Confusing Cost and Value

Oct 2nd, 2002 by Tony in QSM2

To err is human; to combat error is software engineering. A great deal of software engineering research has been devoted to eliminating error early, which is all to the good. But no amount of effort will prevent errors from occurring at all; that would violate the two strongest sets of laws we know: laws of thermodynamics and laws of human nature. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says: To decrease entropy (increase information), you need to add energy.

In colloquial terms, this means: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

In other words, you have to pay to get quality; and the higher quality you want, the more you have to pay. Crosby’s book title Quality is Free doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay for quality. Crosby means that you’ll be more than compensated for whatever you pay.

Crosby’s concept has great appeal for managers because of the First Law of Human Nature: People never want to believe the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to themselves.

My job of working with software engineers would have been easier if Crosby had title the book Quality Pays – But Only If You Invest In It. Unfortunately paying a high price does not guarantee a fine lunch, just an expensive lunch. The investment in quality must be more than money and hard work. To produce quality consistently, managers must learn new ways of thinking. Simple linear thinking is not adequate to the task of combating the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

— Jerry Weinberg, Quality Software Management Vol 2, Chapter 8

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