Learning from Errors

My Mama used to say when I was a kid that “Don’t worry. Your mistake is not a mistake, if you learn from it”

In his book “Errors: bugs, boo-boos and blunders”, Jerry Weinberg talks the subject of errors at length and it was a delightful reading. As a software practitioner, we all see errors all the time. But if one wants to take the errors seriously, this book is a must read. To boost your appetite, let me share a few lessons that I learned from the book:

Errors are not a Moral thing

Yes, when we get to know that we were responsible for an error, we feel guilty. Some of it comes from our school time when we were told that making error is a moral thing and the one who does is a bad person. Unfortunately many Managers live in the school teacher mentality where they want to embarrass team members publicly when they make mistakes. Jerry emphasizes this and suggests to get out of this mind block to accept that all of us make errors. This should not result in doing nothing by saying “hey, what we can do as errors are a natural thing” rather this should result in focusing on what we can do to limit the error and how they can be stopped in future. In Jerry’s words:

To err is human; to combat error is software engineering.

Errors have a link with the management

When we study errors and causes of errors, we often focus on the Person who made the error. If we go beyond, we look at what was fed to that Person and how it was done. In terminology, it can be translated as how the requirements were defined, how the Programmer understood the requirements and how the Programmer implemented the requirements. All too often, we forget that the environment in which all these things happen and how it contributes to the errors made. And good management is all about create environment to reduce such errors.

Jerry has listed eight Fs of software failure and how management can work on them. But he also said right there:

But good management is so boring!

Errors will always exist

You might be thinking that you are a software engineering champion and you are a management champion, so you know the best of software processes that you’ll apply in best of your management style such that errors will never occur. That’s the pitfall for each Perfectionist and Jerry suggests that we need to live with the errors. He lists 8 Laws of Errors Defense to help us out and one of them is:

One thing worse than error is an error farm

As a tester, you might have seen many error farms where errors are produced in abundance. When we report errors, we should be looking for error farms and reporting them too.

How do you see errors? What lessons you have learned from them?


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2 responses to “Learning from Errors”

  1. Farhan Gul says :

    Well said. I wish all managers had this point of view.


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