Author: Watts S. Humphrey & James W. Over
Publisher: Addison-Wesley, 2011
Aimed at: Team leaders, managers
Pros: A handbook for TSP
Cons: Misleading title
Reviewed by: Alex Armstrong
Although not clearly spelled out in the title, this is a book about a specific methodology - TSP (Team Software Process).
This is a book of two halves. Its first 160 pages are devoted to nine chapters of case studies which you are advised in the preface to read in order. These are followed by five appendices which are provided for those who want to adopt the TSP approach advocated in the case studies.
But what is TSP?
If you are not already familiar with this approach to managing the software development process you may well feel frustrated as not finding either a simple definition or an account of its evolution early in the book. I resorted to Wikipedia in order to rectify this omission and learned that TSP:
"provides a defined operational process framework that is designed to help teams of managers and engineers organize and produce large-scale software projects of sizes beyond several thousand lines of code (KLOC). The TSP is intended to improve the levels of quality and productivity of a team's software development project, in order to help them better meet the cost and schedule commitments of developing a software system"
A bit more research, including the "About the Authors" section at the end of the book, revealed that TSP was pioneered in 1996 by the late Watts S. Humphrey, who died shortly before this book's publication, and was preceded by the Personal Software Process (PSP) and the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) both of which methodologies are also referred to in this volume.
Intended for the wider business community the chapters in the first part of the book set out to demonstrate why and how methodologies initially originated to apply to the software development process are applicable to "knowledge work" in general. The style of the first half of this book is fairly academic. There are frequent in text citations of books and journal articles which are listed in a references section at the end of each chapter.
The title of the first chapter "Creative Destruction" is a concept to explain why organisations grow, prosper an die, proposed by Joseph Shumpeter in his book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942). The most frequently cited authority Peter Drucker, who provided a definition of knowledge workers as those who work with their heads rather than their hands is also introduced in this chapter.
Chapter 1 opens with the statement Change is a fact of life and goes on to look at "corporate churn". It then introduces the two principal challenges that businesses face in making the management changes needed to remain competitive - the first being the problems of size and the second that of making knowledge work productive - before relating "The Softtek story" briefly outlining the experience of a major IT service provider based in Monterrey, Mexico which adopted TSP methods in 2007.
The problems of managing organisations as they grow in size are further considered in Chapter 2 with reference to Quarksoft, a company that used TSP from its initial start up, The organisation whose experience is discussed from Chapter 3 onwards has to remain anonymous because, as explained in the acknowledgements, it is engaged in classified work for the US Department of Defense.
The next four chapters are devoted to the second challenge:
- Chapter 3: Knowledge Work
- Chapter 4: Managing Knowledge Work
- Chapter 5: Motivating Knowledge Workers
- Chapter 6: Motivating Knowledge-Working Teams
In Chapter 4 we are introduced to ideas introduced in 1911 by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the book The Principles of Scientific Management and in Chapter 6 we are treated to a new case study - that of a Beckmann Coulter which is revisited in Chapter 8.
The next two chapters:
Chapter 7: Managing with Facts and Data
Chapter 8: Managing Quality
adress the two questions:
"How can you use the TSP data to help manage the business" and "How can you know the TSP teams are doing quality work?"
Finally Chapter 9: Leadership tries to pull everything together to focus on the book's primary objective of bu7idling a competitive knowledge workforce. It identifies and discusses five elements of leadership:
- Standards of excellence
Rather than embarking on a full discussion of execution it directs the reader to the first three of the appendices on implementing TSP in your organisation and thus links the two halves of the book together.
Although intended for a wider audience than the software industry this is the primary source of the case studies and of course TSP and its precursors all related primarily to software engineers so this is a relevant book. Many readers who don't need to be convinced about its suitability will probably turn to the second part of the book which is crisp, concise and practical.