Channels ▼

Mike Riley

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

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

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.