Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams

Tom DeMarco / Tim Lister  
Total pages
June 2013
Related Titles

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Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams
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In this classic book, the authors demonstrate the major human - not technical - issues of software development and give challenging, but successful answers to the questions of software managers and developers. For this third edition, the authors have added six new chapters and updated the text throughout, bringing it in line with today’s development environments and challenges. The book now discusses pathologies of leadership that hadn’t previously been judged to be pathological; an evolving culture of meetings; hybrid teams made up of people from seemingly incompatible generations; and a growing awareness that some of our most common tools are more like anchors than propellers. Anyone who needs to manage a software project or software organization will find invaluable advice throughout the book.


  • The legendary “anti-Dilbert” book on managing software projects by focusing on people - now fully updated for today’s projects and methodologies
  • Combines humor and wisdom to deliver timeless, practical advice every software manager and developer can use
  • Updated and reorganized, with seven brand-new chapters
  • Now addresses leadership, generational differences, distributed and diverse teams, managing risk, holding effective meetings, and using email the right way

New to this Edition

Updated throughout, and contains seven new chapters on the following topics:

  • Leadership
  • Generational Differences
  • Distributed Teams
  • Diverse Teams
  • Risk Management
  • Meetings
  • Email

Table of Contents

Preface xv

About the Authors xvii


Part I: Managing the Human Resource 1


Chapter 1: Somewhere Today, a Project Is Failing 3

The Name of the Game 4

The High-Tech Illusion 5


Chapter 2: Make a Cheeseburger, Sell a Cheeseburger 7

A Quota for Errors 8

Management: The Bozo Definition 8

The People Store 9

A Project in Steady State Is Dead 10

We Haven’t Got Time to Think about This Job, Only to Do It 11


Chapter 3: Vienna Waits for You 13

Spanish Theory Management 13

And Now a Word from the Home Front 14

There Ain’t No Such Thing as Overtime 15

Workaholics 15

Productivity: Winning Battles and Losing Wars 16

Reprise 17


Chapter 4: Quality—If Time Permits 19

The Flight from Excellence 20

Quality Is Free, But . . . 22

Power of Veto 23


Chapter 5: Parkinson’s Law Revisited 25

Parkinson’s Law and Newton’s Law 25

You Wouldn’t Be Saying This If You’d Ever Met Our Herb 26

Some Data from the University of New South Wales 27

Variation on a Theme by Parkinson 29


Chapter 6: Laetrile 31

Lose Fat While Sleeping 31

The Seven Sirens 32

This Is Management 34


Part II: The Office Environment 35


Chapter 7: The Furniture Police 37

The Police Mentality 38

The Uniform Plastic Basement 38


Chapter 8: “You Never Get Anything Done around Here between 9 and 5.” 41

A Policy of Default 42

Coding War Games: Observed Productivity Factors 43

Individual Differences 44

Productivity Nonfactors 45

You May Want to Hide This from Your Boss 46

Effects of the Workplace 47

What Did We Prove? 48


Chapter 9: Saving Money on Space 49

A Plague upon the Land 50

We Interrupt This Diatribe to Bring You a Few Facts 51

Workplace Quality and Product Quality 52

A Discovery of Nobel Prize Significance 53

Hiding Out 54


Intermezzo: Productivity Measurement and Unidentified Flying Objects 57

Gilb’s Law 58

But You Can’t Afford Not to Know 59

Measuring with Your Eyes Closed 59


Chapter 10: Brain Time versus Body Time 61

Flow 61

An Endless State of No-Flow 62

Time Accounting Based on Flow 63

The E-Factor 64

A Garden of Bandannas 65

Thinking on the Job 65


Chapter 11: The Telephone 67

Visit to an Alternate Reality 67

Tales from the Crypt 69

A Modified Telephone Ethic 70

Incompatible Multitasking 71


Chapter 12: Bring Back the Door 73

The Show Isn’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings 73

The Issue of Glitz 74

Creative Space 75

Vital Space 76

Breaking the Corporate Mold 77


Chapter 13: Taking Umbrella Steps 79

Alexander’s Concept of Organic Order 80

Patterns 82

The First Pattern: Tailored Work Space from a Kit 84

The Second Pattern: Windows 84

The Third Pattern: Indoor and Outdoor Space 87

The Fourth Pattern: Public Space 87

The Pattern of the Patterns 88

Return to Reality 88


Part III: The Right People 91


Chapter 14: The Hornblower Factor 93

Born versus Made 93

The Uniform Plastic Person 94

Standard Dress 95

Code Word: Professional 96

Corporate Entropy 96


Chapter 15: Let’s Talk about Leadership 99

Leadership as a Work-Extraction Mechanism 99

Leadership as a Service 100

Leadership and Innovation 101

Leadership: The Talk and the Do 102


Chapter 16: Hiring a Juggler 103

The Portfolio 104

Aptitude Tests (Erghhhh) 105

Holding an Audition 105


Chapter 17: Playing Well with Others 109

First, the Benefits 109

Food Magic 110

Yes, But . . . 110


Chapter 18: Childhood’s End 113

Technology—and Its Opposite 113

Continuous Partial Attention 114

Articulate the Contract 114

Yesterday’s Killer App 115


Chapter 19: Happy to Be Here 117

Turnover: The Obvious Costs 117

The Hidden Costs of Turnover 118

Why People Leave 120

A Special Pathology: The Company Move 120

The Mentality of Permanence 122


Chapter 20: Human Capital 125

How About People? 126

So Who Cares? 127

Assessing the Investment in Human Capital 127

What Is the Ramp-Up Time for an Experienced Worker? 129

Playing Up to Wall Street 130


Part IV: Growing Productive Teams 131


Chapter 21: The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts 133

Concept of the Jelled Team 133

Management by Hysterical Optimism 134

The Guns of Navarone 135

Signs of a Jelled Team 136

Teams and Cliques 137


Chapter 22: The Black Team 139

The Stuff of Which Legends Are Made 139

Pitiful Earthlings, What Can Save You Now? 140

Footnote 141


Chapter 23: Teamicide 143

Defensive Management 144

Bureaucracy 146

Physical Separation 146

Fragmentation of Time 147

The Quality-Reduced Product 147

Phony Deadlines 148

Clique Control 149

Once More Over the Same Depressing Ground 149


Chapter 24: Teamicide Revisited 151

Those Damn Posters and Plaques 151

Overtime: An Unanticipated Side Effect 152


Chapter 25: Competition 155

Consider an Analogy 155

Does It Matter? The Importance of Coaching 156

Teamicide Re-revisited 157

Mixing Metaphors 158


Chapter 26: A Spaghetti Dinner 159

Team Effects Beginning to Happen 159

What’s Been Going On Here? 160


Chapter 27: Open Kimono 161

Calling In Well 161

The Getaway Ploy 163

There Are Rules and We Do Break Them 164

Chickens with Lips 165

Who’s in Charge Here? 165


Chapter 28: Chemistry for Team Formation 167

The Cult of Quality 168

I Told Her I Loved Her When I Married Her 169

The Elite Team 169

On Not Breaking Up the Yankees 171

A Network Model of Team Behavior 171

Selections from a Chinese Menu 172

Putting It All Together 172


Part V: Fertile Soil 173


Chapter 29: The Self-Healing System 175

Deterministic and Nondeterministic Systems 175

The Covert Meaning of Methodology 176

Methodology Madness 177

The Issue of Malicious Compliance 179

The Baby and the Bathwater 179

The High-Tech Illusion Revisited 180


Chapter 30: Dancing with Risk 183

Not Running Away from Risk 183

The One Risk We Almost Never Manage 184

Why Nonperformance Risks Often Don’t Get Managed 185


Chapter 31: Meetings, Monologues, and Conversations 187

Neuro-sclerosis 187

The “Technologically Enhanced” Meeting 188

Stand-Up Meetings 188

Basic Meeting Hygiene 189

Ceremonies 189

Too Many People 190

Open-Space Networking 190

Prescription for Curing a Meeting-Addicted Organization 191


Chapter 32: The Ultimate Management Sin Is . . . 193

For Instance 193

Status Meetings Are About Status 194

Early Overstaffing 194

Fragmentation Again 196

Respecting Your Investment 197


Chapter 33: E(vil) Mail 199

In Days of Yore 199

Corporate Spam 200

What Does “FYI” Even Mean? 200

Is This an Open Organization or a Commune? 201

Repeal Passive Consent 201

Building a Spam-less Self-Coordinating Organization 202


Chapter 34: Making Change Possible 203

And Now, a Few Words from Another Famous Consultant 203

That’s a Swell Idea, Boss. I’ll Get Right on It. 205

A Better Model of Change 206

Safety First 208


Chapter 35: Organizational Learning 211

Experience and Learning 211

A Redesign Example 212

The Key Question About Organizational Learning 213

The Management Team 214

Danger in the White Space 215


Chapter 36: The Making of Community 217

Digression on Corporate Politics 218

Why It Matters 219

Pulling Off the Magic 220


Part VI: It’s Supposed to Be Fun to Work Here 221


Chapter 37: Chaos and Order 223

Progress Is Our Most Important Problem 223

Pilot Projects 224

War Games 226

Brainstorming 228

Training, Trips, Conferences, Celebrations, and Retreats 228


Chapter 38: Free Electrons 231

The Cottage-Industry Phenomenon 231

Fellows, Gurus, and Intrapreneurs 232

No Parental Guidance 233


Chapter 39: Holgar Dansk 235

But Why Me? 235

The Sleeping Giant 236

Waking Up Holgar 237


Index 239


Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister are principals of The Atlantic Systems Guild (, a consulting firm specializing in the complex processes of system building, with particular emphasis on the human dimension. Together, they have lectured, written, and consulted internationally since 1979 on management, estimating, productivity, and corporate culture.

Tom DeMarco is the author or coauthor of nine books on subjects ranging from development methods to organizational function and dysfunction, as well as two novels and a book of short stories. His consulting practice focuses primarily on expert witness work, balanced against the occasional project and team consulting assignment. Currently enjoying his third year teaching ethics at the University of Maine, he lives in nearby Camden.

Timothy Lister divides his time among consulting, teaching, and writing. Based in Manhattan, Tim is coauthor, with Tom, of Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects (Dorset House Publishing Co., Inc., 2003), and of Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior (Dorset House Publishing Co., Inc., 2008), written with four other principals of The Atlantic Systems Guild. He is a member of the IEEE, the ACM, and the Cutter IT Trends Council, and is a Cutter Fellow.