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Moving Towards Integral Quality

Olaf Lewitz gave a keynote about Integral Quality at the Agile Testing Day Netherlands 2015. InfoQ asked Lewitz about quality attributes, what causes poor quality software, the relationship between the structure and culture of the organization and software quality and about clarifying intent and increasing trust.

Lewitz referred to Gojko Adzic’s adaptation of Maslow’s pyramid of needs from his blog post redefining software quality. Software has quality when it is:

  • deployable (functionally ok),
  • performant and secure,
  • usable,
  • useful, and
  • successful.

There is an order in these quality needs, but all of them need to be addressed as Lewitz explains:

Lewitz: These attributes are ordered by increasing importance. And, similar to what we now know about Maslow’s pyramid (who thought that the things on the top of his pyramid, like self-actualisation, depended on the satisfaction of needs at the bottom, like food and shelter) they do not depend on one another. We’ve all used software that was buggy and hugely successful.

Lewitz presented a modified version of Conway’s law to have the attendants think about how they can get quality:

Lewitz: Conway’s law says that a system is as great as the organisation which created it. So what if we turned this around and asked: what kind of organisation do we need to reliably, repeatedly co-delight our customers?

According to Lewitz often clarity of intent is lacking when the code quality is bad:

Lewitz: I’ve seen a lot of code in my life where I could feel the pain of the person writing it. Often, that was an earlier version of myself. Any poor design I’ve seen has ALWAYS been caused by a lack of clarity of intent. Software quality is limited by how well the people creating the software know what they want.

In his talk Lewitz referred to the book Reinventing Organizations in which Frederic Laloux describes evolutionary organizations. Such organizations view themselves as living systems with people who have the skills to find out what is happening in the environment and to adapt to better serve the needs of their customers. When we reach a state where most people know what they want, the need for safety-creating structures like hierarchy is reduced, said Lewitz.

What is needed to achieve that state? Most organizations expect that we only bring our ego to work, our male, rational self. How can we encourage people to show up as whole persons? Lewitz explained that we need to create safety to make that possible. An organisation changes, one person at a time. To transform a whole organization we need to invite people to their own personal transformations. Change is about raising awareness, identifying options and make choices, said Lewitz, change always starts with me. But you might have to get out of your comfort zone to go where the magic happens.

(image inspired by stretching is good stuff by Jessica Hagy’s).

Lewitz: Frédéric Laloux bases his musings in Reinventing Organisations on Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory. The model is useful to recognise different organisational models, which have been invented at a specific time to solve a specific challenge at that time. Organisations tend to operate from the stage "through which their leadership looks at the world." If the leaders think of the organisation as a machine, it needs rules and structure, if they think it’s like a family, it needs common values and a vision, if they think it’s like a living organism, they’ll listen to what that organism wants for itself. These stages are common patterns in the complex space of human organisations.

Lewitz shared Christopher Avery’s responsibility process and showed how you can use a responsibility matrix to increase the awareness of responsibility. Such a matrix can be used to make the responsibility level visible, by classifying our approach to a specific practice as denial, blame, justify, guilt/shame, obligation or responsibility. This clearly shows us where we have a choice.

Don’t look at trust as something that needs to be earned, there is always some trust said Lewitz. Trust is messy, complex and individual, depends on situation, intent and context. Lewitz mentioned the Team Trust Canvas from Alexey Pikolev which can be used to discuss and increase trust.

Clarity of intent, knowing who we are and what we want, helps increase trust. Some of the ways that can help people to achieve this are Shared Vision, Temenos, and Lego serious play.

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