Book Review

Leadership, Teamwork, and Trust: Building a Competitive Software Capability (SEI Series in Software Engineering) , Watts Humphrey, James Over


This is my, admittedly biased review of Watts Humphrey’s last book. I worked with Watts on the TSP team and directly his last major project at SEI. While co-author Jim Over was away on travel, our team voted unanimously to use this book as the introduction we provide to executives. That’s because it hits the major themes we so critical to modern business and that TSP addresses.

This book is divided into two parts, Watts wrote the front of the book to examine the issues of management, measurement, and motivation in a modern knowledge work environment. It includes narratives that illustrate the key points Watts had been making for the past 20 years.
1) Managing knowledge work is different from managing other forms of work because workers are usually more knowledgeable and expert than their managers.
2) Organizational or management rules specifying how a job must be done rather than what must be done the flexibility of the workers to adapt to different environments and conditions. These can become counterproductive.
3) These rules display a lack of trust in the workers and limit worker autonomy.
4) Lack of trust and autonomy adversely affects worker satisfaction and productivity.
The challenge becomes building a work environment that provides the knowledge worker with a high degree of autonomy enables management oversight and assures that business goals are satisfied. Managers are reluctant to provide autonomy because they don’t trust the workers. Workers are reluctant to measure Watts’ solution, based on years of management experience at IBM and his previous work on the Personal Software Process was the Team Software Process. TSP integrates self management, measurement, coaching, quality, and communication for defining and managing technical work. Watts provides narratives and examples of how supportive and trusting environments result in better project outcomes and more satisfied Staff.

The second half of the book provides examples of TSP drawn from years of experience. The appendices include cost estimates for training, support and rollout, expected return on investment, how to manage a program and the importance of quality.

Investment is an important concept. Although we discuss people as resources, we treat the associated costs as expenses. Focus on the costs as expenses looks at only part of the equation. The appendices examine the target environment we want to achieve, the benefits of that environment, and what it takes to achieve it.

About Bill Nichols

PhD in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University I'm a software team coach and instructor with the TSP Team at the Software Engineering Institute
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