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The Deadline – A Novel about Project Management

2011/04/14

Dimitris sent me “The Deadline” as a gift for my birthday. Written by Tom DeMarco (author of “Peopleware“) it is a novel that aims to introduce the reader to the complicate and cruel world of software project management. It also explains why most software projects fail. Clearly. In a buy-this-book-for-your-manager-to-open-his-eyes way. Team formation, design, quality control, unrealistic deadlines, goals and schedules, it is all in there. So if you need psychological support when a project goes bad, you should read the book. It is a good bus read.

It is also a book that opens doors to new worlds. Thanks to the book I learned about the adventures of Mr. Tompkins by George Gamow in which he aims to explain modern scientific theories to a popular audience. I see my stack of unread books getting higher again. I also learned about iThink which seems pretty cool (but then again I find Systems Thinking interesting enough). Pity though that iThink costs as much as it does (should I write my half-baked hack of systems thinking software? Damn! When I cannot buy, I try to write code instead and thus pay in time).

What would I change in the book? I would completely discard the very last chapter. Totally unnecessary. But no harm done, since the story is only the vehicle for the project management message and the message does get through. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with managers like Mr. Tompkins; for this I want to end this post with the very first notes in Mr. Tompkins’s journal:

Four essentials of Good Management:

  • Get the right people
  • Match them to the right jobs
  • Keep them motivated
  • Help their teams to jell and stay jelled

(All the rest is Administrivia)

Amen to that!

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