Saturday, June 6, 2020

We Can Stop Producing Bad Apples

"There are a few bad apples" - We hear over and over again from people in power.  It's said with the intention of ending the conversation and not going deeper.

Where is our pride?  Where is our curiosity?  Where is the drive and challenge to make things better instead of justifying how things are?

If Honda Odysseys exploded every now and then at a steady rate, would we say, oh wow, those are a few bad Odysseys out there. Shrug. 

No.  We would be mad as hell. 

Manufacturers know we would be mad as hell. That's why they deal with their processes in a reflective manner - if something goes wrong...they can drill down and solve it. 

Bad apples are a symptom, not an inevitable outcome. 

We attempt to solve "bad apple production" in business -- process analysis, lean manufacturing, five-whys, "shifting left" in software/application production.   Judging by the number of conferences I get invited to and the amount of marketing material I receive, this is a huge industry. 

Essentially the idea is to study problems, patterns, and prevention.  What inputs are causing the bad apples?  Is there an interaction of factors most likely to produce the bad apples?  How long can bad apples be out in the world being bad apples before they are realized as bad?  What happens when we suspect an apple is bad?   What can we change to keep bad apples far away from hurting people? 

The goal is continuous improvement.  Reflection, learning, adjustment. 

There's nothing in these methods about digging in your heels, defending the processes that were optimized for one outcome (protection of White people) when it turns out we need to optimize on a different outcome (protection for All)....Nothing about shrugging and accepting your high bad apple production rate. 

So why are we seeing this behavior in public policy matters?  What's the difference?  

So far, enough of us haven't been mad as hell. My hope is that we are getting there. 

Get mad.  Stay mad.