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Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects Paperback – March, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0932633606 ISBN-10: 0932633609 Edition: 0th

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Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects + The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management + Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (3rd Edition)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset House (March 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932633609
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932633606
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

" . . . destined to become the Bible for serious IT professionals and project managers." -- Edward Yourdon

"Advice projects must not ignore (but often do) . . . A must for the project manager (and his or her boss)." -- Conrad Weisert, IDINews

"Bold, provocative yet coolly pragmatic . . ." -- Michael Schrage, Co-Director of MIT Media Lab’s e-Markets Initiative, Author of Serious Play

"The book is a brilliant tour de force. . . . should be on your bookshelf . . . ." -- Paul Gray, Information Systems Management

"The seminal work on managing software project risk. . . . Finally we have a guide to risk management . . . ." -- Rob Austin, Professor, Harvard Business School

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Our objective is make it as clear and as entertaining as we can," and they do.
Justin Kodner
The book is very strong on how risk impacts budget and schedule, and how to more scientifically make goals and committed targets more realistic.
Andrew Johnston
This is an invaluable book for anyone seeking to understand and learn risk management.
MAURICIO AGUIAR

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Johnston on September 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is an interesting mix. It starts with a philosophical discussion of why it is ethically wrong and success-endangering to ignore risks, but commercially weak to simply avoid them, thus establishing that we must accept and manage risk. The book then develops a comprehensive method for risk management in IT (or other) projects.
It may be surprising where DeMarco & Lister start from, explaining what risk is, why we need to accept it and why we must manage it, but they explain how common attitudes in the IT industry, which they correctly term "pathologies", can make it almost impossible to properly acknowledge and manage risks.
Maybe it's my background as a physicist, but I assumed that most project managers understand the concept of uncertainty in estimates of cost, timescale and benefits. The authors clearly start from the opposite position. This may be a little off-putting for some readers, but will definitely help those to whom this is a new concept, while the use of "uncertainty diagrams" (probability profiles) will be a useful addition to the toolkit even for those more familiar with the underlying ideas.
The book is very strong on how risk impacts budget and schedule, and how to more scientifically make goals and committed targets more realistic. There's a very good discussion of how to assess deadlines using probability theory, which shows the folly of trying to manage large efforts by single deadlines. The book also includes a very good section on brainstorming and analysing different stakeholders' "win" conditions to identify potential risks.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr Nic Peeling on March 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
To think of this as a book that is just about risk management does not really do it justice - it could have been subtitled "How to prevent software project disasters". It could also have been subtitled "Software Project Management for Grown Ups" ... unfortunately this subtitle highlights the sting in the book's tail, which is that it is also necessary to work for a grown up organisation. The authors point out that their techniques cannot be applied in many company cultures, where the admission of uncertainty by a project manager is not possible.
The author's book Peopleware is one of my all time favorite books, so I was really worried that this book would be a let down. In many ways I think Waltzing with Bears is an even more significant book. Peopleware was one of the few books that pemanently changed the way I view the world, and this book I believe will have the same long-term effect. It has the same deep truthfulness that the "Mythical Man Month" has.
In many ways the five-star markings on Amazon have become de-valued. This is truly a great book and should not be confused with the "run of the mill" five-star books.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Risk is everywhere, so we cannot avoid it, only manage to deal with it in the best possible manner. In software development, the most valuable projects are always the most risky. Therefore, the decision to go forward with any project must include an honest assessment of the locations of the virtual land mines.
There are two general areas in which risk can be categorized. Some of the risks are known, either precisely or within a range of parameters. For example, the cost per day for each category of worker involved in the project is well-known. This type of risk is not difficult to manage, and most managers have a great deal of experience handling them, so very little of the book deals with them.
The second category are those risks that are largely unknown. These are items like the risk of mission critical software suffering a catastrophic failure to large, unexpected cost overruns. It is this category that is examined in detail in this book. Of course, the boundaries between these categories are extremely subjective and situation dependent. A small company with limited financial resources would consider a smaller cost overrun to be critical than a company more capable of taking a large financial risk.
After the initial explanation that risk management is necessary, the next step is trying to quantify the risks. This involves charts of likelihood of delivery time that resemble normal distribution curves. Using such charts allows any prediction to include some natural �wiggle room�, which eliminates one of the most recurring and frustrating problems. Development managers are commonly asked to give a date for product delivery, and that date becomes fixed in stone.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Raja Mannar on October 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
At a certain fundamental level, projects are about how well one manages the risks in the process of achieving the project objectives. Projects by their very nature and scope of effort entails some level of risk (major or minor), but unfortunately the concept of recognizing and managing the risks is sorely absent in majority of IT projects. And for those of us who have been involved in IT projects, this book is a stark reminder of how poorly risks are managed.

I found this book very useful in understanding the thought process behind risk management and more importantly the challenges and difficulties in implementing them. I have seen projects where Risk management is nothing more than symbolic maintenance of a risk log, which is more "CYA", than anything practically useful. Ofcourse, many other projects don't even maintain this token log too.

There are some striking observations in this book, which is commonsense, but gets lost in the thicket of our daily project management duties.

One of them is about the project delays:

"When a project strays from schedule, it's seldom because the work planned just took longer than anyone had thought; a much more common explanation is that the project got bogged down doing work that wasn't planned at all.

Most software project managers do a reasonable job of predicting the tasks that have to be done and a poor job of predicting the tasks that might have to be done."

Another one is about schedule estimates:

"Software managers have tended to follow a standard rule: The Estimate and the goal are identical. The discipline of risk management though will counsel you to use goals as you always have to help people strive for best performance.
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