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Mike Riley

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Reflections on Management Book Review

April 16, 2010

Every once in awhile, a book comes along written by an industry luminary that culminates the author's "best of" professional life experiences and distills them into organized compartments of advice. Former IBM executive Watts Humphrey's Reflections on Management: How to Manage Your Software Projects, Your Teams, Your Boss, and Yourself is just such a book. Is it worth the cover price? Read on to find out.As developers elevate their career status from individual contributors to managers, directors and vice presidents, the challenges of managing team dynamics are well documented. In the software industry, a number of books have been written on the topic though few with the pedigree and experience that author Watts Humphrey has distilled in this book.

Reflections on Management: How to Manage Your Software Projects, Your Teams, Your Boss, and Yourself contains essays that range from addressing code quality issues to effective time management. In between, advice is offered on dealing with project ownership issues, developing a strong team through coaching and team development so that they will be capable of delivering end products on time and on budget, and negotiating with your supervisor for such improvements as tactical and strategic process control. This is a book that covers the span of everything that developers and those that manage them have to deal with in the jobs beyond just the algorithms and code that is written.

Like many management books, especially those written by seasoned veterans like Mr. Humphrey, there are no surprises in the recommendations provided. What makes the author's points so well taken is his depth and breadth of experience coupled with the ongoing issues of quality control, team forming-storming-norming and project management. Younger readers who are not as familiar with the author's name and history should first read the historically informative and fascinating multi-part discussion on the book's website with Mr. Humphrey interviewed by IBM Chief Scientist Grady Booch. While one could take the short cut by looking up Watts' bio on Wikipedia and his work on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), I recommend that anyone interested in pursuing this book further should read this interview to help set the stage and establish credible background for those unfamiliar with Mr. Humphrey's distinguished background. In fact, I propose that the publisher consider including this lengthy interview in future editions of the book since it provides a useful historical reference to the managerial practices advocated by Mr. Humphrey.

As a side note, this was the first review of a book that I read in its entirety on an Apple iPad, an experience I discovered was just as comfortable as reading on normal ink and paper. In fact, the iPad's iBook application allowed me to bookmark and globally search the E-Book edition for keywords and phrases used to confirm my conclusions on the author's emphasized topics of accurate planning and delivering on commitments. While the iPad did become noticeably heavy after 45 minutes of continuous reading, my overall impression of Apple's innovative tablet is generally positive. If this is what the first generation device delivers, I can only imagine the expanded functionality, reduced weight and longer battery life duration that awaits future iPad iterations.

Overall, I found this book to be a useful complement to Frederick Brooks' Mythical Man Month and I recommend Watts' book to anyone who enjoyed and appreciated the experience and best practices that the classic Mythical Man Month had to offer.

Title: Reflections on Management: How to Manage Your Software Projects, Your Teams, Your Boss, and Yourself Authors: Watts S. Humphrey with William R. Thomas ISBN: 978-0-321-71153-3 Pages: 288 Cost: $34.99

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