Throw away your zero fault targets – MES004

What does it mean?

Zero-faults strategy means that there are no faults accepted in the delivered product. Or at least only a very minimum amount of failures with low priority. Regular for medical devices, avionics, spaceflight. But is it really necessary for other industries? The zero fault phase might start anytime before the near customer delivery.

Why are there zero-fault targets?

  • Customer only wanted to accept mature products
  • Too many faults in delivery product
  • Customer complaints

Symptoms and impacts with zero-fault target approach in use

  • Wrong priorities due to priority inversion
  • Artificial delay of deliveries
  • Congestion of problems and tasks
  • Complete usage of resources for low priorities
  • Exhaustion, frustration and finally demotivation

Notes about quality

  • Quality cannot be tested into the product
  • It is essential to know what the customer really wants
  • Clear and precise goals and priorities from management for the different projects and programs.

What can you do if you’re in a zero-fault phase?

Leaders & Managers

You can take the following actions in a short-run:

  1. Decide with customer what are the relevant features. Distinguish between: Must-Do, Should-do, and Can-Do. Concentrate on the Must-Do factors.
  2. Take care of mutual exclusive resources
  3. Renegotiate the deadline / renegotiate the system requirements or both
  4. Run the Triage! Details see Wikipedia

And these are my proposed actions for the long-run:

  1. Understand the intention of the innovators of 0-fault target. What’s behind of it?
  2. Educate your engineers. Quality comes from know-how and this can be trained and learned.
  3. Read the book “Death March” by Edward Yourdon
  4. Get familiar with the big-tanker captain’s view

Software-/Hardware engineers

To mitigate or handle the effects of zero-fault targets you may take the following actions:

  1. Show and highlight your outstanding tasks and priorities
  2. Move the decision for priority and order of tasks to the managers
  3. Inform your managers in time about priority clashes and overload situations
  4. Read the book “Death March” by Edward Yourdon


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5 replies
    • georg
      georg says:

      Wel said Tomislav. But not only in SW-industry. I have seen this behavior already a long time ago in automotive industry: “Hey guys, your just manufactured parts do not meet the required quality.” Response: “Not our business. Quality is done by the Quality Control department”.

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