Demings 14 Points and Agile Development

Source: Deming, W. Edwards. Out of the Crisis, The MIT Press, 1982.

If you keep your ears open in any agile discussion, you can hear the echoes of W. Edwards Deming in the various practices that comprise agile development. W. Edwards Deming was a visionary man whose practical reformed wartime America and post-war Japan.

The agile values (to soon be re-presented here) include driving out fear, removing barriers to pride of workmanship, continuation of eduction, sharing knowledge as on-the-job training, and retrospectives to improve constantly and forever. You will also hear the echoes of "institute leadership", "adopt the new philosophy", etc.

When I revisited these values, I was surprised to find "cease dependence on inspection." I suppose fifteen years ago when I read up on Deming originally I must have seen and read that admonition, but I must have blocked it out. Maybe it was because I tended to read it from the point of view of QA professionals who were more comfortable with the other principles.

It is a simple admonition, but not one that is easy to follow. It is certainly easy to simply stop inspecting/testing/reviewing. But that's not quite what it says. It says to eliminate our reliance on inspection by building quality into our products throughout the process. Deming did not recommend piling scrap on crap, but recommended instead that every station in a process would measure and evaluate its input and its products. This is where the idea of stopping the line came from. If we receive only input of the highest quality, produce results only of the highest quality using the simplest process of the highest quality, then post-production inspection becomes useless.

Let's say that again. If we honestly can assess that we are building things well by checking them early and often, then tail-end QA becomes unimportant. If it becomes unimportant, then we can stop doing it. That is an exciting proposition, even if it does require us to take on different procedures than we would normally follow.

While the Agile methods are not typically considered to be a school of Deming's Total Quality Management, it does acknowledge that speed is primarily caused by quality. In this sense, quality is not something you trade off for speed, but something you increase to get speed.

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