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Good Enough Software
A Conversation with Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas, Part III
by Bill Venners
March 17, 2003

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Quality is What You Do, Not What You Measure

Bill Venners: You said, "Some methodologies have a quality officer, someone to whom the team delegates the responsibility for quality. This is clearly ridiculous. Quality can only come from the individual contributions of the team members." Why?

Dave Thomas: Because the notion of a quality officer implies that the rest of the team is out there to undermine quality. The quality officer is a policeman whose job is to catch and slap the wrists of the naughty little programmers, to send them back and tell them to do it again. Quality is not something you test after the fact. Quality is something you do all the time as you're actually doing the development. It's every individual's job to inject quality into what they're doing. Now you may have a coach or someone who can help you with the details of achieving quality, and you certainly want some kind of QA testing and acceptance testing. But you don't produce quality by installing a quality officer, ticking the quality checkbox and assuming you have quality taken care of because the quality officer is out there.

Andy Hunt: Having a quality officer is kind of like having a breathing officer.

Next Week

Come back Monday, March 24 for Part IV of this conversation with Pragmatic Programmers Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas. If you'd like to receive a brief weekly email announcing new articles at, please subscribe to the Artima Newsletter.

Talk Back!

Have an opinion on knowing how good is good enough, determining what features are most important, getting frequent user feedback, or inspiring a team to create quality? Discuss this article in the News & Ideas Forum topic, Good Enough Software.


Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas are authors of The Pragmatic Programmer, which is available on at:

The Pragmatic Programmer's home page is here:

Dave Thomas was not the first person I've interviewed who mentioned the arcade game Whack-a-Mole. James Gosling also called upon the versatile Whack-a-Mole metaphor while pointing out that it is sometimes hard in engineering to know if you've solved a problem or moved it:

The Agile Manifesto is here:

Ward's Wiki, the first WikiWikiWeb, created by Ward Cunningham, is here:

A great article about the space shuttle software, They Write the Right Stuff:

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