Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Quality Problem Solving

All good engineers are at their roots good problems solvers. Despite the fact that my degree is in computer science, I feel that I should have received a bachelor's in "Technical Problem Solving". This may be obvious to some of those reading this blog, but this point was definitely not emphasized going through school. Until you're pretty deep into the program, you are led to believe that this education is in how to program, and nothing else. I'll have to write later about the issues I have with computer science education before I digress any further, as this post is about a book.

I've started a book that has turned out to be quite interesting. The book is called Quality Problem Solving by Gerald Smith. Now before you laugh at the fact that I found this interesting, hear me out. Being that I'm a member of the QA community, it is problems of quality that currently concern me. I find the book to be very realistic in its view of quality and problem solving in general, without any hokey aphorism's or a-b-c methods of solving problems. For instance, take this gem:

"The most common weakness in practical reasoning, as in problem solving, is incompleteness. Poor outcomes result not so much from the mistakes we make as from the possibilities we overlook."

Gerald starts the book with a very sober view of the word "quality" and how it has been manipulated and had its meaning raided by corporate vandals, citing TQM and other quality fads frequently. He rightly states that these movements had good principles and ideas behind them, and if used in the right context were very useful. However many were applied to solve every problem known to man and beast, and hence, fell out of favor after failure in those contexts.

He continues on to lay down a philosophical yet clear foundation for solving problems, discussing problem identification, problem definition, diagnosis, and alternative generation. He discusses these topics in general terms, and provides good examples for each.

The last part of the book applies the problem solving foundations to specific problems related to quality. I can't evaluate that part of the book, as I have not yet read it, but it looks promising. The TOC lists the topics of conformance, efficiency, product design, process design, and unstructured performance problems.

Basically what I'm saying is this book is good, and I recommend it.

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