Hello all,

Nowadays, Agility and Quality are at the forefront of our industry’s thoughts. The growing popularity of Agile Testing Days where leading people from all areas of Software development meet to understand this growing concern and converse on the practices that have grown to be effective. Recently I have been reading “The Tipping Point” and this book reveals a lot about how subtle situations can change. The very interesting point that is made in the book is how, we as human beings perceive and believe these situations happened in the first place. The human brain is quite protective and one thing it does is eliminate a lot of the noise that is around us, since otherwise we would go completely bonkers will all the things which are happening. We then make very simple observations and quickly come to an understanding to make sense of our world in front of us. My favorite part of the book is when the author talks about a very simple theory that explains a psychological switch in social behaviour when urban areas become filthy, vandalized and simply ignored. This phenomenon is referred to as “The Broken Window” theory. I will try to make a parallel from this theory to the mediocrity that takes root in so many teams developing software out there.

brokenWindowNow “The Broken Window” theory is simple enough. It states that if an area of urban development is riddled with broken windows, in other words vandalized, that area is more likely to invite other activities which fall on the wrong side of the law. This phenomenon then takes a life of it’s own and before you know it violence sets in and more dramatic crimes are happening on a regular basis. This happens because we are made to understand that from this situation, rules do not apply and that nobody is made to care or will act upon these “injustices”. Now to reverse the effect, as you probably already have figured out yourselves is by cleaning up the area by repairing windows, painting over graffiti and simply making sure people respect the area as a whole the rest will somehow “Tip” into a more positive outlook.

As you now understand the premise, I am making the case that this simple yet psychological phenomenon can also be attributed to poor software Quality. The mediocrity in a team concerning their delivery sets in because no one is made to care about minor details. How minor are they really? This is where my parallel comes in to this theory. If attention to your Definition of Done is loose and activities executed by the Team is ignored, this is like breaking a window and just moving on. A strong stance needs to be taken to not accept “slippage” or simple excuses that these are minor. We have to know that a simple minor issue can balloon to an exponential degree if ignored for any amount of time. Making excuses and leaving out work that was agreed upon by the whole team will only lead to increasingly bigger and bigger left out “minor” items. What difference does it make? Nobody said anything about the last one! To avoid this a “Zero Tolerance” attitude must be the norm when the Team comes to normalize. Strong influencers are necessary to make a point and also drive these principles. Remember that once you are made to understand and master the principles you can do whatever you want.

Let me know your thoughts and Scrum on!

Cheers, PS

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