Software Quality

May 11, 2013

Process Conflict – a Manager’s role to resolve

Filed under: Management — David Allen @ 9:21 pm

In a workplace, conflict between people arises for many reasons.  It results in frustration and unhappiness for the people and poor performance for the organization.  In many cases, we expect employees to avoid and resolve conflict on their own. In those cases, managers are responsible for identifying when employees have trouble managing conflict and helping staff learn to resolve conflicts.

However, there are several cases in which the employees cannot reasonably be expect to resolve the conflict on their own. These are cases in which the manager must take an active part in the solution.  This article discusses one such source of conflict and how it can be easily remedied and prevented.  The source of human conflict described here is due to process conflicts. It has many possible causal factors and many possible solutions. A problem map of these factors is shown below.

For those unfamiliar with such diagrams, see the original problem map which includes tips on how to read one:

In the cases shown in the problem map, the manager is often required to provide training or process changes in order to create an environment in which workers can work with less conflict. Without manager intervention, the conflicts become frustrating for the workers and may recur again and again.  It is not uncommon for employees to make unfair assumptions and think their colleague just has a “bad attitude” when in fact, they are simply operating by another process and those processes are in tension.

Managers who understand these problems and apply the solutions can continually adjust the policies to reduce conflict and make it easier for staff to work together.  Managers can go even further and teach these ideas to their staff so the staff can understand when a conflict is a process conflict. In such cases, they get less frustrated because they know that they can escalate the problem to their manager who will work with other managers to resolve the process tension.  Short-term solutions may be negotiating exceptions. Long-term solutions may involve  collaboration across departments. Such cross-departmental collaborations naturally require more effort and time than localized process changes that can be unilaterally decreed by a single manager.  In any case, it is unlikely that an organization will accidentally work in harmony without managers who continually and deliberately tune the processes for harmony.

Sources of interpersonal conflict at work

And of course, there is a rich body of literature on how to manage conflict among people in the general case. That is the first node in the diagram and you can seek out those resources for those issues. This brief article simply clarifies when process is the problem, a manager can solve it.

January 29, 2013

Update on treadmill desk use

Filed under: Health and Exercise — David Allen @ 7:34 pm

I have now been using my treadmill desks for over a year. I have continued to use it on and off throughout the year. I find that sometimes I’m in the mood for walking and sometimes I’m not. So I keep an ordinary desk next to the treadmill desk so I can sit down when I feel tired. It’s funny how you get used to something. I often have breakfast standing up and walking on the treadmill desk while I read the news. This is not as difficult as you would think since I’m normally going a half a mile an hour.

As usual, I’m dictating this post while I’m strolling on the treadmill. I seem to have adapted to the equipment totally. I can step on and off of it with comfort and confidence even while it is moving. I’m not recommending this. That’s a legal disclaimer so somebody does not sue me. I’m not responsible for any accidents you have because you may be uncoordinated.

At this point, I really don’t have anything dramatic or interesting to report. I use the treadmill desk sometimes. And sometimes I don’t. It works just fine. I hardly think about it anymore.

Just to set your expectations to a realistic level: I’ve not lost any weight since I bought the treadmill desk and started using it. However, if it really is bad for you to sit down for several hours every evening after sitting at a desk job most of the day, then this treadmill desk is a good thing for me. It allows me to read the news, check my email, and possibly read a book online or watch a movie while taking a stroll.

November 3, 2012

Calling all Visual Studio coders! – NCrunch is cool!

Filed under: Testing, Visual Studio 2012 — David Allen @ 7:30 pm

My friend Brad just turned me onto this amazing tool. It is NCrunch I have played with it for several days, and I am buying it when my trial period expires. It is really nice. In their words

“It intelligently runs automated tests so that you don’t have to, and gives you a huge amount of useful information about your tested code, such as code coverage and performance metrics, inline in your IDE while you type.”

I am using Visual Studio 2012. And the unit testing experience, although slightly improved, is still pretty clumsy and slow. But now that I have NCrunch, I don’t mind. I know Microsoft worked hard and are proud of their improvements. But this takes it so much further than they dared to go, that I bet you their own people will soon be using this. It’s that good.

I am not even disappointed in Microsoft. Instead, I am pleased that their tool is so easily extend by so many partners. (“easily? easy for me to say. I don’t code these things).   This whole arrangement smells like a healthy IDE ecosystem. As long as the total package is good, I am cool. By the way, I am also using ReSharper at the same time without problems. I love that tool too.

The key is SPEED and immediate visual feedback. This tool allows you to configure how many CPU cores you can allocate to it in the background. And every time you change a line of code, it is running these background threads that test your code and show you code coverage.

I am telling you, it just FEELS right. I am doing TDD, getting this instant Red/Green feedback and instant Code coverage feedback. Using Visual studio by itself feels absolutely primitive.

Downsides? Brad tells me he had some slowdowns and hiccups. But I don’t know what hardware he used. I am using a plain old Dell desktop with 8 cores and 8 GB of RAM. It also runs fine on my virtual machines on my server. But that is cheating cause it’s a bit overpowered. I can see you might have slowdowns on a weak PC or a starved VM.

Go get it, now!

And tell me what you think.

October 31, 2012

Learning Windows 8 takes 15 minutes or less

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Allen @ 8:42 pm

Just read this official Microsoft document.

It’s 12 easy pages.

October 24, 2012

Examining Web Performance Test Results Using the Web Performance Test Results Viewer

Filed under: Testing, Visual Studio 2012 — Tags: , , — David Allen @ 4:21 am

I really like the Web performance testing tools built into Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate. These are tools you can use to create and execute automated tests of web applications for the purpose of measuring performance and load. These latest versions are much more polished, feature-rich, and easy to use than the versions that came in previous versions of Visual Studio. One of my favorite features is the ability to export load test results into an Excel workbook.

When you generate the Excel load test reports,  there are two different formats available. One is a side-by-side comparison of two different load test runs. The other is a trend analysis that can compare two or more test runs and show a graph of the trends of various performance measures.  When you press the button to export the test results, it does not merely dump the raw data into an Excel workbook, it uses Excel automation to generate a bunch of graphs that show the comparisons or trends in the various performance measures. It is the same kind of work that we used to have to do by hand. Only now, thanks to automation, we can see the results in a visual fashion much more quickly.The sample image shown above shows a trend report I ran.

I was testing the performance of a web application with various web garden settings. The first two runs, 44 and 45, were run with the worker process equal to one. Run 47 performs the load test with two worker processes, and run 48 is the performance of the web garden with four worker processes. From my experiment, I concluded that my current configuration would be able to deliver far more results with four worker processes. As an interesting side note, the IIS server that was hosting my web application had four CPUs.  So this is a reasonable result to expect. But there is something very satisfying about having actual performance tests data to verify your hypothesis.

If you are interested in learning more, this MSDN article is a good entry point Examining Web Performance Test Results Using the Web Performance Test Results Viewer.

September 5, 2012

Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 12-Dictation software

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Allen @ 7:50 am

I just upgraded to version 12 of Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the popular dictation software. I am actually “writing” this post by dictating it on my Bluetooth microphone. I continue to be amazed at how accurate the software is. This really is a remarkable product. If you ever wanted to get dictation software, but you are not sure whether it was good enough, I’m here to tell you that it is definitely good enough. In fact this product has been good enough for several versions. I have been using it for years and it gets better and better.

What is even more remarkable is the fact that I can walk on my treadmill desk with the noise of my footsteps, and the fan from my air conditioner blowing in the background, and it doesn’t seem to interfere with the translation of all. I can remember the earlier versions were more sensitive to background noise. And still you should use it in a quiet environment.

If you have any questions about it feel free to ask. I think using this product is a great preventive measure for carpal tunnel syndrome.

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