One of the Great Books in the management-of-software-development canon is Peopleware. I’ve quoted lighty from it before, and wrote a column about the book for InfoWorld a couple of years ago. It still sits within easy reach in my home office. Kevin Kelly features Peopleware in his Cool Tools blog, and does a nice job of pulling out some of the most relevant passages from the book, a book that’s full of all sorts of nuggets you can use in your management life. Some of my favorite parts of the book describe the concept of the “jelled team,” the team dynamic that we all aspire to attain. Here’s an excerpt about that:

A few very characteristic signs indicate that a jelled team has occurred. The most important of these is low turnover during projects and in the middle of well-defined tasks. The team members aren’t going anywhere till the work is done. Things that matter enormously prior to jell (money, status, position for advancement) matter less or not at all after jell. People certainly aren’t about to leave their team for a rinky-dink consideration like a little more salary.

There is a sense of eliteness on a good team. Team members feel they’re part of something unique. They feel they’re better than the run of the mill. They have a cocky, SWAT Team attitude that may be faintly annoying to people who aren’t part of the group.

. . . .

Once a team begins to jell, the probability of success goes up dramatically. The team can become almost unstoppable, a juggernaut for success. Managing these juggernaut teams is a real pleasure. You spend most of your time just getting obstacles out of their way, clearing the path so that bystanders don’t get trampled underfoot: “Here they come, folks. Stand back and hold onto your hats.” They don’t need to be managed in the traditional sense, and they certainly don’t need to be motivated. They’ve got momentum.

There’s also a lot of mundane material about the design of your office space and other things you might not think about, all supported by the authors’ research. Check it out.

Link: Cool Tools on Peopleware

2 thoughts on “Peopleware

  1. I saw that as well on CT: there’s good medicine in that book. I remember trying to evangelize it at my last real job, a software/service startup but the seeds fell on barren soil. Couldn’t get anyone to understand that having the reception area abutting the coders’s cubes such that people walking and out to:
    arrive at work
    visit the office (this includes solicitors, art salesmen, etc)
    take a comfort break
    go to lunch
    run an errand
    go home
    go to a meeting

    all had to walk through where the coders sat in their cubes.

    Two things pop into my head, even at 5 years distance: the coders were in cubes, swanky ones, but cubes all the same, instead of more private workspaces, and their work was not considered uninterruptible or important enough to be shielded by random events like people going down the hall.

    Amazing how fresh, perhaps raw, these memories are. I think if I ever found myself interviewing for a tech job again, I would either search the interviewer’s book shelf for this or Brooks’ book (you know the one I mean) and if they didn’t have it or hadn’t read it, the interview is over.

    Seriously, would you accept the counsel of a minister without a bible on his shelf?

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