Arkisto: January 2015



I Have Been Talking Garbage. Sorry!

19. Januaryta, 2015 | Kirjoittaja: Antti Niittyviita

Penicillin revolutionized medicine in 1941, when the first clinical trials were completed. A doctor and an author Lewis Thomas described the time before that critical turn of a tide frankly:

If being in a hospital had any impact on surviving, it was primarily due to the shelter, nourishment and care by nurses that the place offered. Medicine had little if any meaning.

Only 75 years ago a doctor was an artisan who knew all there was to know, who investigated and told how to be treated, all by himself. He took the samples, cultured the bacteria and might have even taken a look at them with a microscope. With luck, the doctor could have had a talent of asking personal questions and saved the patient from syphilis by giving a solution of mercury, bismuth and arsenic. There was a handful of known diseases and only a fraction of them had a known cure.

Medicine is a very young branch of science, but already we know over 4000 different chirurgical and medical procedures. Doctors can legally prescribe 6000 different kinds of medicine for a patient. At the beginning of a millennium we had categorized over 22000 different diseases according to DNA.

Excluding House MD from the television, no doctor can ever know all of those.

In John Hopkins’s hospital in Maryland, USA, they even calculated how the staff taking part in a treatment has changed per patient. In 1970, nurses and doctors taking part in one treatment were around 2,5. In 1999, that number was already over 15. These days even more.

But now I have to apologize! In testing-related discussions I have often claimed the following:

Tools and methods come and go, but testers stay. The main thing is that we get results!

We do need to get results, but otherwise my claim has been spoken garbage. Like straight from the 40s medicine!!! No one can grasp it all, which is why medical doctors specialize.

In actuality we need testing gurus in automation, performance, information security or usability. We need testing gurus in even single areas of business, such as mining, energy or medical technology!

ATTENTION!!! If you harbor a wish to join the gurus at Prove, now would be a good time to send, for example, e-mail to (firstname@prove.fi) and tell us where your expertise lies!

British Airways Flight 38

8. Januaryta, 2015 | Kirjoittaja: Antti Niittyviita

In January 2008, flight captain Peter Burkill, with his crew, welcomed the passengers aboard to the flight from Peking to London. The route was one of his favourites, since it was a day flight. On the 10 hours long flight one could see the scenery change from Mongolian plains to Siberia and Scandinavia.

The trip on Boeing 777 went smoothly, like any intercontinental flight. It was a relaxed routine from by an experienced flight crew.

But, 3.2 kilometres before Heathrow airport the crew noticed that something was amiss. The autopilot was supposed to slow the plane’s velocity down by adjusting the angle of the flaps and by at the same time increasing the output of the engines. Yet, neither of the plane’s two engines responded to the attempts of the automatics to accelerate to ensure a safe landing. Despite their best efforts, the two pilots could not return power to the engines either.

At the altitude of 46 metres, the co-pilot John Coward took the plane over with the manual controls, while captain Burkill adjusted the flaps in an attempt to lengthen the landing glide. The plane barely passed over the crowded trunk road A30 and the southern maintenance way of the airport as the captain confirmed their Mayday situation to the airport control. The landing gear touched down on the ground for the first time at 270 metres before the beginning of the runway 27L on the lawn of the air port area.

During that impact, the plane lost its front tires first. Next, as the main tires were torn off, the right tire punctured through the fuel tank and the fuselage into the cabin. The left tire only went through the wing. The plane turned to face the runway one side first, and eventually the speed stopped right at the beginning of the asphalt.

As if a miracle had occurred, all of the 136 passengers and the entire flight crew survived the landing. Familiar movie-like special effects were avoided altogether. No explosions, no balls of fire. No blood, no guts. The passengers were safely extracted from the plane in a matter of seconds, and the rescue vehicles were on the scene immediately. The passengers of BA38 narrowly avoided a gigantic catastrophe, but how did the flight crew know how to act the right way during the crisis?

It is not a happenstance that flying has become the safest form of travel. It is no accident that with Boeing 777 planes alone there have been over two million flights before the first accident. In air travel, the staff knows how to act without a moment of hesitation and just the way that has been agreed upon. The same holds true for both matters of routine and for times of crisis. And what is most important, it is likely that human errors occur a lot less frequently there than in other forms of business.

The answer is remarkably simple. One of the centermost tools of ensuring the safety of air traffic is the checklists.

Boeing even has an entire unit, whose job it is to chew through the hundreds of pages of accident reports and then process them into a useful form. Checklist experts like Dan Boorman work there.

I use seatbelts even though I know how to drive a car. I also use life jackets, even though I know how to swim. I used to oppose checklists earlier with a feeling. After all, I know what I am doing. Dammit! Then I happened to read Atul Gawande’s blinding book The Checklist Manifesto. It drills into the undisputable benefits of checklists from the perspective of medical doctors and surgeons. Finally, I had to admit the truth.

A checklist in a critical part in even my projects can be like a seat belt in a car, or a life jacket on a boat. It can be the factor that separates a success story from a catastrophe.