So why would you want to read an almost 10 year old book about managing teams in the computer industry? And that is only the 2nd edition – the 1st edition was published 20 years ago. What relevance could a book that old have in our industry? The answer is crystal clear after you read in: it has a huge relevance.
In 34 chapters – or stories as the authors Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister call them – divided into 6 parts, the reader is taken through the different aspects of creating productive projects and teams. Reading the book the word “stories” is even more saying, as a lot of the chapters are spiced up by the authors own war stories to emphasized the point even more. Nice real life stories that I believe most of us working in IT can relate to.
There is no beating around the bush, but everything is straight to the point explained in a language even a manager ought to be able to understand: increased to decreased productivity. In order to further emphasize the points they are often supported by research results.
I like to think of Vertica as the best place there is to work at. But even if this is the case, I also have to accept that there are still things we can do to make it an even better place to work and it’s something we are aware of and work with on an almost daily basis. Several times reading the book I found myself having to stop every time I had read just one story. I just couldn’t concentrate on reading on, because my mind kept wondering of thinking about how we could put the concepts explained in the previous story to work at Vertica.
Obviously in a book of this age there are things that may no longer be relevant. The intercom paging system might no longer be the biggest source of disturbance. Even so, there is still room for improvement in a lot of organizations. Why is it that when my phone is ringing it has to disturb everyone else in the room? And that if I happen not to be there to pick it up, it keeps doing so every 3 seconds for half a minute? I bet everyone knew from the first ring, that someone was calling.
Although the book is targeted heavily towards software engineering projects, you'll find that much of what DeMarco and Lister say apply to projects where creativity and analytical skills are required.
As is often the case with books like this everything seem so obvious when you read it. Nonetheless, not many people follow the guidelines, which is basically why a book this age is still highly relevant. During my career I have met countless managers that could benefit hugely from reading this book (that is of course if they would follow the advice in it). Not only managers at the companies I have worked at, but also managers at companies, that have been customers at the companies I have worked at. The potential in a lot of organizations that could be emancipated just by following some of the guidelines is just mind-blowing. Not to speak of the increased employee satisfaction, ability to attract new employees etc. In continuation of this I also considered the book as the company Christmas present to customers this year.
Reading the book gave me a lot of ideas on how to make my workplace even better. We will not be able to implement every one of these right away, but as mentioned earlier it is continuously process. I don’t think you are done with this book after just reading it once. It is definitely a book that you can take out every one or two years and reread.