Rss logo

Posts selected fromManagement Blog - Engineering Blog - Investing Blog and other blogs

  • We are Not Us Without The Microbes Within Us

    Avoiding bacteria is not feasible. Our bodies have evolved with this constant interaction with bacteria for millions of years. When we are healthy bacteria have footholds that make it difficult for other bacteria to gain a foothold (as does our immune system fighting off those bacteria it doesn’t recognize or that it recognized as something to fight).

    Human health is a fascinating topic. It is true antibiotics have provided us great tools in the service of human health. But we have resorted to that “hammer” far too often. And the consequences of doing so is not understood. We need those scientists exploring the complex interactions we contain to continue their great work.

  • Robots for Health Care from Toyota

    Most often innovation efforts take the form of understanding the jobs your customers are using your products and service for now and developing new solutions to delight those customers. This is difficult for companies to pull of successfully.

    Occasionally innovation involves meeting completely new needs of customers. For example Toyota started as a loom company and is now known as a car company. Making such a radical change is not often successful.

    Will Toyota be able to add robots to the products it produces successfully? I believe they have a chance. But it won’t be easy.

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

    Photos from my visit to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in northern Wisconsin.  The park on the shores of Lake Superior provides some wondeful hikes and boat rides to take in the natural world.

  • Testing Smarter with Michael Bolton

    Michael Bolton is a consulting software tester and testing teacher who helps people solve testing problems that they didn’t realize they could solve. He is the co-author (with senior author James Bach) of Rapid Software Testing, a methodology and mindset for testing software expertly and credibly in uncertain conditions and under extreme time pressure.

  • Using Scientific Knowledge to Drive Policies that Create a Better World

    We can’t afford to elect people that don’t have an understanding of how to make wise decisions or how to ensure scientific knowledge forms the basis of policy when it should, such as: overfishing, pollution, global warming, the health care benefits vaccines provide when they are used properly, the dangers of abusing antibiotics, etc..

    We need to elect leaders like those that took the steps to have the EPA clean up the incredibly polluted USA. We need to elect leaders that put the policies in place to reduce the overfishing in our waters. We need to elect leaders that care about our country and will learn what they need to from those that know the science.

  • Testing Smarter with Mike Bland

    This interview with Mike Bland is part of my series of “Testing Smarter with…” interviews: gaining insights and experiences from many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

    it’s not about defects; it’s about feedback and collaboration. If you arrange incentives to produce an adversarial relationship between team members, e.g. if developers are incentivized to minimize defects and testers are incentivized to report defects, then that’s a house divided against itself.

    Mike Bland aims to produce a culture of transparency, autonomy, and collaboration, in which “Instigators” are inspired and encouraged to make creative use of existing systems to drive improvement throughout an organization. The ultimate goal of such efforts is to make the right thing the easy thing. He's followed this path since 2005, when he helped drive adoption of automated testing throughout Google as part of the Testing Grouplet, the Test Mercenaries, and the Fixit Grouplet.

    my advice to both developers and testers is to identify the priorities, the social structures and dynamics at play in the organization. How can you work with these structures and dynamics instead of against them—or do you need to create a culture of open communication and collaboration in parallel with (or even before) communicating the testing message?

  • Testing Smarter with Alan Page

     This interview with Alan Page is part of my series of “Testing Smarter with…” interviews: gaining insights and experiences from many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

    The biggest thing I look for in testers is a passion and ability to learn. I've interviewed hundreds of testers... The testers who really impress me are those who love to learn - not just about testing, but about many different things. Critical thinking and problem solving are also quite important.

    Alan spent over twenty years at Microsoft working on a variety of operating systems and applications in nearly every Microsoft division and now works at Unity.

    Combinatorial testing is actually pretty useful in game testing. For example, consider a role-playing game with six races, ten character classes, four different factions, plus a choice for gender. That's 480 unique combinations to test! Fortunately, this has been proven to be an area where isolating pairs (or triples) of variations makes testing possible, while still finding critical bugs.

  • Testing Smarter with Dorothy Graham

    This interview with Dorothy Graham is part of my series of “Testing Smarter with…” interviews: gaining insights and experiences from many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

    The best way to have fewer bugs in the software is not to put them in in the first place. I would like to see testers become bug prevention advisors! And I think this is what happens on good teams.

  • Duoyishu Village, Yunnan, China

    Duoyishu Village is in Yuanyang County, Yunnan, China. I took a private tour for my travels through Yunnan to make things easy on me (China and Kenya are the only places I have done this – because they are more difficult to travel by yourself than most places are).

  • The Amazing Reality of Genes and The History of Scientific Inquiry

    The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee is a wonderful book. He does a great job of explaining the history of scientists learning about genes as well as providing understandable explanations for the current scientific understanding of genes and how they impact our lives.

    As I have mentioned before, I find biology fascinating even though I found biology classes utterly boring and painful. I wish everyone could learn about biology with the insight people like Siddhartha Mukherjee provide.

  • Testing Smarter with James Bach

    This is the first in a series of interviews by me aimed at highlighting insights and experiences by many of the software testing field’s leading thinkers.

    I test them using social science methods. That, after all, is how scientists attempt to test their theories about social life. That means an emphasis on qualitative analysis, but bringing in statistical methods whenever applicable.

    I agree that the medical world is a good example of where statistical methods and heuristic approaches are also needed. In testing complex things, some of what you need to do includes:

    • You must use time to your advantage-- observing systems over time the way primatologists observe chimps in the wild.
    • You must use Grounded Theory, beginning with immersion and observation, until patterns begin to reveal themselves.
  • Software Code Reviews from a Deming Perspective

    I think the “inspection” in code reviews is different enough that we can use code reviews as a valuable tool for managing software development. The waste of having processes that create defects and then use inspection to catch them is certainly something to avoid. A significant part of the effort in code reviews should be geared toward capturing learning that can be applied to current processes to improve them so fewer bugs are created in the future.

    In my experience this part of code reviews (using it to improve the existing processes) is not given the focus it should be. So I do believe that code reviews should focus more on why did we find something we decided to fix?

  • Should I be in the Check Phase of PDCA Daily?

    The check/study phase should be reviewing the results of the experiment done in the Do the experiment phase. "Checking" how things are going during the experiment makes sense but that isn't the check/study phase of PDSA .


    Remember one key to using the PDSA cycle is to turn through the whole cycle quickly. Daily would be exceptionally quick. Moving through the whole cycle in 2-6 weeks is more normal. Organizations successful using PDSA will quickly turn the cycle 4+ times for a specific effort (often the 2nd, 3rd... times through are much faster than the first time through).

  • Don’t Assume All Web Users Have a Fiber-like Connection

    I have pointed out for more than a decade how poorly many web pages are coded. They often assume a very low latency connection and without it the user experience is poor.


    I can only assume they just test the pages on their fiber connection and if it works they are ok. This is a very bad idea for nearly every website.

    Learn to get a deep understanding of your customers and potential customers with focus on the customer’s “Jobs to be Done.”  Otherwise organizations find themelves creating solutions that work in test conditions but that don't work for their customers (or potential customers).

  • Stratify Data to Hone in on Special Causes of Problems

    One strategy to help identify special causes so they can be studied and addressed is to stratify your data.

    By stratifying the data you refine your view to make it easier to identify what is causing the problem. Instead of looking at all vehicles and seeking to find the cause they had stratified the data and learned they could exclude looking at most of the processes (those that don’t impact large vehicles). And they then sought to further refine the scope by stratifying the data to further isolate the scope of the investigation. As you refine the scope you can discover what is common just to the population you have isolated by stratifying the data.