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Written by Jeff Crow   
Wednesday, 09 September 2009

The job of a quality assurance engineer is to constantly be looking for ways to improve quality, including setting targets for metrics or setting criteria that must be met before we consider it a quality product.

At a recent gathering of Church quality assurance employees we discussed the idea of how truth affects the quality of our work processes and lives.

We may be really good at setting goals and envisioning the future. However, our ability to achieve those goals depends on having a true understanding of our current state of being— how we’re doing right now. This is the point: often we are not truthful with ourselves about the reality of what our current state actually is. We think (or believe) we know where we are, but in reality we may be far off.

Why is being truthful about our current state so important? An example that was shared by a former mission president was eye-opening. While serving as a mission president, he would regularly look at how the mission could improve in different aspects of missionary work. One area was the knowledge the missionaries had of the discussions and basic gospel doctrines. While he felt that the missionaries were doing well, he believed that there was always room for improvement. He devised a quiz that tested knowledge of basic doctrines, the commitment pattern, and other basic missionary information. It was a simple quiz and he believed that the average scores would be in the 80s and 90s. When the results were tallied, the average score was approximately 30 percent!

If the mission had made a goal or improvement plan based on the assumption that the knowledge level was 80–90 percent, they would have most likely skipped teaching the basic knowledge that missionaries were lacking. Instead, knowing the truth of where they actually were, they could formulate an appropriate plan.

When I heard this, I had an “ah ha” moment. Not because this was a new or unique concept—it’s really quite simple and obvious—but because of how often this is overlooked. In my professional work as a QA engineer, I’ve often been asked to set goals for projects where the current state was assumed rather than known. Goals were set based on this assumption. After the project started, the goals had to be modified because we weren’t actually at the state we believed we were. Amazingly, this process would be repeated because we couldn’t admit that our basic assumptions were wrong.

If we don’t know or take the time to discover the truth about our current state, then the goals that we set may be unrealistic, unattainable, or may be focused on the wrong targets. It may take some time and effort to really verify what our current state is, but I believe it is well worth the cost.

Jeff Crow is a QA engineer for the Church.

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