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Parable of the Cookie

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By downunderduck
Words 1067
Pages 5
Can You Really Test Quality Into a Product?

Have you ever been involved in a software project that was totally out of control; no one seemed to know what anyone else was doing and the project was being pushed in a hundred different directions? After seeing this happen time and time again, I realized that many software projects perfectly matched what I call The Parable of the Cookie. Let me share it with you. (Actually this is a true story.)

The parable of the cookie

One night mom is gone…

17-year-old daughter needs some cookies for an activity she is in charge of. She has no time to make them so she asks her 10-year-old sister and her friend who is over for a visit if they will make them. They are not sure if they can, but they have made cookies in the past. And so they are willing to try. The older sister says she will tell them the recipe and answer any questions. She then runs off to do her planning leaving the young girls to make the cookies. The recipe, as it turns out, was pretty much your basic chocolate chip cookie recipe with a few optional ingredients so you could customize the cookies to your taste.

The girls did not write down recipe because they did not have a paper to write on or a pen to write with, and besides the older sister was supposed to be there to answer questions

The first problem arose when they could not find any butter, so they used margarine instead. This may not seem like a big deal, but anyone who is an honest cook knows these two ingredients are not really interchangeable. --- Λ --- -

The girls mixed up ingredients and looked in bowl--there was not very much dough. So they decided to double the recipe and add the optional ingredients. They collected new ingredients, added more flour, salt, and margarine –mixed-them up and then remembered that they had not added more baking soda so they dumped the baking soda in the mixing bowl on top of the mixed up ingredients. They were about to add the pecans and coconut when the 15-year-old Brother arrives and makes a big deal about adding the pecans—he hates nuts. Even though the cookies were not for him; and he would not even be given one to eat, that did not make any difference—he still argues that they should not add the nuts. Finally the girls agreed to not add the nuts.

Because of the distraction….

The girls forgot to mix in the baking soda, and scooped the dough out on the baking pans. It was at this point that they realized that they did not know what temperature to set the oven to, or how long to bake the cookies for. And of course the older sister was nowhere to be found. At this point the friend says that last week they made cookies at her house and they baked them at 375 for 10 min. So that is what they did.

------The result was horrible.

They forgot to add the extra eggs, sugar and vanilla and to mix in the extra baking soda.

What to do? How can they salvage the cookies?

They finally find the 17 year old sister, ask her for help but she says she is busy and they should come up with a solution on their own—just mix everything together. As long as the cookies look good, people will probably not care what they taste like.

At this time the 12 year old sister shows up— and notices the mess. She discovers that the oven is too hot and they undercooked the cookies. The cookies were supposed to Bake at 300 for 20 min.

Have you ever baked a snicker doodle; small rounded cookies with a coating of sugar and cinnamon on the outside? This was the kind of cookie the friend had made at her house last week. It worked for them so why not these? It was too late to put all the ingredients on the inside where it belonged so they decided to copy the steps from the snicker doodle cookie recipe and put the missing ingredients on the outside. So they quickly mixed up a mixture of eggs and vanilla and coated the half baked cookies in this mix— and then rolled them in sugar. Lowered oven to 300 and baked for an additional 10 min.

In the end all the ingredients were added and the cookies were baked for the proper amount of time.

The End

(Let me say here that the cookies, while they really did not look all that bad, tasted really horrible.)

This fantastic story illustrates a very important and fundamental philosophy of software development. You really cannot test quality into a product!

No matter how hard you try to fix a problem after the fact, it just cannot make up for doing things right the first time. Software has to be planned and developed in the proper order. Just because at the end of a project all the features and functionality were added it does not mean that the finished product will be acceptable.

Let’s take a closer look at what some of the failures were:

• Missing key information at the beginning of the project. (Did not write down the recipe) • Not enough communication ( The product owner was missing most of the time) • Assumptions about skill levels—inadequate training. (They thought they knew how to make cookies) • Needed decision makers were not available at key moments. (Again, the product owner was not engaged in the process.) • Unwarranted and unnecessary distractions. (the 15 year-old brother) • No tracking of progress and hence key steps were missed. (Not adding all the ingredients) • Not following proper procedures. • Once a major issue was discovered, the attempt to just band-aid the problem instead of fixing it correctly basically resulted in the failure of the entire project. (Adding missing ingredients after the fact.)

Attack every project with the goal of quality being built in. Communicate your story. Make sure all stake holders understand what needs to be done and how to do it. George Bernard Shaw said it best when he opined. “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”…...

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