The black box problem (was Re: Reviewers for localized materials - are they required?)

Subject: The black box problem (was Re: Reviewers for localized materials - are they required?)
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: Localization Question <localization_question -at- hotmail -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2006 08:46:44 -0400

Localization Question wrote:

My company localizes its software using a third-party firm. For the most part, the service and quality seems excellent. However, there have been a few glitches and imperfections.

Dear LQ (but not Lou Quillio, one presumes),

I cannot answer your specific questions, because I don't have the relevant experience. But the first part of your post triggered a thought about a more general problem.

We all have the experience of work among people of varying abilities. These may be team members doing essentially the same tasks we are doing; they may be coworkers whose work we review or who review our work; they may be managers or company executives. Some of them we judge to be brighter than we are and better at their jobs; some of them we judge to be complete idiots and wonder how they were hired in the first place. But I dare say we see all of them as fallible human beings. We anticipate that, in the pressure and chaos of what passes for corporate culture, everyone will make mistakes now and then. Some of those mistakes go out the door, and we deal with customer complaints as they arise--gracefully or not.

The moment we purchase a service from another company, though, we believe the blather on their Web site or in their marketing collateral--that they are a well oiled machine turning out perfect work and garnering unanimous praise from their customers. We are shocked when they commit even the smallest error. Waiter! I said hold the mayo! What kind of a jerks do you have working in that rat-infested kitchen of yours!

We all do this to one extent or another. It's as if, in not being able to see human workers sitting at desks and acting like human beings, our brains assume the non-existence of those people and substitute an image of an error-free automaton.

I think a safer assumption is that the people in that company over there are not, on average, any brighter, more diligent, or more careful than the people sitting around me in the company where I work (speaking hypothetically here as I don't work in cubicle-land any more <g>). In other words, it is probably a good idea to be satisfied with pretty good work most of the time and to build into your process whatever additional quality control mechanisms you feel are warranted and cost-justified. And do remember that "quality control" does not mean "guaranteed perfection." It means ensuring that the error rate stays within acceptable limits. What those acceptable limits consist of varies depending on the industry, of course. Badly molded Cracker Jack toys are less of a problem than, say, chunks of insulation falling off an external fuel tank.



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