Quote of the Day
Plans are merely a platform for change.
— Israeli Defense Forces
I have always liked Volkswagen (VW) cars – I actually rebuilt a Beetle engine during a shop class in high-school (Figure 1). My respect for VW took a serious downturn this morning when read the following headline,"Top U.S. VW Exec Blames 'A Couple of Software Engineers' for Scandal".
Give me a break. There is no way that a couple of rogue software engineers did this on their own – major technology corporations have processes that provide checks and balances against this kind of behavior. Someone in management had to know about this. Don't they have code reviews? Who did the test and evaluation of the emissions system? Were all emissions test done on a dynamometer that the software was designed to deceive? Who did the systems engineering that set the emissions system requirements – these folks usually set the test requirements as well?
I see VW management trying to claim that they should not be held accountable for something they did not know about. I would argue that it is management's responsibility to create a culture where integrity is a key value, and VW failed in this regard. They also need to be held accountable for the processes that failed to catch this deception.
I have always tried to understand the relationship between the words
I believe that if I am going to be held accountable for a project, then I must be informed of my responsibility and given the authority to work the problem. However, I have frequently seen people held accountable for problems that they lacked either the responsibility or authority to deal with. Many years ago, I had a manager who was particularly bad in this regard. He frequently would punish someone for a problem that they were not primarily responsible. We used the phrase "Bring Me the Head of Willie the Mailboy" to describe when he made an example of an innocent person.
In my youth, I worked for a defense contractor. While working for this contractor, I was surprised when I heard a software manager introduce himself as "the designated scapegoat". He turned out to be correct, and he was blamed for that program's problems. In reality, that program's problems had more to do with his staff being allotted inadequate time and resources for the defined software tasks, which was an upper management decision.
I hope in the end the correct people are held accountable, but I would not count on it.