Jerry Weinberg died yesterday. I never met him, except virtually by video and email, but I can't think of anyone outside of my immediate family who has influenced who and how I am as much as he did.
I forget when I came across him, but the first post on Hiccupps that references his work is back in February 2012, just a couple of months after I started blogging. Since then I've tagged around 30 posts with his name, moving from testing (my gateway drug) through problem solving, software development, systems thinking, management, and interpersonal relationships.
Every single day I use tools that I took from his workbench, tools like these:
- the rule of three
- the definition of a problem
- the definition of quality
- caution around feedback
I can't begin to put into words the feelings I had when he was extremely generous with his expressions of enjoyment for my essay, Your Testing is a Joke, and how overjoyed I was that my words had sparked something in him:
Perhaps the thing I like best about the essay is all the thoughts it triggered for me. And the memories. Here's a few examples:
Over the years, on our night out at the Problem Solving Leadership workshop, the class has chosen a comedy club 3 times. Each time was a disaster. Comedians just don't seem to know enough about the context for us techies, so their jokes don't touch us.
I am the product of a very funny English father and an American (Polish origin) mother who was one of only 2 people I ever met with zero sense of humor. Somehow that combination made me (according to others) a great comedian, at least to our computer audiences.
One technique of comedians is to tell a joke that gets a good response, then keep referring to it later in variant jokes that produce increased laughter (a sort of in-joke for the audience). I'm not sure how that works when a tester keeps reporting the same fault pattern in a work.
Why is it that some developers love finding jokes (errors) on them, while others become increasingly resentful? (When in Poland, I found that some Poles love to tell Polish jokes: e.g. "Some Polish doctors just earned the Nobel Prize in Medicine for performing the world's first successful appendix transplant.")His generosity extended to time too; it was his suggestion that we organise a video conference for us and a handful of other testers to talk about joking and testing. On my side, it was a labour of love to sort it out, participate, and then transcribe the recording into a series of posts.
I asked for his advice and comments a handful of times after that and, again, he found space and time in his life to respond fully and thoughtfully. The last interaction we had was to talk about some thoughts I'd been having on his definition of quality, about the idea that it was possible to entertain simultaneously two or more views about the quality of products such as a Rolls Royce.
His position was essentially that I was wrong, but he delivered it kindly:
As long as it's just in your head, it doesn't matter. When you come down to action, it makes a difference. Either you buy the Rolls or you don't. What you're willing to pay, or sacrifice, determines the "quality" at that moment.While the rule of three might be a useful device for exploring understanding, and while I might convince myself that I can hold two views on the quality of a particular luxury car, I am certain that I only have one perspective on Jerry Weinberg.
Edit: I've come across some other posts paying tribute to Jerry:
- Thank you, Jerry Weinberg by Rich Rogers
- Remembering Jerry Weinberg by Aleksis Tulonen
- And I thought I had time by Smita Mishra
- Farewell, My Dumbledore by Michael Larsen
- Jerry's Story: In Memoriam by Danny Faught
- Jerry Weinberg’s Last Worry by James Bach
- Tribute to Gerald Weinberg by Joe Colantonio
- Problem-solving in the Wilderness - A memoir of friendship by Fiona Charles