The automotive industry is not the role model Henrik Emilsson

This began as an answer to Rikard’s post where the discussion on “traditional testing” came up.

I often hear comparisons with our “industry” and the Automotive industry.
In that context, you could say that “traditional testing” corresponds to the methods and practices that are applied in line production of large car companies. And the unorthodox testing can be compared with those specialized and often smaller custom car builder companies out there.

The major issue with this kind of comparison is that large car companies makes thousands of the exact same type of car. Instead this means that the “traditional testing” approach is an attempt to apply line production methods when building custom cars. Applying “traditional testing” as if every project and product were the same is both wrong and dangerous.

And this comparison is not that far-fetched… It seems to me like “traditional testing” is promoted as practices that suits many (if not all?) projects and should be followed in order to enable success. Well, good luck!

Further, many practices that we use today comes from the automotive industry (at least in their latest form).
If we fail to see why they implemented them in the automotive industry and just take them as good practices for being effective in line production, we are doing the opposite of what the automotive industry did. They did some investigation on how they could improve their work. Some of that included seeing the human beings as intelligent and social creatures; utilize the diversity of a group of people; etc. And their productivity and efficiency could be measured by measuring number of cars and their quality. So by treating humans as humans they became more efficient (number of non-defective cars) and improved their work methods (analyzing quality of work).
When Lean development is implemented in psychiatric nursing or software development today, the focus is very often on the quantity measuring part which then misses the whole point. Measuring patients or software as uniform units is very wrong and dangerous.
It’s not that Lean or Kanban is to blame, it’s the implementation; and perhaps mostly the implementors.
The role models for Lean implementations in many healthcare institutions in Sweden have been some successful nursing teams that have increased their efficiency and quality of their work by using Lean development as a method. What those successful teams really did were to take command of their own work and found a method that supported their initiative and commitment. (Anyone had similar experience? Me!)
The problem is that when this is implemented by management at the whole hospital or nationwide, the focus is shifted from “Quality of work” to “Quantity of work” because that is the obvious driver for management and really the only incentive for they to implement it. They only need to say that this is a “best practice” and then it’s OK…
I do need to emphasize that you don’t automatically get high quality work by implementing “best practises”!

This is happening all the time; and the last flavor of the month is Agile.
If you read the Agile Manifesto and then think that you must play planning poker or have standup meetings you are obviously not understanding the Agile Manifesto.
I’m with Matt Heusser on his interpretation here:—-or-the-Manifesto-elaborated/Testing-Software-Test-and-QA-Teams-Strategy-Agile-Development


Jonathan Kohl June 3rd, 2011

Have you read this?
Alternatives to Lean Production: Work Organization in the Swedish Auto Industry:

I found it interesting.

Henrik Emilsson June 3rd, 2011

Thank you Jonathan! Will definitely have a look at the book!
I think I have read some articles from the author a couple of years ago… Need to look that up again.

Rikard Edgren June 5th, 2011

Isn’t Lean the hottest right now?

But where are the proper role models?
In blog post “Did Beatles use Kanban?” – – I had the not-so-great idea that film making might be a good comparison (see comments for details)
I now think the two key factors for software testing is:
* we provide information
* we can try many things
Maybe painting or creating music are good analogies? Teaching, to some degree?

Or rather we shouldn’t have role models at all. Inspiration, yes; but we need ways of thinking that suit what we do, and are invented for our purposes.

Henrik Emilsson June 13th, 2011

The problem with the society today is the arising focus on metrics which my article tried to shed some light on.
So actually the automotive industry might be a role model in some aspect and similarly other industries in other aspects *if* we try to use a model that solves our problem. Lean, Scrum, RUP, etc all solves problems, but if they are used as tools for measuring effectivity and the measuring is made on arbitrary things you are introducing new problems.
The important thing must be to try to not focusing on the metrics/measuring parts of *any* project/team model.

Since I wrote the post, it was all over the news the other day that the Swedish Police is focusing on solving easy crimes because that is an easy way of improving the statistics.

Rikard Edgren June 14th, 2011

Focusing on easy crimes would have been a good approach if all crimes were equally important.

I agree on the metrics in the society, it’s everywhere.
Focus is on what’s measurable, it should be on what is “good”.