Peopleware



Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister is often cited as the classic software development management text; one that rightfully puts the focus on people.

So I had heard about it long before finally getting around to reading it recently.

It is a really good collection of insights, suggestions and anti-patterns that makes a great read, and good food for thought. Especially because it sweats the little things, like office furniture, interview techniques, and the evils of the telephone.

My favourite phrase in the book:
Management by Hysterical Optimism
Haven't we all seen that in action at some time? (unfortunately)

The authors do however take a little liberty in claiming the Hawthorne effect says people perform better when they're trying something new. Which I believe to be true, but isn't exactly what the Hawthorn effect is (people will be more productive when appreciated or when watched).

My report is not all good however. There more I read into the book, the more I felt the authors' advice was biased towards a certain ideal organisation that is I think by no means universally applicable.

In short: workers all strive to be master craftsmen; they provide their own motivation, vision and goals; management is best advised to just provide the creature comforts and get out of their way.

While many may relate to this (personally I do too), as a general theory of management I think it is a crock. In the 60's they would have called this 'flower power'. In the 50's it would have been labeled a 'communist conspiracy'.

No, I think the real world is a little more complex than that. But Peopleware nevertheless delivers a great deal of practical advice.

Seven False Hopes of Software Management


My favourite "list" from the book...
  • There is some new trick you've missed that could send productivity soaring

  • Other managers are getting gains of 100% or more

  • Technology is moving so swiftly that you're being passed by.

  • Changing languages will give you huge gains

  • Because of the backlog, you need to double productivity immediately

  • You automate everything else; isn't it about time to automate your development staff away?

  • Your people will work better if you put them under a lot of pressure

With a preference for the decimal system, I have the temerity to add:
  • Build it and they will come!

  • We just need a SOA architecture!

  • It's going to take too long/cost too much, so can you revise your estimates?