Book Review: Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

Book Review: Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

At Fannie Mae, I find myself in the new role of dealing with development projects.  With this transition, I have tried to spend time learning about the techniques for managing development.  My reading of DeMarco and Lister’s tomb on the subject is along these lines.   The book is not as specific to development as I would have suspected, most of the rules apply to most knowledge work.  Like most management books, I think the tidbits were where the real value can be gleaned.  Some of my favorites:

  1. I really liked the idea of encouraging employees to measure the engaged time (E-Time) they get to spend heads down and focused.  As the authors point out, you’re unlikely to see high numbers at first, but showing concern that people’s numbers are too low shows your employees that it’s an activity you encourage.  This encourages them to put up “Do Not Disturb Messages”. lock doors, etc…
  2. There was a point made in the section on getting your team to “Jell”.  It talked about not worrying if your group or your company don’t have goals to change the world.  “Goals of corporations are always going to seem arbitrary to people – corporations seem arbitrary to people – but the arbitrariness of goals doesn’t mean no one is ever going to accept them.  If it did, we wouldn’t have sports… involvement is a function of the social unit they belong to.”  The section goes on to talking about how you can form a team identity, making people feel “elite”.
  3. The authors list 6 elements of building team chemistry, “Create a cult of quality”, “Provide lots of satisfying closure”, “Build a sense of eliteness”, “Allow and encourage heterogeneity”, preserve and protect the teams, provide strategic but not tactical direction.
Overall, I think the book is worth investigating.  Some good management common sense that will make you challenge the routines you’ve fallen in to.