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Posts tagged ‘culture’

Book Review: Peopleware

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
by Tom DeMarco

The right to be right is irrelevant; it’s only the right to be wrong that makes you free.

– Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco

I don’t recall, exactly, what prompted me to pick up and read this book again in May of this year. I first read it many years ago–probably when the first edition (1987) was new. I imagine someone referenced it at this year’s NIWeek conference. It might have been Steve Watts, who has been known to suggest that software engineering is somehow related to people.

And indeed it is. This book is quite aligned with my management philosophy that software developers are people, too. Many of them darn smart, good, and interesting, worth cultivating as humans, and not just churners out of code.

Build teams to last…

I tend to favor efforts that benefit the long term view–even at the (hopefully limited) expense of the short term. The best way to build good software is to grow a team that knows how to build good software–that is, you should invest in your people.

We stopped talking about building teams, and talked instead of growing them. The agricultural image seemed right. Agriculture isn’t entirely controllable. You enrich the soil, you plant seeds, you water according to the latest theory, and you hold your breath. You just might get a crop; you might not. If it all comes up roses, you’ll feel fine, but next year you’ll be sweating it out again. That’s pretty close to how team formation works.

— Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco

Let’s obsess for a moment about the short term. “We have product to get out the door. Our customers depend on it. Our company depends on it, or we’ll go out of business.” To be clear, I in no way suggest we eschew market realities. What I don’t like is when cutting corners becomes a way of life.

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Book Review: Organizational Culture and Leadership

Organizational Culture and Leadership, Fifth Edition

Organizational Culture and Leadership, Fifth Edition by Edgar H. Schein

When I first became VP of Engineering at insurance startup The Zebra, I wrote a long internal blog post sharing several book recommendations–books that have made an impression on me in my career. From time to time, I plan to review a few of those for you here in my blog.

I first ran across MIT Professor Emeritus Dr. Schein when I worked as Lead Developer and Director of Engineering at athenahealth. Athena, being based in Watertown, Mass., generally prefers ideas that come out of places like Harvard and MIT, and ideas about company culture were no exception. I failed to really appreciate Dr. Schein’s ideas until I moved on to a local Austin startup that had a somewhat more ambiguously defined company culture.

Among other topics in the book, Schein gives an approach for really understanding culture. He focuses on three areas:

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