My Book reviews /

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition)

Title Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Second Edition)
Authors Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister
Publisher Dorset House
Date 1999-02-01
Pages 245
ISBN 0932633439

I have read a very interesting book titled Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams. The two American authors seem to ruin the American approach to managing computer industry entirely. As consultants they have participated in a number of projects from those including only a few people to large-scale teams of thousands of people.

This book is a call for change. Written 20 or so years ago it starts with a tempting statements that American managers are not good at all. I guess this is an easy way to make the book an Amazon hit but otherwise it puts a grain of salt for the rest of the book. I have been reading this kind of books earlier, for example Noam Chomsky books on politics.

The authors of this book provide a number of arguments to support their claim. In particular, they explain why the rank and file developers are unhappy and how to make them happy. I am likely to trust their claims because they have conducted numerous sociological studies in various companies.

They say that quality is an indispensable attribute of developerтАЩs happiness. As a developer, you are happy with your project only if its quality exceeds that of what you have developed in the past. However, the quality is often added to the project if time permits. I would say that there are a number of things that make developer happy including quality. But the authors seem to focus exclusively on it. On the other hand, they provide an easy solution to improve quality. Citing a famous author of the past, quality is free if you are willing to pay for it. Is not it amazing?

There is a saying that you should do your homework well because you cannot afford to re-do it after the teacher points out your errors. In other words, getting quality right increases your productivity. Therefore, this claim seems true. As a final argument, the authors ask for a country with highest quality and highest productivity. Their answers were Japan and Japan which totally agrees with their theory. My answers were Germany and China.

I would say that quality affects productivity if there is a teacher which you cannot trick into thinking that you are good. But in real life the customers are easily tricked into buying products that are not worth the money. This is capitalism with all its tricks. After discussing this book with my colleague Sami Raivio I have realized that this is how US works: they generate a product of average quality but with few striking features, then advertise it like crazy. After people get bored with the initial product they offer upgrade with a discount. Therefore, they keep their customers around with a chain of constant upgrades.

So to me it looks like authors are trying to undermine the foundations of capitalism and to advocate socialism. This will infuriate those people who admire the US way of living but take a look at present dayтАЩs US economy. With all the government intervention it starts to look more and more like socialism. It was predicted that in the 21 century the governments will play a bigger role in economics. The romantic 20th century during which a single generation of people accumulated unprecedented wealth seems to end.