January book review: Waltzing with Bears

Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister
Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects

A very good, enjoyable book on the subject of risk management in software development.  The authors did an excellent job introducing the concepts of risk and uncertainty and will help you and your team lay a good foundation for discovering, assessing, and planning risks on your software projects.

The book comes with the Riskology Simulator available for download from http://www.systemsguild.com/riskology/. The simulator is pre-filled with five core risks using industry-wide data and allows you to quickly create an uncertainty diagram showing the impact of risks on your project. The simulator can be customized to meet your specific needs by adding your own risk factors or by overriding the core risks with your company's data.

I recommend this book to anybody interested in software project management. Happy reading!

Monthly book reviews

As an information technology practitioner and avid reader of technical and management books, I am often asked to suggest a book or two on a particular subject of interest. So, I decided to start this monthly column to organize my recommendations, share them with a wider audience, and solicit feedback from my fellow blog readers.

Stay tuned for the first book review tonight.

Could building a coalition result in leadership by committee?

Innovation was the theme of the Code Freeze 2008 conference last week. Mark Striebeck talked about innovation strategy at Google, Jon Spence explained how Agile methods were introduced at Medtronic, Jamie Thingelstad touched on innovation in product development at Dow Jones. Then after lunch, we had the pleasure to listen to Stuart Halloway, Nate Schutta, and David Hussman.

Most of the ideas discussed are common sense, but one point is interesting to think about. Jamie said that leadership by committee does not work. I tend to agree with this statement. I also trust Jamie's judgement - his organization managed to keep its innovative culture and efficient development environment through a number of merges and acquisitions. But I just keep wondering...

One of the responsibilities of a strong leader is to build a strong coalition to support her or his ideas and lead this coalition as a team to make the change and innovation happen. Could that result in leadership by committee?

Do you horribolize rumours at the time of change?

At the OTUG meeting last week, Esther Derby was going over the change model, originally introduced by Virginia Satir to help families deal with change. The model consists of 5 stages: Late Status Quo, Resistance, Chaos, Integration, and New Status Quo and describes change patterns and early indicators that occur at each stage. The model also works well for the organizations.

One of the most interesting and somewhat underestimated stages of the model is Chaos. Old behaviors do not work, old relationships are not possible, the organization is filled with rumours and uncertainty, performance decreases, the changes are at their highest risk of being reverted back... and the leadership is tested. Do you recognize these symptoms?

If you are not familiar with the work of Virginia Satir, take a look at this book: Satir Model: Family Therapy and Beyond.

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