Tuesday, October 31, 2006

When more is less

In retooling our QA lab we've dropped the number of machines by half...and become more productive! Our work involves constantly re-installing windows service packes, hardware drivers, and assorted telephony software. Turns out that looking after of lots of machines was wasting time. We didn't used to have an organized way of managing the machines; we didn't know what was already on them, especially after a week of testing.

The cry always went out for more machines, which arrived "clean" and ready to go. Of course, after a testing cycle the new machine could end up just as messed up as all the others. Later, when the next release rolled around it was "we need more machines" all over again.

Reminds me of the old tale about the workbench with 25 screwdrivers and a set of storage slots for the screwdrivers, but only 24 slots. In the beginning each screwdriver was in its appropriately marked slot. Except #25 which someone borrows. Then another worker borrows #15. When the first worker returns, he puts #25 into the only open slot, #15's slot. Then he borrows #7. Now the second worker returns and puts #15 into slot #7. Pretty soon all the screwdrivers are in the wrong slots. The whole storage system fell apart because of a single insufficient slot.

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