Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Modern Quality’s Greatest Enemy

Modern Quality’s Greatest Enemy

Once upon a time there was a young prince born in 1971.  A gangly child, army brat who hung out on university campuses, until his early twenties when he suddenly became known worldwide.  He was swift of foot, indeed so fast that he rapidly developed the reputation of being the microsecond man… flash.  Nobody faster.  He was the darling in all the land and everyone wanted to know him.  

As the years and decades passed the prince went from young shiny and handsome to something larger.  With an appetite ravenous he bulged and bulged; what started as a flash and media darling slowly (or rapidly depending on your time frame) started to bog down and seemed to choke on his own gargantuan mass, until one day people looked around and realized the young svelte flash had transformed into one ginormous frog.
This parable is of course my story of the transformation of email from the miracle of modern magic to the bane of human existence.  A few years ago, Martin Bryant wrote that by 2001, there were around 31 billion emails were sent daily, and by a decade later that number grew to staggering 294 billion.  Some days I have the terrible feeling that everyone on planet has decided to include me as a CC and I receive all 294, ever day, seven days a week.  

To Qualitologists this has become a major problem.  For all intents and purposes, communication has ceased to function.  Every step of get on top of this mountain of electrons fails.  Keeping separate email addresses for work and pleasure fails in a matter of days.  Using an index system buries critical messages.  Trying to sort out what needs to be addressed now becomes near impossible and makes things infinitely worse because the pressure to push out a response cause all sorts of errors, not limited to tragic spelling or unchecked grammar or misconstrued text.  Spam pollutes and phishing savages.  There is no relief.  

I am starting to think that Quality professionals need to get a grip on all the misdirected emails, the lost messages, and the generated confusion.  Start with the premise that even if the sender believes that the message of value, the risk of a non-value outcome or a jeopardous outcome is too high.  

Over the last 2 working days I have received 201 emails.  Twenty-six were relevant and material, and 24 more were valid but unnecessary copies sent to me, just because.  Sixty-two were spam or phishing files sent directly to my spam file, unfortunately along with 1 file that I was actually supposed to receive.  Twenty-three were social media related to LinkedIn or Twitter.  The remainder were emails that were not spam but were clearly in the promotion or updates category of which I really was not too interested, except for 2 that should have been in my primary index.  And annoyingly there was one of my usual misdirected homonymous misdirects, an email sent to me but really intended for someone else.

Taken at its best this represented a defect rate of 4 per 201 (Sigma value 3.6).  On the other hand if we take into consideration the unwanted and dangerous stuff the error rate is more like 100 (Sigma 1.6).  The point is that neither value is one of which a Quality program would be proud.  And this was only two random days,

My point is that I know that my email experience is all too typical, but is fraught with error and confusion to a level that no one interested in Quality should tolerate.  Email has become time consuming, error prone, loaded with opportunity for miscommunication or lost communication.  What started with so much promise has become a choke point, a quality failure and a true pain in the butt.

Business and society will tolerate this for only so long, and then technology will thankfully move on.  As far as I am concerned, enough has clearly and definitely become enough.

Time for a new plan.


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