e-Talk Radio: Lister, Tim, 10 October 2000

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Summary:

Why do some teams "catch fire" and excel, while others never seem to gel? Ms. Dekkers and Mr. Lister talk about this, as well as other topics from Mr. Lister's book, PeopleWare.

TEXT TRANSCRIPT: 10 October 2000
Copyright 2001 Quality Plus Technologies and Carol Dekkers. All rights reserved.

Announcer: Welcome to Quality Plus e-Talk! with Carol Dekkers. This program will focus on the latest in the field of technology. All comments, views, and opinions are those of the host, guests, and callers. Now let's join Carol Dekkers.

Carol: Welcome to Quality Plus e-Talk! I'm Carol Dekkers. I'm a specialist in software process improvement. My company is Quality Plus Technologies, specializing in consulting in software process improvement, function point analysis, software measurement, primarily for the software industry. My guest this evening is Tim Lister, who has 20 plus years, I know that, in systems development, in team building, and he's a major player in a company called Atlantic Systems Guild. He's also the author of… together with Tom DeMarco, of a book called PeopleWare, which is in its, I believe, second printing, Tim, is that correct?

Tim: Second edition. We came out with a new edition last year.

Carol: Probably several printings, more than that.

Tim: Yes.

Carol: And we're going to talk today a little bit about PeopleWare, what's involved in PeopleWare, what inspired Tim and Tom DeMarco to write it. It's one of probably my favorite books in the information technology industry. And I'd just like to welcome you to the show, Tim.

Tim: Thank you, Carol.

Carol: First off, do you want to talk a little bit about what you do, what your background is, why PeopleWare to begin with?

Tim: Well, I'm even older and grayer than you think, Carol. I've been in the profession since 1972, and I'm a principal of the Atlantic Systems Guild. We're kind of a think tank. There are seven principal full partners, four of us in the States, three of us in Europe, and we have an office in New York. And I live and work out of New York, and we have an office in London. And we have all different kind of specialties in software and software projects, and I do mostly software project organization, software project management, I'm doing a lot of software risk management consulting these days, which is kind of interesting. And PeopleWare actually came out of left field for us. Tom DeMarco is one of my partners, and he and I put a seminar together, it must be 14, 15 years ago, called Controlling Software Projects. It was on management, measurement, and estimation. And we had gone through several iterations of the course, and it was going quite well. We got a lot of people from all sorts of organizations come to the course. We offered it through another organization that had been marketing for us, and so we'd do it about once every two months as a public course, then we'd bring it in house for bigger companies. And we were going through a new edition of the course, and we decided to stick a little section in before lunch on the second day, and we didn't even give it a number. We called it Section X, it was supposed to be kind of the free bonus section. We didn't even put it in the brochure in the first couple go-arounds. And it was… We named it PeopleWare, the section, and it was basically the hypothesis that most projects get into deep trouble not really because of technical issues as much as sociological organizational ones. You see projects that have major disappointments if not outright failures, and sometimes you look at them and it's really hard to find fundamental technical difficulties that defeated them. And you

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