Chapter 8. Building Quality In

In the industrial age, business processes could be tuned and then operated unchanged for significant periods of time. By contrast, the complexity and disruptiveness of the post-industrial economy requires continual adaptation. Businesses confront constant gaps in their coupling with the market and their customers. Service becomes a process of continual repair. From this perspective, quality assurance is just another name for the day-to-day functioning of the business.

Continuous design pushes this perspective even further. It challenges service organizations to acknowledge that design and development are never done, no matter how well tested their products are. Continuous design extends the QA activity of detecting gaps between actual and expected into production. In addition to making operations part of design, it makes QA part of operations.

Up to this point, we have naïvely used the term quality assurance, without examining its meaning relative to its use in the software industry over the past 40 years. Forward-thinking members of the QA industry have pointed out that “testing” can’t actually assure quality. They have astutely recognized that what we call QA is merely the feedback half of the cybernetic loop. The job of the tester is not to assure quality, but rather to contribute to it by providing the information needed to guide accurate (re-)action. Productive self-steering requires useful conversations; testing validates an organization’s ...

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