Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams - 2nd Edition

Authors: Tom DeMarco, Timothy Lister
ISBN: 0932633439
Publisher: Dorset House Publishing Co

“Your business success will depend on the extent to which programmers essentially live at your office. For this to be a common choice, your office had better be nicer than the average programmer’s home. There are two ways to achieve this result. One is to hire programmers who live in extremely shabby apartments. The other is to create a nice office.” - Philip Greenspun.

Philip was right, but his quote tells only half the story, and once you’ve read through Peopleware you’ll know the other half. This book will help you understand how the physical office, work environment, and the teams you populate it with, can make or break your company. Over the 34 (short) chapters the authors take you on an amusing, easy to read, journey through how to manage information workers if you want exceptional results. I really enjoyed the style and tone of the book, the information is presented in a lively, often humorous, and experience coloured way that’s caused me to read the book more than once, and most recently in a single sitting.

For a slim book (244 pages including the index) there is a lot of content packed in. The six sections, 34 chapters in total, include coverage of why your environment matters, what its effect on your staff is, and how to deal with some of the issues, how to recognise a gelled team and grow it while keeping it successful, why pressure and fake deadlines don’t work and, in the last section, a rather scathing look at big M methodologies such as CMM.

While there is a lot of content the pacing felt very right to me. The large number of smaller chapters help break the advice down in to more manageable chunks and the anecdotes and humour made even the occasional repetition of a point enjoyable. Don’t let the easy reading nature deter you though, if you’re a manager (or simply on a team you hate) then this book might just make your job worth keeping.

The IT world has a lot of classic books, but very few of them are as fresh and relevant today as they were when first published; especially when that date was almost twenty years ago. Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister is one of that elite few. Don’t work for anyone that hasn’t read it! 810