlocutors. Our shopping has accustomed us to standard t-shirt sizes (relative if you compare a European and Chinese M) that we also find in our software estimates.
Different ecosystems work together within an organization where smaller cross-functional and multidisciplinary teams are focused on creating value for customers. Taylorism models tend to fade in part of the organization charts in favor of models Teal, Beyond Budgeting, and other Feature-teams.
Top-down alignment approaches are therefore much less effective, hence the importance of influence. The perception of value is subjective by individuals and groups of individuals. We find there the different teams, the management committee, the QA community of practice. A balance is necessary, supported by change management.
Transforming an organization towards quality often requires agility initiatives far from the simple shopping of SAFe. The core subjects are cultural changes towards customer focus, collaboration fostering, and communication. For quality, we must change the codes, words, and types of interactions. Farah Chabchoub shared her experience of quality, from operations to the management committee.
Like a quality that does not have a predefined template, the issues to be resolved are specific to each organization.
Different problems, different solutions
Our focus on solutions tends to make us forget the stages of problem definition. Even though organizations have similar symptoms, the composition of the causes is unique: “There is no unique solution to unique problems”.
Problem-solving is, moreover, a field of specialization for certain actors, like the McKinsey methodology. Other players like Toyota have understood the importance of this and made it an actual business capability. These two perspectives show that a balance between internal and external is necessary.
The famous quadrants are useful in categorizing problems. We find that the known / unknown model applies to information and knowledge. If you lack internal knowledge, resorting to outside help can make sense. Conversely, it is debatable for problems where the solution is emerging through collaboration.
The acceleration of our ecosystems tends towards disordered and reactive systems. Therefore, problems tend to have multiple causes, making their analysis complex. In addition, access to data to support our decisions is not always gained, the unknown remaining present. These risks are among the 9 bullets that can kill Quality Engineering.
The creation of value through quality is far from being a simple problem, making shopping an illusion.
You can’t buy quality but develop it
Wanting to improve your software quality through compulsive purchases is therefore far from being the solution. It would be the quest for an equation without possible equilibrium, leaving our ROI misunderstood.
Software quality, contextual and subjective, first requires an articulation of its value before prioritizing its issues. The Start With Why remains the watchword for an equation where we can buy is only part of the solution.
“Quality cannot be bought. It is developed.”Antoine Craske
We can buy tools and services useful in support of an organization and processes with clear objectives. We can also invest in our employees, their development, their ability to solve business problems.
We need to refocus on the core of value. Like our hunting ancestors, their priorities were limited without degrading their quality of life. So let’s provide what our clients need, not what we would like to add to our CV.
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Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens https://www.amazon.com/Sapiens-Humankind-Yuval-Noah-Harari/dp/0062316095
Frédéric Laloux, Reinventing Organizations https://www.amazon.com/Reinventing-Organizations-Frederic-Laloux/dp/2960133501
Teal Organizations https://management30.com/blog/management-30-teal-organizations/
Beyond Budgeting, The Beyond Budgeting Principle https://bbrt.org/the-beyond-budgeting-principles/
5 Why Methodology https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTMC_5W.htm
Antoine Craske, Stop Projects, Build Capabilities https://qeunit.com/blog/the-one-hidden-secret-of-quality-stop-projects-build-capabilities/