“Find X” or “How to easily solve problems”

Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

In math, the shortest distance between 2 points, A and B, is a straight line. It’s as simple as that. There’s no “left”, there’s no “right”, there’s no “what if?”. A–B  and “That’s all, folks!”. Such a dull, short journey…

Life is also a journey. It’s a salad of experiences and empiricism and decisions and butterfly effects. It’s a way cooler journey than A–B, although it strongly resembles it. Life looks something like A–B(x), where x represents the outcomes of all the decisions we’ve made so far.

Sometimes, a choice or a decision doesn’t only mean picking between 2 or more options. It might be choosing to do all of them but in a precise order. But how do you know which is the order you should follow?

Let’s take the example of defects in Quality Assurance. Let’s say that you are a Software Tester and while testing the product, you encounter 2 bugs: a crash which causes data+money loss and a typo in the word “house”. The typo is present in absolutely every screen and section of the application, but the crash is only encountered when performing some 24 particular steps in a particular order, only if you are using a particular mobile network, with only one operating system version.  Given that Quality means meeting and exceeding customer expectations and that your job is to find as many valid bugs as possible, there is no argue in having both bugs fixed. It’s super tempting to jump on the crash given its impact and severity, but the probability of encountering it, says otherwise. I mean come on, what are the odds of that crash to happen? Whereas there is absolutely no way to bypass that annoying “hausE”.

When we are facing a situation in which we have to decide in which order bad things should be tackled, we have a tool called FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis). By analyzing the Risk Priority Number (RPN= severity x occurrence x detection) we will know how to prioritize our chores. This is extensively used in Lean Six Sigma, Risk Management and QA Management. The concept itself can also be used to shape your own B(x).

(Good) Choices sometimes involve cutting off one or more options in order to come to a compromise, to have all the involved parties satisfied, choices usually made by people in a position of power. The validity of the compromise is a clear statement whether the person who instated it, is a Boss or a Leader.

For example, you are coordinating an organization which wants to work with a form of Agile at Scale. Of course, there are multiple frameworks that can help you do that: Nexus (focused on integrated component teams), LeSS (focused on feature teams) and SAFe (25% component, 75% feature). Your teams are specialized in totally different technologies, platforms and components. The organization says that their aim is to increase productivity and profits and they think that LeSS is the best way to do it, although in terms of outcomes and outputs there’s no real difference between these 3 frameworks. What do you do?

Well, if you want to pick the overall best choice, all you have to do is to listen to your teams. Discuss with them which one, do they think is the way to go and how to reach a compromise: to keep both the team and the organization happy. A compromise does not always have to be a lose-lose shot.

There is some simple math you can do to help you reach that compromise. I = Q x A (impact of solution = quality of solution x rate of acceptance of that solution). Now, returning to our scaled agile example, if LeSS has a 100% degree of quality (in Management’s opinion) but a 0% rate of acceptance from your team, what is the impact of it? Of course, you could still enforce the impactless solution, but that would clearly make you just “The Boss” and the organization will not face a prolific B(x).

I’ve used the software tester’s and agile transformation’s examples because it’s way easier to understand, having a technical domain, how to apply these simple sciences. In life, we use these tools on a daily basis without even being aware of them. On each step we are facing a probable butterfly effect trigger and our subconscious analyzes it. We don’t just stop, pull out a sheet of paper, pocket calculator and start calculating stuff. No, our calculator is not physical. It’s based on chemical reactions and electrical impulses. It’s our gut feeling, emotions and common sense. Just by being human we are top notch analysts.

Performance is attained when realizing that you should also add to your physical calculator your physiological calculations, as well. Don’t refrain your emotions and make them part of the journey.

X” can be solved only if you remember: be nice, have empathy, listen. Be human.

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