Denise Holmes, Edge Leadership Consulting
One of the questions for this conference is “can complexity be managed or are we destined for complete chaos?” The key concept in that phrase is that of managing complexity, versus being at the whims of a complex system. Sometimes a sense of powerlessness results from treating interdependent factors as independent of one another and then being surprised at the negative impacts that occur because we weren’t aware of their interrelatedness. For example, taking the stance “we need to focus on quality no matter what it costs or how long it takes” could result in a wildly over-budget project that is obsolete or of no interest to the customer by the time it is released. This is more likely in a situation in which costs and time to market aren’t proactively managed at some level. The opposite also holds true, going for speed at the expense of quality, or cost at the expense of quality might mean losing customers’ trust and business, beginning a downward slide that finishes the organization. The reality is that all of these factors are important and influence each other to some degree: quality AND cost AND time to develop. These are just a few dynamics that may be competing with each other in our world.
So, what does this mean for the quality professional of today?
Managing complexity means recognizing differing and critical needs, how to experience the upsides of each need, avoid the downsides, and do it all intentionally, with awareness of the choices being made. The skills to accomplish this, as covered in the paper, include the ability to:
- Recognize system dynamics at play, called polarities, that may be getting in the way of your quality goals
- Manage these polarities through a deceptively simple process; and
- Apply this process as a communication and conflict resolution tool to create dialogue about what is important and why.
This paper introduces the process of polarity management as a way of seeing, thinking and communicating around opposing dynamics to help you become (or remain) a proactive player in support of your software quality efforts.