Zero Defects™

Last week, in a conversation with a coworker, he stated that defects do not make developers look bad. Basically, he asserted the following:

  1. Defects are not used to judge developer competence; and,
  2. Defects are simply artifacts for tracking work that needs to be done.

I agree with these points. However, experience teaches me that defects can and do make teams look bad. I’ve seen defects become a point of contention between a development team and their business partner(s). And, once a rift forms between the two, it is very difficult to heal.

So, how can we simultaneously encourage defect creation (to track work that needs to be done) without creating a rift between the development team and their business partners? My preferred approach is to create Zero Defects. Here’s how:

  1. Manage your work with a backlog of user stories.
  2. Create test cases for each user story before you begin development. Review the test cases with your business partner as well as QA to make sure you didn’t miss any. (This can happen iteratively. There’s no need to create test cases for stories you’re not going to work on right away.)
  3. As you develop a story, automate the test cases to prove that the software does what the tests say it should. When all the tests pass, the code is complete. (If possible, the developer who writes the code should not be the developer/tester who automates the tests. And, it’s very helpful to automate the tests before the code exists.)
  4. When you finish a story (and the associated tests), review both the software and the automated tests with your business partner to make sure everything is as they wanted. If your business partner wants to make changes at that point – either new requests, or things we might typically call defects – write them up as new user stories and prioritize them in the backlog.

That’s all there is to it. You, the developer/tester, get to take credit in the current Sprint/iteration for the work you completed. And, your business partner gets to manage a single backlog with all the outstanding work in it. Plus, no one has to fight over what’s a defect and what’s a user story. It’s a win/win+!

Now, I realize that this might be considered controversial. So, I’ll explain my thought process in a future post. Feel free to tell me how this’ll never work in the comments!

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