Cheatsheet for “Peopleware”
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by DeMarco and Lister is a highly-regarded book in the field of software management. This is especially targeted at project leads and managers. No matter your experience level in software engineering, it provides timeless insight into how people matter more than technology.
There are many reviews of this book online, so I will not attempt to write a detailed one here. It is quite a verbose book (~240+ pages) whose material could be distilled very easily. Hence, this page will serve as a reference and cheatsheet of important points and highlights of the book.
Chapter 1: Somewhere today, a project is failing
The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature.
Sociology includes things such as human communication problems, staffing problems, disenchantment with the boss or with the client, lack of motivation etc.
When a project is failing, the main reason we focus on the technical cause rather than the human side of the work, is because it’s easier to do so. Human interactions are complicated and never crisp-and-clean in their effects, unlike technical interactions.
Chapter 2: Make a cheeseburger, sell a cheeseburger
Software development cannot be managed the same was as a production line in a factory.
- Making occassional errors in software development is an integral part of the work. So, engineers shouldn’t be humiliated when they make a mistake. They might stop experimentation and lose creativity.
- There is no point in forcing a person to work longer because he  might feel that his own motivation is insufficient. Short-term productivity gains of overtime work are offset by long-term hazard to his health and efficiency.
- People are not swappable like parts of a machinery in a factory line. Everyone’s uniqueness is what makes project chemistry vital and effective.
- A catalyst, that is, someone who can help a project to jell is worth two people who just to work.
- We are so single-mindedly oriented toward “Get Things Done” that we spend very little time (not even 5%) on the combined activites of planning, training, reading books, estimating, budgeting, scheduling, etc.
Chapter 3: Vienna waits for you
- Productivity means achieving more in an hour of work (“English Theory”) rather than extracting more work for an hour of pay (“Spanish Theory”).
- People have their personal lives which are more important for the silly job they’re working for you.
- Overtime shouldn’t be forced on people. The best workers know how to escape it anyways.
- Sooner or later, workaholics will seek revenge for all the things they’ve sacrificed (family, love, home, youth, etc). And the project is doomed.
- “Employee turnover” has to be considered whenever “productivity” is talked about. One should be able to tell what the replacement of an experienced worker costs the company.
- Productivity has to be defined as benefit divided by cost.
Productivity = (observed dollar savings and revenue from the work performed) / (total cost, including replacement of any workers used up by the effort)
People under time pressure don’t work better – they just work faster
And they may have to sacrifice the quality of the product and of their own work experience.
Chapter 4: Quality – If time permits
‘He’ means he or she. ‘His’ means his or her etc. ↩