Saturday, June 10, 2017

Department Silos Can Kill

In 2002, GM engineers discovered that the ignition switches on some low-cost cars had understrength  springs.  As a result, a heavy keychain or knee-bump could switch the ignition for those cars off.

It was considered a rare occurrence and not exceptionally dangerous.

Before the defected part was recalled in 2014, it was blamed for over 120 deaths.  Many of those who had died were young; parents had bought the low-cost cars for their children, considering them safe.

The systemic reason for GM ignoring the severity of the problem was that the engineers who designed the ignition switch were not familiar with how the ignition switch impacted other components of the vehicle. They weren't aware that switching off the ignition disabled the power steering and airbag deployment circuits.  Disabling power steering and airbag deployment was a deadly combination.

Unintended component interaction is why I discourage the creation of most component teams.  Graphics teams, physics teams, audio teams, etc. all sound efficient and they are efficient in creating graphics, physics and audio systems, but the cost of late integration and the emergent systemic problems is too great.

Players want games, not components, but at least our mistakes don't kill them.


Arnold Hendrick said...

Very true, but isn't it common to have Art teams, early on (during prototype and pre-pro) using scrums with an engineer or two, and then in production leaving the sprint cycle entirely in favor of kanbans? I have to say, as a producer one of my constant headaches was the constant tension between adding new stuff and just getting the rest of the game done during production. Having teams functioning in widely different ways didn't help matters.

Clinton Keith said...

Hi Arnold,

Yes. You are correct. The book explores the uses of both Scrum and Kanban for the purposes you describe.