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Archivos por Etiqueta: teoría de las ventanas rotas

Agile 101: Broken Windows Theory

In the late 1960s, a university professor carried out a psychological experiment. He left two identical cars in two different neighbourhoods. One in a poor, high-crime neighbourhood in the Bronx, New York. The other one in a rich, quiet area of Palo Alto, California. Shortly after it was abandoned, the car in the Bronx started to have all its parts stolen. First the radio, then the tires, the mirrors, and anything of value. Yet the car abandoned in California remained undamaged. The study did not end there. When the car in the rich neighbourhood had been intact for a week, the researchers broke one of its windows. This escalated quickly, and soon afterwards the effect was the same as it had been in the Bronx. Theft and vandalism swiftly reduced the car to its bare bones in both neighbourhoods. A car with broken windows sends out a message of disrepair and negligence. It spreads the notion that anything goes. Every new act of vandalism reinforced and broadcast the idea that nobody was taking care of that car. That nobody cared.

A similar idea can be seen in the training of health professionals. If a patient or an elderly person has a stain, or gets dirty somehow, that person should be cleaned. Even if it’s only a little spot. If patients stay in that state, they will be less careful themselves in keeping clean. They will tend to feel that it doesn’t matter anymore, it’s already dirty. So their general state of hygiene, self-esteem, and thus health level will start to decline.

The results of this psychological study are applicable in many situations of our daily lives: from the care of our home to the maintenance of our car. But they’re also applicable to our jobs. For example, if you’re a programmer or a project manager, and you allow for a new version to be deployed. But you haven’t had it sufficiently tested. Or if you leave that technical “debt” unpaid in the code now —because “we’re in a hurry.” You’d be broadcasting to the whole team the feeling that anything goes. That “it’s enough as it is” and that one can leave quality aside. Sooner or later the phone will ring with complaints from users. Soon we will see a lengthy queue of reported bugs in our queue.

When we apply this theory to software, it’s helpful to explain the term entropy. In physics, entropy is the level of disorder or randomness in a system. Say you see badly indented or commented code. Or a bad choice when naming a variable or some bad design. Fix it as soon as possible or schedule its correction for the near future. Take some sort of action to limit disorder or it will expand. It will create the feeling that any patch or quick fix is valid.

If some code (or thrown-together code) will make your system deteriorate quickly, impeccably written and designed software will have the opposite effect. It will make new programmers avoid breaking something so beautifully built. They will make an effort to put in place the best code they can write. Now you know: make your life and your project easier by fixing broken windows as soon as they appear.

You can find texts like this and many other about how to manage agile projects in my book Agile 101: Practical Project Management (available on Amazon).

Book on Scrum: Agile 101, Practical Project Management
Agile 101 – Practical Project Management

Translation by Begoña Martínez. You can also find her on her LinkedIn profile. Proofreading by David Nesbitt.

Teoría de las ventanas rotas

A finales de los años 60, un profesor universitario realizó un experimento psicológico. Dejó dos coches idénticos en dos barrios distintos: uno en un barrio conflictivo y pobre como el Bronx de Nueva York y otro en una zona rica y tranquila de California.

En poco tiempo el coche abandonado en el Bronx comenzó a ser desvalijado y perdió radio, llantas, espejo y todo lo que podía ser de valor. En cambio el coche abandonado en California permanecía tal y como lo dejaron.

El estudio no finalizaba ahí. Cuando el coche del barrio rico llevaba una semana intacto los investigadores le rompieron una ventana. Esto desencadenó en poco tiempo el mismo efecto que en el Bronx. El robo y el vandalismo dejaron pronto el coche en el mismo estado en ambos barrios.

Un coche con los cristales rotos transmite una idea de deterioro y despreocupación que contagia la idea de que vale todo. Cada nuevo acto de vandalismo rearfirmaba y multiplicaba esa idea convirtiéndose en una escalada imparable.

Una idea similar se explica en la formación a profesionales sanitarios. Si un paciente o un anciano se mancha o ensucia debe ser limpiado inmediatamente aunque se trate de sólo una pequeña mancha. Si permanece en ese estado, el propio paciente tendrá menos cuidado y precaución en no mancharse. Le da igual, ya está sucio. Comenzaría así a empeorar su higiene, su autoestima y su estado de salud general.

Los resultados de este estudio psicológico son aplicables a muchas situaciones de la vida cotidiana, desde el cuidado de nuestra casa al mantenimiento de nuestro coche pero también es aplicable a nuestro trabajo: Ya seas programador o jefe de proyecto, si permites subir a producción esa nueva versión sin las suficientes pruebas o si dejas tal y como está esa ‘deuda’ técnica en el código porque ahora hay ‘prisa’ se estará transmitiendo a todo el equipo de trabajo una sensación de que todo vale, de que ‘así es suficiente’ y de que la calidad podemos pasarla por alto. Antes o después el teléfono comenzará sonar con quejas de los usuarios y pronto veremos en el gestor de incidencias una enorme hilera de bugs reportados.

Así que ya sabes, si ves una ventana rota, arréglala cuanto antes.

Lecturas recomendadas: The broken window theory at the Coding Horror.

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