Duct Tape Belts

Sometimes, you have to look to other industries to see what’s wrong with yours and find solutions. I just read Joel Spolsky’s article about Duct Tape Programmers ( From Joel’s observations we can draw obvious parallels to Lean Six Sigma. Here’s some insights from the article:

And the duct-tape programmer is not afraid to say, “[complex code] sucks. Stop it. Just stop.”

You see, everybody else is too afraid of looking stupid because they just can’t keep enough facts in their head at once to make multiple inheritance, or templates, or COM, or multithreading, or any of that stuff work. So they sheepishly go along with whatever faddish programming craziness has come down from the architecture astronauts who speak at conferences and write books and articles and are so much smarter than us that they don’t realize that the stuff that they’re promoting is too hard for us.

One principle duct tape programmers understand well is that any kind of coding technique that’s even slightly complicated is going to doom your project.

Duct tape programmers . . . stick to simple basic and easy to use tools and use the extra brainpower that these tools leave them to write more useful features for their customers.

Worse is Better. A 50%-good solution that people actually have solves more problems and survives longer than a 99% solution that nobody has because it’s in your lab where you’re endlessly polishing the damn thing.

“Money Belts” are just like Duct Tape Programmers
They don’t care about Box Cox Transformations of non-normal data. They don’t care about all of the endless statistical dogma drilled into Black Belts about hypothesis testing, regression analysis or whatever.

Money belts find problems and fix them forever and add the money to the bottom line. To paraphrase Spolsky:

  • Complex problem solving sucks! Stop it!
  • Any kind of statistical technique that’s even slightly complicated is going to doom your project.
  • Don’t go along with the faddish statistical craziness handed down by the lords of statistics. Find a problem and fix it.
  • Stick to simple basic and easy to use tools: control charts, pareto charts and fishbone diagrams.
    (Some people think control charts are too complex, but with today’s affordable SPC software like the QI Macros, control charts are as easy to create as any other kind of chart.)

While all of this exotic statistical stuff is great for filling boring classes for all colors of belts, most of the time it’s unnecessary. Over-engineering a problem is silly. Stop it!

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