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Chapter 57. Mentored Out > Close Tolerances

Close Tolerances

To the extent that it works at all—and it does not always—mentoring will not directly improve quality, however. It only promulgates the style and practices of the mentor. As an organizational strategy, it can be an effective way of promoting the corporate way, assuring that, for better or not, people think and code in channels consistent with the preferred culture.

This consistency in itself may represent a first small step toward a better software development process. Consistency is the grandfather of quality. It is an axiom of process improvement that before you can improve a process, you have to get it under control—it must be reproducible. As long as the process of software development is chaotic, as long as effort cannot be predicted and you never know whether or how deadlines will be met, there can be no systematic refinement or incremental enhancements. The reliability of the end product remains mostly in the hands of Fate or of legions of beta and gamma testers. The first rung on the ladder of quality that leads toward the lofty heights of level 5 in the Software Engineering Institute's Capability Maturity Model (or to software that works, whichever comes first) is reducing the variance, producing more consistent outcomes by more predictable processes. This means, of course, that both the splendid but unexplained successes and the unplanned failures will be lopped off the ends of the distribution, leaving a more stable but less spectacular medium happily in the middle.


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