Blog entries tagged with "teams"

My notes on Peopleware

Friday, March 28th, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Earlier in the year I re-read Peopleware and I finally got around to comparing my notes with Hamish’s.

Here are my notes, in the form of quotes:

  • “Managers jeopardize product quality by setting unreachable deadlines. They don’t think about their action in such terms; they think rather that what they’re doing is throwing down and interesting challenge to their workers, something to help them strive for excellence.” – page 20
  • “Quality, far beyond that required by the end user, is a means to higher productivity.” – page 22
  • “Quality is free, but only to those who are willing to pay heavily for it.” – page 23
  • “The manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work.” – page 34
  • “People cannot work effectively if their workspace is too enclosed or too exposed. A good workspace strikes the balance. … You feel more comfortable in a workspace if there is a wall behind you. … There should be no blank wall closer than eight feet in front of you. … You should not be able to hear noises very different from the kind you make, from your workplace. Your workspace should be sufficiently enclosed to cut out noises which are a different kind from the ones you make. There is some evidence that one can concentrate on a task better if people around him are doing the same thing, not something else. … Workspaces should allow you to face in different directions – A Pattern Language” – page 85-85
  • “The business we’re in is more sociological than technological, more dependent on worker’s abilities to communicate with each other than their abilities to communicate with machines. So the hiring process needs to focus on at least some sociological and human communication traits. The best way we’ve discovered to do this is through the use of auditions for job candidates.” – page 103
  • “Of course, if your people aren’t smart enough to think their way through their work, the work will fail. No Methodology will help. Worse still, Methodologies can do grievous damage to efforts in which the people are fully competent.” – page 116
  • “The purpose of a team is not goal attainment but goal alignment” – page 126
  • “… If you say the product absolutely has to be out the door by some arbitrary date, they will ask, “Why? Will the universe grind to a halt if we’re late? Will the company fold? Will the nation slide into the sea? Will Western Civilization break down?”” – page 138
  • “The fundamental response to change is not logical, but emotional” – page 197
  • “If the key learning doesn’t happen at the top and it doesn’t happen at the bottom, then it has to occur somewhere in the middle. That meas the most natural learning center for most organizations is at the level of the much-maligned institution, middle management. This squares exactly with our own observation that successful learning organziations are always characterized by strong middle management.” – page 212
  • “The ultimate management sin is wasting people’s time. It sounds like this should be an easy sin to avoid, but it isn’t. You have some needs of your own as a manager, and these needs may run squarely against your intention to preserve and use wisely the time of the people working under you.” – page 215

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Peopleware re-read

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008 at 9:02 pm

As planned, four years after first reading it, I have finished re-reading Peopleware.

I actually finished reading it last night, and tonight I went through it writing down my notes along with relevant quotes. Since Hamish also wants to read the book (for the first time) I am not going to say any more. Instead I will wait and compare my notes with his.

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The recruitment process for developers

Sunday, December 16th, 2007 at 1:18 pm

Last night I finished reading through Joel Spolsky’s book on recruiting developers, Smart and Gets Things Done.

This was a bad move as I started thinking back over my involvement in the recruitment process at work, seeing what rang true and what didn’t. In itself this was good. What was bad was that it prevented me from getting to sleep.

The most useful thing about the book (and in his articles where I had already read much of what is in the book, but had forgotten) is that Joel is not afraid to state the truths that many seem reluctant to acknowledge. For example:

  • Not all developers are created equal and they are far from interchangeable; and
  • It is better to say no and live with a vacancy than to fill it with someone who has no positive effect on the team.

The final chapter is not really about recruiting new developers, it is about fixing an existing team. To be honest this chapter alone is much more relevant to me than the six repceeding chapters.

I picked up two main points from this chapter:

  • Get rid of the underperformers that are wasting the resources of the team; and
  • Provide sufficient information that enables people to identify with the goal so they will want to perform the task, the Identity Management Method.

(I acknowledge that I am guilty of using for the Command and Control Management Method.)

In my experience there are two reasons why getting buyin from the developers fails:

  • Management actually considers the developers to be all the same so they don’t need to know the goal, they can just churn out the code; or
  • There is no actual business goal to buy into. At most the goal is something like ‘so and so said to do it’. That is no goal.

This time of year is full of tasks with arbitrary deadlines which, to me, fall into the category of not having a business goal. Why should we compromise on a solution to get it done by the end of the year? Will the stakeholders even look at it over the christmas/new year break? Will they even look at it before the end of January?

Getting it done by the end of the year just so a manager can tick a box is always a waste of effort. Either more effort will be spend in January fixing the problems introduced by the compromises that where made, or the problems will never get fixed which causes even more problems in the long run.

Enough of this rant.

This book is now on my list of books to get (I only borrowed the copy I read) and it has also given me another prompt to re-read Mythical Man Month and Peopleware.

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