Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams / Edition 3

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Few books in computing have had as profound an influence on software management as Peopleware . The unique insight of this longtime best seller is that the major issues of software development are human, not technical. They’re not easy issues; but solve them, and you’ll maximize your chances of success.

Peopleware has long been one of my two favorite books on software engineering. Its underlying strength is its base of immense real experience, much of it quantified. Many, many varied projects have been reflected on and distilled; but what we are given is not just lifeless distillate, but vivid examples from which we share the authors’ inductions. Their premise is right: most software project problems are sociological, not technological. The insights on team jelling and work environment have changed my thinking and teaching. The third edition adds strength to strength.”

— Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., Kenan Professor of Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Author of The Mythical Man-Month and The Design of Design

Peopleware is the one book that everyone who runs a software team needs to read and reread once a year. In the quarter century since the first edition appeared, it has become more important, not less, to think about the social and human issues in software develop¿ment. This is the only way we’re going to make more humane, productive workplaces. Buy it, read it, and keep a stock on hand in the office supply closet.”

—Joel Spolsky, Co-founder, Stack Overflow

“When a book about a field as volatile as software design and use extends to a third edition, you can be sure that the authors write of deep principle, of the fundamental causes for what we readers experience, and not of the surface that everyone recognizes. And to bring people, actual human beings, into the mix! How excellent. How rare. The authors have made this third edition, with its additions, entirely terrific.”

—Lee Devin and Rob Austin, Co-authors of The Soul of Design and Artful Making

For this third edition, the authors have added six new chapters and updated the text throughout, bringing it in line with today’s development environments and challenges. For example, the book now discusses pathologies of leadership that hadn’t previously been judged to be pathological; an evolving culture of meetings; hybrid teams made up of people from seemingly incompatible generations; and a growing awareness that some of our most common tools are more like anchors than propellers. Anyone who needs to manage a software project or software organization will find invaluable advice throughout the book.

Authors Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister have updated and expanded their classic publication on growing and managing productive teams and successful software projects. And, they did it just in time for the 10th anniversary of their prescient first edition. As in the first edition, they emphasize the "human resource" and take a hard, incisive and many times humorous look at people, teams and their surroundings -- Peopleware, the source of success or failure for all software projects.

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Editorial Reviews

Highlights ways in which managers fail to motivate members of teams to produce their best work, and demonstrates methods for improvement. Advocates such changes as elimination of the "police mentality" in management and investment by bosses in superior workspace for employees. Dismisses many of management's favorite canards, including the one that states that workers are inefficient when working from home. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Computing - Alan Campbell
Lister and DeMarco savagely destroy a sizeable chunk of received wisdom, using well-picked example, careful reasoning, and even data. Even if you disagree with what they say, you will enjoy how they say it. Get the book and read it. Then give it to your manager. Of, if you dare, your subordinates.
Book Jacket - Fred Brooks
Peopleware has long been one of my two favorite books on software engineering. Its underlying strength is its base of immense real experience, much of it quantified. Many, many varied projects have been reflected on and distilled; but what we are given is not just lifeless distillate, but vivid examples from which we share the authors' inductions. Their premise is right: most software project problems are sociological, not technological.
Book Jacket - Joel Spolsky
Peopleware is the one book that everyone who runs a software team needs to read and reread once a year. In the quarter century since the first edition appeared, it has become more important, not less, to think about the social and human issues in software development. This is the only way we’re going to make more humane, productive workplaces. Buy it, read it, and keep a stock on hand in the office supply closet.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780321934116
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley
  • Publication date: 7/2/2013
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 249
  • Sales rank: 386,730
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

T om DeMarco and Timothy Lister are principals of The Atlantic Systems Guild (, a consulting firm specializing in the complex processes of system building, with particular emphasis on the human dimension. Together, they have lectured, written, and consulted internationally since 1979 on management, estimating, productivity, and corporate culture.

T om DeMarco is the author or coauthor of nine books on subjects ranging from development methods to organizational function and dysfunction, as well as two novels and a book of short stories. His consulting practice focuses primarily on expert witness work, balanced against the occasional project and team consulting assignment. Currently enjoying his third year teaching ethics at the University of Maine, he lives in nearby Camden.

Timothy Lister divides his time among consulting, teaching, and writing. Based in Manhattan, Tim is coauthor, with Tom, of Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects (Dorset House Publishing Co., Inc., 2003), and of Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior (Dorset House Publishing Co., Inc., 2008), written with four other principals of The Atlantic Systems Guild. He is a member of the IEEE, the ACM, and the Cutter IT Trends Council, and is a Cutter Fellow.

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Table of Contents

Preface xv

About the Authors xvii

Part I: Managing the Human Resource 1

Chapter 1: Somewhere Today, a Project Is Failing 3

The Name of the Game 4

The High-Tech Illusion 5

Chapter 2: Make a Cheeseburger, Sell a Cheeseburger 7

A Quota for Errors 8

Management: The Bozo Definition 8

The People Store 9

A Project in Steady State Is Dead 10

We Haven’t Got Time to Think about This Job, Only to Do It 11

Chapter 3: Vienna Waits for You 13

Spanish Theory Management 13

And Now a Word from the Home Front 14

There Ain’t No Such Thing as Overtime 15

Workaholics 15

Productivity: Winning Battles and Losing Wars 16

Reprise 17

Chapter 4: Quality—If Time Permits 19

The Flight from Excellence 20

Quality Is Free, But . . . 22

Power of Veto 23

Chapter 5: Parkinson’s Law Revisited 25

Parkinson’s Law and Newton’s Law 25

You Wouldn’t Be Saying This If You’d Ever Met Our Herb 26

Some Data from the University of New South Wales 27

Variation on a Theme by Parkinson 29

Chapter 6: Laetrile 31

Lose Fat While Sleeping 31

The Seven Sirens 32

This Is Management 34

Part II: The Office Environment 35

Chapter 7: The Furniture Police 37

The Police Mentality 38

The Uniform Plastic Basement 38

Chapter 8: “You Never Get Anything Done around Here between 9 and 5.” 41

A Policy of Default 42

Coding War Games: Observed Productivity Factors 43

Individual Differences 44

Productivity Nonfactors 45

You May Want to Hide This from Your Boss 46

Effects of the Workplace 47

What Did We Prove? 48

Chapter 9: Saving Money on Space 49

A Plague upon the Land 50

We Interrupt This Diatribe to Bring You a Few Facts 51

Workplace Quality and Product Quality 52

A Discovery of Nobel Prize Significance 53

Hiding Out 54

Intermezzo: Productivity Measurement and Unidentified Flying Objects 57

Gilb’s Law 58

But You Can’t Afford Not to Know 59

Measuring with Your Eyes Closed 59

Chapter 10: Brain Time versus Body Time 61

Flow 61

An Endless State of No-Flow 62

Time Accounting Based on Flow 63

The E-Factor 64

A Garden of Bandannas 65

Thinking on the Job 65

Chapter 11: The Telephone 67

Visit to an Alternate Reality 67

Tales from the Crypt 69

A Modified Telephone Ethic 70

Incompatible Multitasking 71

Chapter 12: Bring Back the Door 73

The Show Isn’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings 73

The Issue of Glitz 74

Creative Space 75

Vital Space 76

Breaking the Corporate Mold 77

Chapter 13: Taking Umbrella Steps 79

Alexander’s Concept of Organic Order 80

Patterns 82

The First Pattern: Tailored Work Space from a Kit 84

The Second Pattern: Windows 84

The Third Pattern: Indoor and Outdoor Space 87

The Fourth Pattern: Public Space 87

The Pattern of the Patterns 88

Return to Reality 88

Part III: The Right People 91

Chapter 14: The Hornblower Factor 93

Born versus Made 93

The Uniform Plastic Person 94

Standard Dress 95

Code Word: Professional 96

Corporate Entropy 96

Chapter 15: Let’s Talk about Leadership 99

Leadership as a Work-Extraction Mechanism 99

Leadership as a Service 100

Leadership and Innovation 101

Leadership: The Talk and the Do 102

Chapter 16: Hiring a Juggler 103

The Portfolio 104

Aptitude Tests (Erghhhh) 105

Holding an Audition 105

Chapter 17: Playing Well with Others 109

First, the Benefits 109

Food Magic 110

Yes, But . . . 110

Chapter 18: Childhood’s End 113

Technology—and Its Opposite 113

Continuous Partial Attention 114

Articulate the Contract 114

Yesterday’s Killer App 115

Chapter 19: Happy to Be Here 117

Turnover: The Obvious Costs 117

The Hidden Costs of Turnover 118

Why People Leave 120

A Special Pathology: The Company Move 120

The Mentality of Permanence 122

Chapter 20: Human Capital 125

How About People? 126

So Who Cares? 127

Assessing the Investment in Human Capital 127

What Is the Ramp-Up Time for an Experienced Worker? 129

Playing Up to Wall Street 130

Part IV: Growing Productive Teams 131

Chapter 21: The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts 133

Concept of the Jelled Team 133

Management by Hysterical Optimism 134

The Guns of Navarone 135

Signs of a Jelled Team 136

Teams and Cliques 137

Chapter 22: The Black Team 139

The Stuff of Which Legends Are Made 139

Pitiful Earthlings, What Can Save You Now? 140

Footnote 141

Chapter 23: Teamicide 143

Defensive Management 144

Bureaucracy 146

Physical Separation 146

Fragmentation of Time 147

The Quality-Reduced Product 147

Phony Deadlines 148

Clique Control 149

Once More Over the Same Depressing Ground 149

Chapter 24: Teamicide Revisited 151

Those Damn Posters and Plaques 151

Overtime: An Unanticipated Side Effect 152

Chapter 25: Competition 155

Consider an Analogy 155

Does It Matter? The Importance of Coaching 156

Teamicide Re-revisited 157

Mixing Metaphors 158

Chapter 26: A Spaghetti Dinner 159

Team Effects Beginning to Happen 159

What’s Been Going On Here? 160

Chapter 27: Open Kimono 161

Calling In Well 161

The Getaway Ploy 163

There Are Rules and We Do Break Them 164

Chickens with Lips 165

Who’s in Charge Here? 165

Chapter 28: Chemistry for Team Formation 167

The Cult of Quality 168

I Told Her I Loved Her When I Married Her 169

The Elite Team 169

On Not Breaking Up the Yankees 171

A Network Model of Team Behavior 171

Selections from a Chinese Menu 172

Putting It All Together 172

Part V: Fertile Soil 173

Chapter 29: The Self-Healing System 175

Deterministic and Nondeterministic Systems 175

The Covert Meaning of Methodology 176

Methodology Madness 177

The Issue of Malicious Compliance 179

The Baby and the Bathwater 179

The High-Tech Illusion Revisited 180

Chapter 30: Dancing with Risk 183

Not Running Away from Risk 183

The One Risk We Almost Never Manage 184

Why Nonperformance Risks Often Don’t Get Managed 185

Chapter 31: Meetings, Monologues, and Conversations 187

Neuro-sclerosis 187

The “Technologically Enhanced” Meeting 188

Stand-Up Meetings 188

Basic Meeting Hygiene 189

Ceremonies 189

Too Many People 190

Open-Space Networking 190

Prescription for Curing a Meeting-Addicted Organization 191

Chapter 32: The Ultimate Management Sin Is . . . 193

For Instance 193

Status Meetings Are About Status 194

Early Overstaffing 194

Fragmentation Again 196

Respecting Your Investment 197

Chapter 33: E(vil) Mail 199

In Days of Yore 199

Corporate Spam 200

What Does “FYI” Even Mean? 200

Is This an Open Organization or a Commune? 201

Repeal Passive Consent 201

Building a Spam-less Self-Coordinating Organization 202

Chapter 34: Making Change Possible 203

And Now, a Few Words from Another Famous Consultant 203

That’s a Swell Idea, Boss. I’ll Get Right on It. 205

A Better Model of Change 206

Safety First 208

Chapter 35: Organizational Learning 211

Experience and Learning 211

A Redesign Example 212

The Key Question About Organizational Learning 213

The Management Team 214

Danger in the White Space 215

Chapter 36: The Making of Community 217

Digression on Corporate Politics 218

Why It Matters 219

Pulling Off the Magic 220

Part VI: It’s Supposed to Be Fun to Work Here 221

Chapter 37: Chaos and Order 223

Progress Is Our Most Important Problem 223

Pilot Projects 224

War Games 226

Brainstorming 228

Training, Trips, Conferences, Celebrations, and Retreats 228

Chapter 38: Free Electrons 231

The Cottage-Industry Phenomenon 231

Fellows, Gurus, and Intrapreneurs 232

No Parental Guidance 233

Chapter 39: Holgar Dansk 235

But Why Me? 235

The Sleeping Giant 236

Waking Up Holgar 237

Index 239

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First Chapter

Chapter 27: Teamicide Revisited

The seven kinds of teamicide we described in the 1987 edition of Peopleware seemed to stretch from the alpha to the omega of the subject. But there are two important kinds of teamicide that we missed. Like the original seven, these two additions are practiced widely in our field. One of them has become so ubiquitous that a small growth industry has sprung up to support it. . . .

Those Damn Posters and Plaques

Pick up the airline magazine or on-board shoppers' catalog on your next flight and flip through the full-page advertisements. Somewhere in there you will come upon a colorful selection of inspirational posters and framed messages for display on corporate walls (lest someone use up the wall space with work products). Don't just glance at them, but force yourself to read through them all, turning over their texts in your mind and savoring their syrupy prose. If you're not angry by the time you're done, you may have been serving under lousy managers for much too much of your career.

Most forms of teamicide do their damage by effectively demeaning the work, or demeaning the people who do it. Teams are catalyzed by a common sense that the work is important and that doing it well is worthwhile. The word well in this last sentence is essential: The team assigns itself the task of setting and upholding a standard of prideful workmanship. All team members understand that the quality of the work is important to the organization, but the team adopts a still higher standard to distinguish itself. Without this distinguishing factor, the group is just a group, never a real team.

Into this complicated mix, now imagine dropping a $150 framed poster to advise people that ''Quality Is Job One.'' Oh. Gee, we never would have thought that. No sir, we sort of assumed -- until this wonderful poster came along -- that Quality was Job Twenty-Nine, or maybe Eleventy-Seven, or maybe even lower than that on the corporate value scale, maybe someplace after reducing ear wax or sorting the trash. But now we know. Thanks.

These motivational accessories, as they are called (including slogan coffee mugs, plaques, pins, key chains, and awards), are a triumph of form over substance. They seem to extol the importance of Quality, Leadership, Creativity, Teamwork, Loyalty, and a host of other organizational virtues. But they do so in such simplistic terms as to send an entirely different message: Management here believes that these virtues can be improved with posters rather than by hard work and managerial talent. Everyone quickly understands that the presence of the posters is a sure sign of the absence of hard work and talent.

That important matters like these should be the subject of motivational posters is already an insult. But the implementation makes it even worse. Consider one example marketed by a company: It shows a soft-focus image of sweating oarsmen, rowing in perfect unison through the misty morning. Underneath it reads, in part:

. . . The Fuel That Allows Common People To Attain Uncommon Results

The ''common people'' they're talking about here are you and your workmates. Common people. (Don't take it too hard.) At least they're consistent in attitude: The same company's Leadership poster tells us that ''the speed of the leader determines the rate of the pack.'' The pack. Yep, that's you again.

Motivational accessories are phony enough to make most people's skin crawl. They do harm in healthy organizations. The only place where they do no harm is where they are ignored -- as in companies where the harm was done long, long ago and people have ceased to register any further decline.

The Side Effects of Overtime

Readers of the original edition of Peopleware may already have picked up a certain bias against the use of overtime. It has been our experience that the positive potential of working extra hours is far exaggerated, and that its negative impact is almost never considered. That negative impact can be substantial: error, burnout, accelerated turnover, and compensatory ''undertime.'' In this section, we examine yet another negative effect of overtime: its teamicidal repercussions on otherwise healthy work groups.

Imagine a project with a well-jelled team. You and your colleagues are producing good work at a rate that is frankly astonishing, even to you and your boss. You all understand this to be the beneficial effect of team jell, that the whole of your team production capacity is greater than the sum of your individual productivities. But it's still not enough. The powers that be have promised the product for June, and it's just not going to get done at the current rate.

Sounds like a case for a little overtime, right? You move the team into high gear, add a few hours to the workweek (still at the same high production rate), maybe work a few Saturdays. There is only one problem: One of your teammatesÑlet's call him AllenÑjust doesn't have the flexibility that the rest of you enjoy. He is a widower and thus the primary care-giver for his little boy. Allen has to show up at the day-care facility at 5:15 each afternoon to pick the child up. As you might imagine, his Saturdays and Sundays, the only real quality time with his son, are inviolable.

Hey, that's okay, you think, we'll cover for Allen. We all understand. And you all do . . . in the beginning.

A few months later, however, the rest of you are starting to show the strain. All your Saturdays have been gobbled up, as have most of your Sundays. You've been working sixty-plus-hour weeks for longer than you thought possible, and your spouses and kids are grumbling. Your laundry is piling up, your bills are unpaid, your vacation plans have been scrapped. Allen, through all this, is still working a forty-hour week. Finally, somebody says what you are all thinking: ''I'm getting pretty sick of carrying Allen.''

What's happened here? A team that was positively humming with the good effects of jell has been pried apart by an overtime policy that could not be applied uniformly to the team members. But the members of good teams are never uniform in any respect, certainly not in their abilities to ''borrow'' time from their personal lives. In almost any team of four or five or six people, there are bound to be a few who can't be expected to put in the kind of overtime that might fit pretty well into some of the others' lives. All that can be shrugged off as unimportant if the overtime is only a matter of a few long evenings and maybe one extra weekend day. But if the overtime drags on over months and starts to exact a real toll on even the most willing team members, there is bound to be damage to team cohesion. The people who aren't sharing the pain will become, little by little, estranged from the others. And the team magic will be gone.

The Last Straw

Extended overtime is a productivity-reduction technique, anyway. The extra hours are almost always more than offset by the negative side effects. This is true even if you don't consider the disruption of the team. When you take into account the way that the team members' differing abilities to work overtime tends to destroy teams, the case against it becomes persuasive.

Most managers have at least a suspicion that overtime doesn't help, that projects that work a lot of overtime are not much of a credit to their managers' skills and talents. But they end up allowing or encouraging overtime, anyway. Why is this? Jerry Weinberg has an answer of sorts: He suggests that we don't work overtime so much as a way to get the work done on time as a way to shield ourselves from blame when the work inevitably doesn't get done on time.

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