Quality: The Intersection of Thoroughness & Standardization
In a previous role, I had accountability for quality at a software company. If that sounds like testing, you’d be correct. It’s a simple word, testing, but if you’ve tested software, simplicity probably isn’t the first descriptor that pops into your mind.
I enjoyed that role first and foremost because of the people on the team. Passionate, capable, highly dedicated individuals. I also enjoyed the complexity of our objective…to assess the quality of the product without letting defects slip through to production. We did functional testing including, system, integration, regression, beta, etc. We also did non-functional testing including, performance, load, stress, security, usability, localization, etc. Some of our testing was manual and some was automated. As time progressed our test library grew exponentially. We had both onshore and offshore testers, so our efforts followed the sun and rarely stopped.
Although our team was the only one with the word ‘quality’ actually in the name, we were really the last line of defense in the software quality effort. If done right quality is a process, not just an outcome. From ideation and requirements, to prioritization and design, to development and integration, to testing (and everything in between), there is quality infused throughout the process or lifecycle.
All good software people know that the later a defect is discovered in the process, the more expensive it is to fix. The same is true of any business process.
What is the Quality Intersection?
Quality is the intersection of thoroughness and standardization (see Intersection 24 image below). Thoroughness without standardization is applying diligence to a task without taking the same steps each subsequent time you do it. Standardization without thoroughness is a defined but incomplete process.
At the software company we tested constantly, new features and regression, to ensure new code didn’t break existing functionality. We added test cases and scripts regularly to improve thoroughness. Simultaneously, we had standards in place for how test cases and scripts were to be written, how and when they’d be executed and who’d do the execution. Without this standardization our testing would have been an unorganized free-for-all, lacking the ability to plan test specific windows and results reporting.
Talent acquisition is another common aspect of business that requires thoroughness and standardization to ensure quality. Thoroughness in the acquisition process is intended to ensure the right candidates are identified, evaluated and decided upon. Standardization is intended to ensure fairness in the process and the ability to do a realistic and valid apples-to-apples comparison of candidates.
In my experience, quality belongs in every aspect of business. Done well, it manifests as efficacy and efficiency, concurrently.
The purpose of thoroughness in quality is to remind us that it doesn’t just apply to the end result, rather it’s a part of the entire process. Regardless of the various process methodologies followed by an organization, instilling quality checks and measures throughout provides a better opportunity for catching issues sooner rather than later and minimizing the costs to address them. Thoroughness is about casting a wide net to achieve maximum, logical coverage.
Intersection 24: Quality = Thoroughness + Standardization
Standardization covers the repeatability aspect of quality measures. Are we, as a company or team, disciplined enough to 1) create reusable processes and 2) use those processes consistently? It’s said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. With standardization we have the opposite…we do the same thing over and over again because we want the same result, and if we get a different result there's an issue with quality. Standardization is about creating proficiency and adeptness through process.
What Can Leaders Do?
For leaders, quality is about attention to detail. Are we focused on the right things at the right time in the right way, consistently? Good leaders include quality as an expectation of their team members. Additionally, they build in quality measures to be tracked, reported and measured.
The goal of quality is to give us the best chance of doing something right the first time.
Wrap Up & Up Next
Quality is a never-ending pursuit. Programs like Six Sigma and CMMI are the epitome of thoroughness and standardization for their specifically targeted processes.
Most companies have their own internally developed processes for managing quality. The key is to continually evaluate them and ensure they’re relevant and being adhered to.
Next time we’ll examine the 25th intersection of performance, which is the Persistence Intersection.
In this series of articles, we explore The Intersections of Performance, of which there are 30. The Intersections of Performance framework is based on the experience and insights of Brett Simpson, Managing Director of Elevate Simply, over his 20+ years of leadership in large and small organizations, and as an entrepreneur, advisor and investor.