Re: The software factory (was "Don't believe the hype?") (long)
Dick Margulis wrote:
Yes, you can have a defined process for managing an R&D
operation. But no, you can't just write down some procedures for making
new scientific discoveries and hire some kid off the street to run the
procedure. You can't micromanage creative contributors. What you can do
is give them a list of deliverables and negotiate deadlines with them,
then manage to those deadlines. In other words, you can tell them what
you want and when you want it, and then you can give them the resources
to get the job done. But you can't tell them how to do their work or
which tab goes in what slot, because doing so won't get you the results
The kind of tech writing that corresponds with these levels requires
some creativity and is unlikely to be reduced to a series of algorithms,
in my opinion.
Toyota brings new car models to market in half the time that it takes GM and
Ford. They have done so for decades. They do so because they have a superior
design process. It is far more sophisticated and complex that simply giving
people resources and a deadline and letting them get on with it.
I did not mean to convey the notion that such processes are simple, only that they are different in kind from manufacturing processes.
Designs do not spring full formed like Minerva from the head of Zeus. They
are the outcome of a process of experimentation and refinement.
Discoveries (rather than designs) generally do spring, if not full formed like Minerva from the head of Zeus then from a well fertilized field. However designs (as in the next umpteen versions of the Corolla) do not represent discoveries and, as I said in the part you snipped from my post, do issue forth from a fairly stable, predictable process. And between discovery and design is the third level I identified, platform development (okay, you've figured out how to make an economical fuel cell, so now put together a drive train and tell me the range of body weights I can attach to it), which is governed as well by a process, but a process with more risks and therefore less predictability than churning out new trim packages.
very specific processes for how such experiments are to be conducted, how
decisions are to be arrived at, how and when testing is to be done, and a
host of other things. All these things, taken together create a repeatable
design process that produces better designs in half the time it takes their
The kinds of processes that we put in place to create an efficient design
process are going to be different, in their specifics, from the kind of
processes that we use to govern design. But it we don't put a process around
the design activity, if we do not continually look for ways to make it more
productive, more predictable, and more effective, we get left behind by
foreign competition. It applies to technical communication as much as to
cars or TV sets.
Absolutely true. Process is good. Discipline is good. However the breakthroughs come with creativity, not rote adherence to algorithms.
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RE: The software factory (was "Don't believe the hype?") (long): From: stevefjong
Re: The software factory (was "Don't believe the hype?") (long): From: Dick Margulis
Re: The software factory (was "Don't believe the hype?") (long): From: Mark Baker
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