I believe this is the mother of all the management books I’ve read so far: I can trace back most of the concepts that nowadays are common in engineering management to a paragraph, or a simple quote from this book - I believe this text has inspired an army of leaders during the past 30 years.

The title says it all, the authors focus on the people component of people management, something that we take for granted in 2019, but the first edition dates back to 1987. The book covers several aspects of the people management (including the organization of the office space) and most of the concepts can be applied to different industries.

My copy is full of bookmarks so I can use it as a reference manual when I need to, this is definitely a book that should be kept on your desk, the list of notes I transcribed doesn’t make justice to its contents.

Notes

  • The “make a cheeseburger, sell a cheeseburger” mentality can be fatal in your development area. Management techniques that work in production (food, cars, tangible goods) mostly don’t work in development (i.e. when the output concerns people)
  • One example of just such a less-perceptive manager was a boss who showed extreme signs of being threatened by his people’s individuality. Individuals are always unique: for managers applying a “production world” style this is a problem while for “people managers” this is a resource
  • Workaholism is an illness, but not an illness like alcoholism that affects only the unlucky few. Workaholism is more like the common cold: Everyone has a bout of it every now and then. Consider some of the things that organizations typically do to improve productivity:
    • Pressure people to put in more hours
    • Mechanize the process of product development
    • Compromise the quality of the product
    • Standardize procedures
  • Improving productivity without considering the risk of making the job less interesting and less enjoyable will increase turnover.
  • Workers kept under extreme pressure will begin to sacrifice quality.
  • We managers tend to think of quality as just another attribute of the product, something that may be supplied in varying degrees according to the needs of the marketplace. It’s like the chocolate sauce you pour onto a homemade sundae: more for people who want more, and less for people who want less
  • The builders' view of quality, on the other end, is very different. Since their self-esteem is strongly tied to the quality of the product, they tend to impose quality standards on their own. Builders (software developers included) tend to impose quality standards on their own
  • Quality, far beyond that required by the end user, is a means to higher productivity. If you let the buyer set quality they will most likely accept a cheaper cost/quality tradeoff causing “the flight from excellence”
  • It mattered a lot who your pair was. If you were paired with someone who did well, you did well, too. If you pair mate took forever to finish, so did you. If your pair mate didn’t finish the exercise at all, you probably didn’t either.
  • Data collected on the individual’s performance has to be used only to benefit that individual. The measurement scheme is an exercise in self-assessment, and only the sanitized averages are made available to the boss. Measuring work is useful but it has to be clear that it’s for the benefit of the workers, not for threaten or add burden. Management has to cut itself out of the loop.
  • The worker who tries and tries to get into flow and is interrupted each time is not a happy person. He gets tantalizingly close to involvement only to be bounced back into awareness of his surroundings. A few days not being able to get into the flow might cost your employee.
  • People have to be assured that it’s not their fault if they can only manage one or two uninterrupted hours a week; rather it’s the organization’s fault for not providing a flow-conductive environment. If employees can’t get into flow, it’s most certainly their company’s fault.
  • E-Factor = Uninterrupted Hours / Body-present hours. The e-factor measures how the environment affects workers' ability to get into flow
  • The first step toward a sane environment is a program of repeated assertion. If you believe that the environment is working against you, you’ve got to start saying so. You’ll need to create a forum for other people to chime in, too, perhaps with a survey of people’s assessment of their working conditions.
  • The most successful manager is the one who shakes up the local entropy to bring in the right people and let them be themselves, even though they may deviate from the corporate norm. Your organization may have rigor mortis, but your little piece of it can hop and skip.
  • In order to lead without positional authority you have to do:
    • Step up to the task
    • Be evidently fit for the task
    • Prepare for the task by doing the required homework ahead of time
    • Maximize value to everyone
    • Do it all with humor and obvious goodwill
  • It takes a bit of a rebel to help even the best innovation achieve its promise: rebel leadership. The rebel supplied the time to innovate - you take a key person away from billable work (this may constitute constructive disobedience on your part) in order to pursue a nascent vision.
  • Alan Kay defines technology as whatever is around you today but was not there when you were growing up. He further observes that what was already around you when you were growing up has a name: it’s called environment. One generation’s technology is the next generation’s environment.
  • On the best teams, different individuals provide occasional leadership, taking charge in areas where they have particular strengths. No one is a permanent leader, because that person would then cease to be a peer and the team interaction would begin to break down. The structure of a team is a network, not a hierarchy.