Software Quality Management in Context of the Ethics of Values

Anna Bobkowska


Goal of the paper is to provide reflection of deeper aspects of the quality systems. It means to look at things behind quality system rules and structures, human roles and activities. In this extended abstract, an approach, which is based on the ethics of values is briefly discussed in context of the quality culture and general ethics issues. One can argue that real values point to the long-term achievements. Then, a skeleton for analysis of TQM (Total Quality Management) and external audit based systems (like ISO and CMM) according to selected values is presented, and finally some results taken from the author’s work on quality prediction are provided as a point in discussion.

The values of quality systems are proposed as key issue in ethical considerations about accurate, efficient and fair methods of quality assurance. Evolution of the quality culture idea indicates that strict structures and inflexible rules are not sufficient for satisfactory quality system. The culture (according to Schein [1]) has three levels. At the most visible level there are artefacts, art, technology and patterns of behaviour, middle level is reserved for values and can be seen with higher level of awareness, and the last invisible level consists of common assumptions, dependencies on the environment, kinds of human activities and attitudes to reality and truth. Values are ideas determining what is significant and worth working or even fighting for[4]. They are part of personal attitudes, but they are also influenced by the community of which persons are part. In this sense it is possible to speak about values of the system. In the diversity of needs and existing quality systems, analysis of values which form deeper level of culture seem to be a promising approach.

Research in psychology has shown the role of subconscious processing of information. Real motivations and values not always are visible. There is a problem how to reach this internal level that indicates what is really important. The method proposed consists of the analysis of goals and activities in the quality systems, especially priorities, attitude to problems, dilemmas and situations of limited resources. The following values are going to be considered:

  • Satisfaction of customers in aspect of involvement in the development, delivery and support of the quality product,
  • Satisfaction of employees in aspects of the human values like satisfying human needs, solidarity, justice, freedom-responsibility and other social values,
  • Internal coherency as a way of realisation of the quality policy,
  • Product quality values in aspect of quality criteria, number of satisfied customers, price, time-to market, etc.,
  • Quality system values with criteria of accuracy, flexibility, effectiveness, and efficiency.

Author’s work on quality assurance with quality prediction in early phases of software development has shown the need of flexible system which allows for continuous improvements and quick reaction to the changes in technology or in the market. In software engineering there is still no parameterised model that allows for precise predictions. It is important to integrate complementary work of competent individuals with use of appropriate techniques to obtain good results. Also humanistic approach, giving priorities to persons rather then things or ideas, makes author’s conclusions more similar to TQM philosophy then formulation of the strict rules for all the diversity of projects, goals and needs.

The paper is going to represent analytical approach to ethics in software quality management [3]. Key issue in this analysis is the system of values, which constitute internal level of the culture. In the era of postmodernism, people avoid indicating general systems of values (in fact, values differ depending on the community). However, analysis of them can support searching for the needed solution. Audit-based systems assure trust between developers and customers by the means of external body audits according to the standards that usually are concerned with the development process. TQM is difficult to audit, but it assumes customer and employee satisfaction, continuous development and total involvement. This is a very humanistic approach and it facilitates progress. Maybe that is the reason why ISO-based systems evolve to the TQM direction [2].


  1. Dahlgaard J. J., Kristensen K., Kanji G. K. – Fundamentals of Total Quality Management, Polish edition by PWN, 2000.
  2. Grudowski P., Kolman R., Meller A., Preihs J. – Zarzadzanie jakoscia (Quality Management), Wydawnictwo Politechniki Gdanskiej, 1996.
  3. Papkin R. H., Stroll A.- Philosophy made simple, Polish edition by Zysk i s-ka, 1994.
  4. Siemianowski A. – Szkice z etyki wartosci (Towards the ethics of values), Gaudentinum, 1995.