Defect Zero

This article was originally published on LinkedIn - please join the conversation here.

I was listening to some great lightning talks at Agile Australia, and the topic of testing came up. Specifically, the fact that quality control can be a significant impact to delivery schedules and tends to be handled poorly by most teams.

At the time, this reminded me of the brilliant idea of Inbox Zero by Merlin Mann. While it has it's share of controversy and fanatics (why do these always seem to go hand-in-hand), It is a very simple mechanism to manage the torrent of email that we all get. For those who haven't heard about it, there are 5 rules;

  1. Can it be deleted? Then delete it.
  2. Can it be delegated? Then delegate it (and then delete it).
  3. Can you respond in less than 2 minutes? Thenrespond to it.
  4. Do you need more information? Then defer it to a time when you can address it appropriately.
  5. And then, if there is anything that you can do now, then do it; otherwise add it to your calendar or task list.

Let's think about this for a moment. This is a simple mechanism to prioritise and process a complex set of, unstructured and varied, activities. We can use the same idea to manage and resolve defects, technical debt and other un-plannable activities.

May I then suggest Defect Zero; an approach for development teams to process these issues. So what would this look like;

  1. Is it an actual issue that needs resolution? If not, then delete it.
  2. Is your team responsible for it? If not, then delegate it.
  3. Can you resolve it in less than 10 minutes? Then fix it.
  4. Do you have all the information you need to resolve it? If not, then defer it to the next iteration where you can address it appropriately.
  5. Finally, if you have sufficient time in the current iteration, then do now; otherwise add it to the product backlog as technical debt.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.


Image is via Merlin Mann