Finished reading Peopleware

8 June, 2009 § 1 Comment

Today I finished reading Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. The book is about project management and working with teams to get the most out of the knowledge holders and deliver a great product.

I’m not a project manager and I don’t have plans to be one. I very much like developing software and getting my hands dirty in algorithms, interfaces, unit tests, and more. But reading this book gave me a perspective that being a software developer doesn’t.

There are so many aspects to supporting a software development team through a product lifecycle. I learned great examples of what not to do. Some of these are: paging employees over a loud speaker system when phone calls or visitors come in; requiring developers to answer their phone so it doesn’t get rerouted to administrative assistants; and a whole slew of others.

I even learned that in Australia, a common form of subordination from employees is not to strike when they are upset with working conditions, but to follow all practices “by the book”. Code submissions that once took a day now take a week as the developer tests the software on twelve different platforms, goes through many code reviews, and profiles the slightest of change. Doctors use this same “by the book” practice to force a regular appendectomy to take a whole week.

The whole “by the book” was really interesting, since it called attention to two problems that workers were facing. First, they were unhappy with a specific work condition, and they were also making noise about unrealistic practices that were meant to be followed yet would never make sense in reality.

Peopleware is a little old now and as such doesn’t cover new agile software development techniques. The ideas in the book are still worth a look in to, and it’s short reading at only around 230 pages. I recommend it to you if you’re ever curious how to be a better project manager or simply what goes through the head of your project manager at times.

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