Monday, 24 September 2012

On quality and constraints

Woah, the past six or so months since I last posted to this blog have been a bit hectic in my personal and professional life! I still have about seven draft posts to write up. So hopefully I'm back on track for about one every week or two :-)

mild warning for tenuous link and conclusions jumped to ;)

Last week I had two conversations on very different subjects that boiled down to the same thing - constraining options (or ways of working) to ensure quality without change the quality of any other part of the system.

The first one was entirely work related. One of our project teams is extending a feature that had been sent for design review for input, in my role as an internal technical consultant and as probably the last person to do extensive work in this area (about six years ago!) I followed up and had a chat with the team's senior dev and his team mate. We talked through the possible options and the technical debt that could be repaid. The option with greater opportunity also had the downside of greater risk in time taken. Limiting the technical debt to just one half of the library, directly involved in the feature, massively reduced the risk and allowed a fairly accurate estimate to be produced - with the added bonus of taking an entire legacy class out of technical debt!

The second conversation was about a subject close to my heart ... food! and more specifically ready meals. I was discussing with our office manager that the finest ranges are usually limited to being oven cooked and not microwavable, this constraint ensures a level of quality without any change in ingredients. They often "force" you not to microwave the meal by packing it in a foil rather than plastic tray. A clever way of constraining and limiting the options within the system. The same is true of jacket potatoes - you can microwave them, but it won't be as good as an oven baked spud

I think that's one thing that experience teaches you and is expressed through expertise - knowing when to put your ready meal in a foil tray and when plastic is OK. Or to put it another way when the solution has to be framed in a way that repaying the technical debt is a natural consequence of the option.

Further Reading

A vaguely related link on the overpowering nature of choice in the modern world
The tyranny of choice: You choose | The Economist

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