Naive managers (usually those who get drunk on large quantities of 6-sigma, CMMI, ISO-90XX, EVM, and/or PMP kool aid) tend to think of the correlation between process and quality like this:
This cause-effect diagram can be read as “more process imposition leads to more quality; less quality leads to more process imposition“. What’s missing in this simplistic diagram? Could it be something that represents the human element?
In the blarticle, “Process kills developer passion“, James Turner writes about the human element of “passion“:
…passionate programmers write great code, but process kills passion. Disaffected programmers write poor code, and poor code makes management add more process in an attempt to “make” their programmers write good code. That just makes morale worse, and so on.
If you believe Mr. Turner, then the cause-effect diagram for process and passion is a self-reinforcing loop that may snuff out passion over time:
So, what about the relationship between passion and quality? I think that many would agree that it is thus:
When we integrate the two models above, we get….
Moving from left to right, and then from right to left we read that:
an increase in process triggers a decrease in passion, which triggers a decrease in quality, which triggers a further decrease in passion, which triggers an increase in process imposition. Round and round we go.
If we assume that “passion” is an integral player in the system, but hide it in the above diagram to simulate a common managerial blindspot, the end to end process-quality cause-effect diagram emerges as:
If we compare this derived result to the first naive manager mental model which doesn’t include the messy “passion” element, what’s the difference?