In honor of Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, let’s have a Chautauqua on quality and value how we’re measuring it. Building off of the Agile Day conference topic of AntiFrAgile, we're part of an anti-fragile organization if we’re measuring the right stuff. Are we measuring the right stuff? How do you know? I’ll share some philosophy and experience to start our discussion. We’ll use a polling tool to make the discussion interactive, participatory, and allow you to share your stories and experience.
Robert M. Pirsig September 6, 1928 – April 24, 2017
And what is good,
And what is not good –
Need we ask anyone to
tell us these things?
The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and
head and hands, and then work outward from there. - Robert M. Pirsig
Is value determined by delivery on time, on budget, and on scope?
Are they using everything we delivered?
Is the scope delighting the customer?
In a survey of 4 products, 65% of the features were rarely or never used.
How much money could have been
saved if we never built them?
3 things we wish were true
• Customer knows what they want
• Developers know how to build it
• Nothing will change along the way
3 things we have to live with
• Impact isn’t known until software is
used in production
• Developers discover how to build it
• Many things change along the way
How transparent is
your org today?
Transparency leads to…
• Psychological safety
Business resilience isn’t only about innovation and money, it’s also
about social and environmental responsibility.
Does society see us as having a socially redeemable pursuit or goal?
Are we behaving ethically?
Do you have an environment people thrive in?
firstname.lastname@example.org, @kevinbburns 25
The Search for Truth
Didactic and binary
• Esthetic vs Classical
• Artistic vs Technological
• Subjective vs Objective
• Metaphysic vs Scientific
• Methos vs Logos (myth vs logic)
• Mind vs Matter
• Dialogue vs Rhetoric
• Plutonic vs Socratic
• 0 vs 1
What do you see?
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
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Were these cake instructions implemented correctly?
Was the customer delighted?
Pirsig changed view of Reality to be Quality First
Quality Pheadrus was
should be teaching
Romantic (Emotional)Classic (Intellectual)
Objective (Physical)Subjective (Mental)
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance page 223. firstname.lastname@example.org, @kevinbburns
Pirsig in pursuit of Truth
What is the truth and how do you know it when you have it?
. . .
How do we really ‘know’ anything? Is there an “I,” a “soul,”
which knows, or is this soul merely cells coordinating senses?
. . .
Is reality basically changing, or is it fixed and permanent?
. . .
When it’s said that something means something, what’s
meant by that?
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Quality is no longer The Problem
Pirsig became comfortable with the fact that quality isn’t definable. It’s
something intuitive. Not of the scientific world nor the esthetic world.
Neither classic nor artistic. Neither mind nor matter.
The new problem became analysis itself. He found a problem with logic
and rational thought. In order for us to be able to reason, we need to
be able to define things. Without definition, there can’t be reason. If
we can’t define Quality, we have a problem with Analysis.
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Social economics and unconventional wisdom change the game.
Is Quality subjective? Is Truth Relative? Are Facts
Alternative? Is News Fake?
35Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance page205-223.
“Does this undefined ‘quality’ of yours exist in the things we observe?” they asked,
“Or is it subjective, existing only in the observer?”
Therefore, quality is just a fancy name for whatever you like.
Is what we like truly subjective or has it been programed by society?
Quality is neither subjective nor objective. If it’s defined by the Observer, where did
the observer get his/her thoughts…from society?
It’s monism. It’s above mind and matter.
Are you purposely
injecting chaos into
to see how resilient
What’s your single
If I had an hour to solve a problem
and my life depended on the
solution, I would spend the first
55 minutes determining the
proper question to ask, for once I
know the proper question, I could
solve the problem in less than five
• A/B Testing
• Progressive Testing
• Click-through rates
• Abandonment rates
• Conversation rates
• Net Promoter
• Social media
• 3rd party data (Nielsen, Gallup, LexisNexis, etc)
Be careful about
what you think
• What people say they would pay, isn’t
typically what they would actually pay.
• What a user says they want and what
they actually need (or want) are two
• Users and buyers aren’t always the
• Users are very different (as are buyers)
• 70% of IoT innovation is stuck in POC
It’s the unknown unknowns and
epistemic arrogance that kills
Can we learn from our experience and
focus on the signal in the noise?
Bad science is 70% behaviorally based
Half of all scientific research isn’t trust worthy
Lies – Damn Lies - Statisticskburns@sagesw.com, @kevinbburns
Pirsig’s Scientific Method
1. State Problem,
2. Hypothesis cause of problem,
3. Design Experiments to test hypothesis,
4. Predict results,
5. Observed results, and
6. Draw Conclusions.
The real purpose of scientific method is to make sure Nature hasn’t
misled you into thinking you know something you don’t actually know.
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Mind your hubris
It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say,
"Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.
- Robert M. Pirsig
• Customers don’t know what they want. It’s very hard to envision
the solution you want without actually seeing it.
• At least 2/3 of our ideas are never going to work. The other 1/3
will take 3-4 iterations to get right.
• The role of the product manager is to discover a product that is
valuable, usable, and feasible. Product, design, and engineering
work together to arrive at optimal solution.
User, Customer, Client
Software EngineeringBusiness Sponsor
Do you have the right balance to deliver Quality, Value, & Innovation?
Do you have the right balance?
• Are we asking what are Minimum
Viable (Valuable) Product and how do
we know when we’ve delivered it?
• Use a scientific method to measure,
learn and pivot or preserver.
• Use meaningful quantitative
objective measure to evaluate impact.
• Can you use A/B testing?
Iterative Discovery and Delivery Model
Build and Validate
Iterative Stable Team Delivery
Value and/or Impact driven culture
• Are we measuring the Cost vs Benefit at all levels of our work items?
• Are we measuring the Impact our features have on our customers?
• The act of sizing helps us define done
and what the really valuable work is
• Using story telling and test statements
create understanding of value and DoD
How to measure anything – Douglas Hubbard
• A measurement is an observation that quantitatively reduces uncertainty.
• A good object of measurement is something that is clearly defined and it’s observable.
• Uncertainty is the lack of certainty: the true outcome/state/value is not known.
• Risk is a state of uncertainty in which some of the possibilities involve a loss.
• Much pessimism about measurement comes from a lack of experience
• Your problem is not as unique as you think.
• You have more data than you think.
• You need less data than you think.
• An adequate amount of new data is more accessible than you think.
Douglas Hubbard firstname.lastname@example.org, @kevinbburns
Select a measurement
To figure out which category of measurement
methods are appropriate for a particular case, we
must ask several questions:
1. Decomposition: Which parts of the thing
are we uncertain about?
2. Secondary research: How has the thing
(or its parts) been measured by others?
3. Observation: How do the identified
observables lend themselves to
4. Measure just enough: How much do we
need to measure it?
5. Consider the error: How might our
observations be misleading?
• Customers don’t always know what they want
• People don’t buy features they buy benefits
• The value you’re offering isn’t unique…it is evaluated in terms of it’s relationship
to what they already have, know or use (substitution cost)
• People will buy your product at a price commensurate with perceived benefits
received at a cost lower than your competitor or some other substitution cost
• Given this, how fast can you find-out whether you’re on the right track
• How many of us know what
business/user outcomes and impacts
we’re trying to achieve?
• Do we have the right people and
metrics in place to evaluate our
progress as well as how successfully
we’re achieving the outcomes and
impacts we’re intending?
• Who want’s help creating some
Life, the Universe, and Everything