Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Consistency is Critical

One of key tenets that I try to follow is consistency.  The reason I see most people being inefficient or unproductive is that they are not consistent.  Even when they realize they will be doing something multiple times, they don't take time to standardize.  Using standards and following patterns is at the core of my philosophy.

Regardless of the end goal, if you find yourself doing something more than once, standardize it. Having a fixed way to proceed will:
  • Improve efficiency - efficiency is the key to maximum productivity.  Using standards and following patterns means there will be less decisions to make and allows you to learn from the mistakes of others.  When producing something it generally means you can build on existing work instead of creating everything from scratch.
  • Increase quality - when you follow patterns and adhere to standards then things become reproducible.  Failures can be found and fixed quickly.  It becomes easier to trust the processes when they function deterministically.  You will have more trust in a product with many predictable bugs, then a product with few apparent bugs that behaves unpredictably.  Generally speaking, trust is a measure of how we perceive quality.
  • Unblock communications - when you agree on terminology, the steps in a process, or the definition of concept, you can articulate more concisely and reliably.  When you listen, you will be able to trust that the words convey the content and the intent in equal measure.  You will be able to express your point of view accurately, with fewer restatements and misunderstandings.
From a management standpoint, following patterns and creating consistent processes means that the we can share information without guessing about the intent or spending time on the packaging.  From and engineering perspective, this consistency translates into understanding the code produced by each team member.  For the entire team, when we don't know something, a standard will often save us from having to ask someone and waste time.

If you are a member of a team, you lead a group, or are an executive in charge, striving to create consistency will increase your capability.