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Shipman's software books: Peopleware
De Marco, Tom, and Timothy Lister. Peopleware.
Dorset House. 2nd edition, February 1999. ISBN 0932633439.
As my mentor Dr. John Slimick once remarked, this is the kind of book
that won't be read by the people who need it the most---software managers.
A pity, too, because this is the best single work I know on software
Vital, positive, effective antidotes for organizational pathogens.
Good stuff on the productivity impacts of:
- Management theories and styles.
- Team chemistry.
- The physical environment.
Management theories and styles
One of the best managers I ever had in my 13 years in industry was
John Welsch, at Hewlett-Packard in the early 1970s. He used to say that
there is no way to motivate people, but if one can refrain from
demotivating them, and give them interesting and rewarding
work and the tools they need to do it, they'll motivate themselves.
When you look at an organization chart, imagine
that bullshit is generated at all levels of management, and due to
gravity it flows downward toward the actual workers in the trenches.
As a first-level manager, you can be a funnel or an umbrella.
The latter is much better for productivity.
See also my
organizational behavior pages, especially
Have Fun at Work.
The physical environment
This point is a particularly sore one with me. I agree
with the author that the cost of providing a good physical
environment is much less than the cost of low productivity caused
by a bad one.
Here's my list of critical environmental features for
productive software design work:
- A private office with a door that shuts and some semblance
of sound insulation. Most of my work involves writing either
code or English. This kind of work is a flow process
(see my review of
Flow for more on this), and
noise and interruptions are the enemy of flow. In particular, cubicles
are an unacceptable environment, and kudos to
Scott Adams' Dilbert comic strips for championing
this cause. When I worked in HP's Building 42 Upper in
Cupertino, a giant room with scores of cubicles in it, the
only way I could cope was to do the majority of my work
outside of ``normal working hours.''
- A decent chair. I don't need anything fancy, just a solid
steno chair, no arms, seat height and angle adjustment, and a
good adjustable back support.
- Full-spectrum lighting. Dr. John Ott's Health and
Light is unfortunately out of print, but it convinced
me that light with a color approaching sunlight is the best,
and that includes small amounts of UV. Duro-test makes a
good 4-foot fluorescent bulb called Vita-Lites. These will
improve print legibility, too.
- A Kinesis ergonomic keyboard with Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
remapping. See my ergonomics page.
Next: Shipman's software books: The Mythical Man-Month
See also: Shipman's reading list: software design
Previous: Shipman's software books: Death March
John W. Shipman,
Last updated: 1999/05/09 18:12:54