Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Debugging the Development Process: Practical Strategies for Staying Focused, Hitting Ship Dates, and Building Solid Teams by Steve Maguire

Very good book with tonnes of field proven techniques useful for any software professional. Although written almost 15 years ago, the insights in this book are timeless. Moreover, as someone said "all good things in software engineering were found long time ago. It is just that we never followed them. From time to time we remember some of them and thus comes a new book. All old wine in new bottle."

The author who perfected his skills thru his successful tenure at Microsoft shares a lot of good tips and tricks, insights, wisdom in this book. Good mix of technical topics, project management, people management. All this presented in a very effective fast read style. Good use of casual style.

One thing stuck in my mind. It's common among managers to say things such as "always bring solutions to problems. Don't just bring problems.Be part of the solution. If you are not, then you are the problem." The intention normally behind saying such things to people on your project is to exhort them to think thru the problems, become good at making decisions, reduce dependency on you. These are good motives but if caution is not exercised while insisting that one must always bring a solution to a problem, it may make people not raise problems at all. Not all problems are such that people who find them can also find one or more solutions for them. If we are not open to that possibility, then we risk people not raising issues just because they are afraid that they do not have a solution to the problem they see and you do not want them to bring problems to which they have no solution. Author makes a good point by giving a simple example. Suppose a worker in a nuclear plant sees some problem. But he does not know how to fix it. Do you rather have the worker come and report you the problem or have him not do that because that poor soul does not know how to fix the problem in the nuclear reactor? So, why not have the same attitude when we deal with people? First priority to encourage people to uncover problem regardless of whether have solution or not. After sometime you start seeing a pattern among people who come with problems. If they are not thinking thru even when they can, you can gently steer them in right direction and make them think for themselves. If the people really do not have enough experience or judgment, you should thank them for identifying the problem and bringing to your attention and work with them to come up with a solution. Bottom line is to make sure that people feel absolutely free to raise problems. So, use caution when we say ' be part of the solution else you are the problem.'


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