Three clues you’re on the wrong path with root cause

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three things that I hear all the time which are now my clue that a team isn’t on the right path when it comes to root cause.

  1. “Nobody could have caught it” and its variants like “once in a blue moon” are clues that the person speaking believes there are defects that nobody can catch. The funny thing is, if you look closely enough, and at enough defects, you will see that we do make the same types of mistakes over and over and over again. For example, numerous organizations commonly make date/time errors. These types of errors are common because working with dates and times is tricky. Leap years, end of year and end of day trip us up constantly.
  2. “It was so obvious [QA should have had a test case for it].” The implication here, sometimes stated but other times not is that had only QA written the right test case it would’ve easily been seen to be wrong. Of course, in my mind, this raises the question “if it was so obvious, why didn’t the developer catch it?” This is the quality is not my problem attitude. Had only those testers done their jobs properly, this wouldn’t have happened. But, frankly, had only the developer not made the mistake, we wouldn’t need QA at all.
  3. “Better communication.” Given the number of times that I’ve heard this root cause (as in, better communication of X is needed) one would think that we don’t talk to each other at all. Now, perhaps we don’t talk to each other enough sometimes, but the grim reality is that given enough communication, it all starts to sound like noise. I’ve had to beg to be taken off email distribution lists about all kind of nonsense because we can’t separate signal from noise. Even with much of the noise removed, it’s impossible to communicate everything. We are neither capable of storing nor retrieving that information at exactly the right time. More and better communication is a red herring. You are simply approaching the limits of what people can handle in terms of information at one time.

If you’re hearing the above things when you’re doing root cause, then you’re doing it wrong, or at least not deeply enough.

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