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Debugging the Development Process: Practical Strategies for Staying Focused, Hitting Ship Dates, and Building Solid Teams Paperback – August 1, 1994
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In a nutshell, his advice is to 1) free up the engineers' time by reducing unnecessary paperwork, 2) eliminate any unnecessary features, 3) slip ship dates to ensure quality, and 4) increasing training for under-performing engineers. He advises against 1) adding extra engineers when the project looks to be in trouble, 2) forcing engineers to work long hours to hit ship dates, 3) schedule development activities without a clear milestone plan in mind, and 4) holding on to superstar engineers who need room to grow.
These ideas are very good, of course. It's important to keep engineers from being overworked and to keep product quality as high as possible. But there is a limit to how far Maguire's tips can take you.
Schedule slips and dropped features seem like an easy thing to do when you're just talking about it, but what can you do when the command comes down from the upper echelons of management that you must ship or die trying? Maguire does get one thing right on this count, he describes teams where a third of the engineers (the best ones, of course) quit the company after the project completes.
What happens when an engineer is severely underperfoming and is holding the team back? Continue providing that person training? Maguire's teams, luckily for him, are made up of well-trained, highly focused engineers who, given the chance, can work on a product for 8 hours a day. Unfortunately, Maguire does not even approach the topic of terminating bad employees for the good of the team. A discussion of this, including how the team benefits overall from the firing, as well as how it may have unintended psychological effects on the rest of the team, would have been appreciated.
After reading this book, you'll come away with a new energy towards leading your team. You will see every problem as something easily conquered with just the right amount of finesse and encouragement. Maguire gives valuable tips to help overcome many problems that plague projects, and many of these work well. But this isn't the book to end all management books.
In a sense, it is a "Tony Robbins" guide for managers. It gets you pumped up, gives you some tools, and puts you in the right right frame of mind. I like to reread Debugging the Development Process when I need that recharge, but it is not the book I go to when I need to deal with real problems.
I would, however, contrast it with another work which I believe to be equally important though radically different- "The Mythical Man Month". Where Maguire writes as a seasoned guru with an arm around your shoulder, Brooks writes like an evangelist and discusses software development on an almost religous plane. "The Mythical Man Month" also approaches the subject in a broader, more philosophical sense. In the end, I feel that I've gotten more out of each of these books having read the other. While contrasting in terms of eras (mainframe vs pc) and environments (short-sleeve button-down IBM vs hacky-sack Microsoft), it's interesting to note how many conclusions are shared between these works.
Bottom-line: read this book, you'll love it :)
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I highly recommend it!