Open Heart Surgery Lessons Learned for IT Part 2 – Standards and Quality Control

17 Jul
Open Heart Surgery Lessons Learned for IT Part 2 – Standards and Quality Control

Welcome back to part two of my series on Lessons Learned. This time I want to talk about quality control.  Everyone knows that it is tough to become a surgeon. It is not that there is a height, weight, race, or whatever else requirement. Rather, there specific qualities and knowledge that are needed of doctors to be able to get a license to practice.  This is one way how standards and quality control is established in the medical field. Now to make it more specific to my experience.

Observation: Of course the first thing one notices about the Operating Room is how clean and organized it it. Individuals that need to work directly with the patient are scrubbed down and others that are not are far removed or separated by some sort of barrier. There is no playing around with these issues, they have very high standards. Everyone in the room is certified/licensed in what they are doing so there are no random people pitching in their ideas or giving a hand where it is not needed. The environment to some degree is also removed from distraction. Doctors aren’t bombarded by emails on their blackberries every few seconds and people don’t barge in the room to ask a quick question about what medicine to use for hemorrhages. Finally, the tools are accounted for by number and are sterilized. What does that mean? If there are one hundred tiny needles at the start of the surgery, there will be one hundred at the end.

Take Back: Number one thing that IT projects are graded on is quality and on time completion. It doesn’t matter if you invented another million features no one will use, users would rather have a quality product with less features. How do I know this? Just ask yourself. If you were given the choice between a car that runs smoothly with an AC or one that runs unreliably, guzzles gas, has frequent break downs but has a navigation system, DVD entertainment, AC, Leather seats and much more, which one would you take? Probably reliable and comfortable over the super luxury that is not reliable.

Too often we focus on getting things done on time but quality suffers.  We do very little testing, which in my humble opinion is equally if not more important than documentation. Or another problem is we test our software projects after everything is said and done and we miss something because the code is so huge we could not test everything in time. There are many IT departments that pride themselves in quality, is yours one of them? Are you one of the Quality champions at your organization? If not, then get on it! We expect quality in the meals we buy, clothes we buy, schools we send our kids to so let us take those expectations and meet them in our software projects.

Another important aspect to think about is distractions. We are way too distracted these days. I just deleted my work email account from my phone because it kept vibrating all day long. I feel free! If a database server crashes, call me! Email is asynchronous communication so there is no telling when I will look at it. Also, today everything is urgent, we need to prioritize and do what is important first. We need to able to focus on the tasks we are doing to attain high quality in our deliverables.  The surgeon was cutting the patient’s chest and the nurse was cutting the patient’s leg there was focus from both parties. Today, we have one person doing a million tasks. I’m not saying one person can only do one task, but we need to eliminate this excessive praise of multitasking because it produces less results.

One of my colleagues at work said that they read a formula somewhere (Harvard Business Review maybe?) that was like

Quality = Time * Money

So I challenged it and said he missed a part of the equation.

Quality = Time/Focus * Money

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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Other


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