Tool Choice as a Quality Issue

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Summary:

We need to choose an SCM tool. It will mean some work to make the choice and then more work to put it into practice. At least we don’t have to worry about it from a quality perspective, though. After all, the tools we choose to employ don’t affect the quality of the software we produce. Do they? Well, let’s think about this a bit. Hmmmmmm…

 

25 years ago, I thought it would be cool to have a mailbox that looked like my house. How hard could it be? It’s just a box that has the appropriate shape with windows and a door painted on the front. So, I designed my house-mailbox. It was going to be great:   how unusual and unique!

When I started building it, though, I discovered that it was easier to visualize than it was to build. I had to cut a roof with the appropriate pitch, which called for some odd angles. After setting the stops on my circular saw and measuring not twice, but four or five times, I managed to get the roof cut. I figured I would be able to make it work without using too much wood filler. Cutting the walls and bottom was a bit easier, since they were rectangular with no weird angles.

Then I had to assemble it. The pieces didn’t fit too badly, but the nails were difficult to drive straight and keeping everything square was a challenge. The roof didn’t fit quite right, but it was close enough. The bottom made everything hold together pretty well.

After filling the gaps with wood filler and a generous helping of caulk, it was ready for the paint. My wife did the detailed work (windows and door) and it was finally ready for its debut! I was proud of my work of art and was only mildly disappointed that our mail got wet when it rained.

Why had it been so difficult to produce a reasonable-quality mailbox? I had done significant remodeling in our first house and finished the basement in this one. This new project presented challenges I hadn’t faced before, though. It wasn’t until many years later that I began to understand the reason for my difficulty on this project. It was the tools I was using! A circular saw and a hammer were fine for home remodeling, but for the finer work required to build a mailbox, I needed tools that were suited to that job. The problem was not that I was unable to do the work, it was that I lacked the tools I needed to do that job well.

Many years later, when my young son showed an interest in the guitar, we picked one up for him at a garage sale. I played guitar on a semi-regular basis and thought it would be great for him to have the chance to try his hand as well. The first time I tried to tune it up for him, I realized there was a problem. I struggled to get all six strings in tune at the same time. It seemed that tightening one would change the others.   It took a lot of patience before I finally had them tuned correctly, but then I tried to actually play it. The strings cut into my fingers as I tried to push them down onto the frets. It required so much force that I was unable to play simple chords that were easy with my guitar.

I finally made the right decision; I would not subject my young son to the horror of trying to play that guitar! Why? Because it was the wrong tool for the job. It was a cheap and could not be made to sound good, regardless of the player’s skill. It was a sure road to disillusionment for an aspiring guitarist!

That incident (along with my seemingly increased skill as I added tools to my woodshop) made it clear to me that tools are a key

About the author

Alan S. Koch's picture Alan S. Koch

Alan S. Koch, PMP, author of Agile Software Development: Evaluating the Methods for your Organization, speaks, writes, and consults on effective Project Management. Visit http://www.ASKProcess.com to learn how to improve the return on your software investment by focusing on the quality of both your software products and the processes you use to development them.

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