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Possibly The Worst Ever

“It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth” – W. E. Deming

“You can only measure 3% of what matters.” – W. E. Deming

Even though he’s more metrics-obsessed than I’d prefer, in general I’ve been a fan of Capers Jones‘s contributions to the software development industry. In his interesting InfoQ article, “Evaluating Agile and Scrum with Other Software Methodologies“, Capers defines, as one of his methodology candidates, possibly the worst software methodology ever conceived:

CMMI 1 with waterfall: The Capability Maturity Model Integrated™ (CMMI) of the Software Engineering Institute is a well-known method for evaluating the sophistication of software development. CMMI 1 is the bottom initial level of the 5 CMMI levels and implies fairly chaotic development. The term “waterfall” refers to traditional software practices of sequential development starting with requirements and not doing the next step until the current step is finished. – Capers Jones

I shouldn’t laugh, but LOL! In the “beginning“, virtually all software projects were managed in accordance with the “Chaos + Waterfall” methodology. Even with all the progress to date, I’d speculate that many projects unwittingly still adhere to it. Gee, I wonder how many of these clunkers are lurching forward under the guise of being promoted as “agile“.

Moving on to the scholarly guts of Mr. Jones’ article, he compares 10 of his personally defined methodologies in terms of several of his personally defined speed, quality, and economic metrics. He also uses his personal, proprietary models/equations/assumptions to calculate apparently objective results for evaluation by executive decision-makers.

I’m not going to discuss or debate the results of Capers’ comparisons because that’s not why I wrote this post. I wrote this post because personally, I don’t think personal and objective mix well together in efforts like these. There’s nothing wrong with smart people generating impressive numeric results that appear objective but are based on hidden/unknown personal assumptions and mental models. However, be leery of any and every numeric result that any expert presents to you.

proprietary

To delve more deeply into the “expert delusion“, try reading “Proofiness: How You’re Being Fooled by the Numbers” or any of Nassim Taleb‘s books.

Capers And Salmon

December 27, 2011 4 comments

I like capers with my salmon. In general, I also like the work of long time software quality guru Capers Jones. In this Dr. Dobb’s article, “Do You Inspect?”, the caped one extols the virtues of formal inspection. He (rightly) states that formal, Fagan type, inspections can catch defects early in the product development process – before they bury and camouflage themselves deep inside the product until they spring forth way downstream in the customer’s hands. (I hate when that happens!)

The pair of figures below (snipped from the article) graphically show what Capers means. Note that the timeline implies a long, sequential, one-shot, waterfall development process (D’oh!).

That’s all well and dandy, but as usual with mechanistic, waterfall-oriented thinking, the human aspects of doing formal inspections “wrong” aren’t addressed. Because formal inspections are labor-intensive (read as costly), doing artifact and code inspections “wrong” causes internal team strife, late delivery, and unnecessary budget drain. (I hate when that happens!)

An agile-oriented alternative to boring and morale busting “Fagan-inspections-done-wrong” is shown below. The short, incremental delivery time frames get the product into the hands of internal and external non-developers early and often. As the system grows in functionality and value, users and independent testers can bang on the system, acquire knowledge/experience/insight, and expose bugs before they intertwine themselves deep into the organs of the product. Working hands-on with a product is more exhilarating and motivating than paging through documents and power points in zombie or contentious meetings, no?

Of course, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A hybrid approach can be embraced: “targeted, lightweight inspections plus incremental deliveries with hands-on usage”.

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