- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Dorset House (March 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0932633609
- ISBN-13: 978-0932633606
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.5 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #667,518 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects 0th Edition
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" . . . 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 Labs 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
Top customer reviews
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Always take risks, we are told, because projects without risk don't have enough benefit. (A glib assertion, but.. OK.) Then we are told that we should never evade a risk - that is, we should never leave anything up to chance. In the middle here and there, we are told that risks won't go away. And finally, we are told that showstoppers are managed by promoting such risks to project assumptions with ceremonies... that evidently banish evil possibilities. The intent is to give managers the impression that they can take macho keen risks while controlling everything.
Sorry Guys. You can look both ways twice, but every time you cross the street, you stand a chance of losing your life. Deal with it.
Those risk diagrams. The wonderful thing about them is that... they're bounded! Ya know what? I'd kill for one of those! Project Management might actually work for software development then! A bounded risk isn't a risk at all; it's a certainty with the possibility of coming in early in front of it.
Gee, Guys! Many of my risk diagrams are lognormal - and they come from histograms of historical data. You didn't cover those.
And finally there's the
MAGIC: Aside from the banishing rituals, there's the simulator based on magical industry averages. Wherever the data come from, and whatever it does, it doesn't have a large enough sample to make a stable... pie chart.
But that's just it. The book is great for pie chart mentalities, and every moment they spend reading it, they're staying out of my way.
Risk has been become a vogue word in software development. Everybody talks about it, and says that it is being considered. However, a large part of the discussion is lip service. What is apparent is that 'risk' is not a small subject, and any discussion on this subject will invariably involve weighty matters. How can benefits be calculated? How are costs determined?
So is risk inherently wrong? Risk involves uncertainty. Halfway down the first page of Chapter 1 is a wonderful statement, summing up the gains to be claimed by embarking on a risky venture. "If a project has no risks, don't do it". The authors slay a few myths along the way. It is not wrong to be uncertain. Risk is about trying to minimise the uncertainties, or rather to minimise the damage caused by events that you hope will not happen. Therefore, if you don't know, ask questions about what you do not know. That is very different to some work places, where it is considered bad form to raise items on the risk register. There are instances when blindingly obvious risks have not been considered. "Oh, you mean THAT train" - as it speeds towards you. Projects that negotiate dark railroad tunnels will find trains hurtling towards them. FACT. It is the nightmares that need to be addressed, not the petty worries.
The book is very good about imposed deadlines. By all means perform estimates based upon everything happening correctly, and on time (in other words, 'downhill with a following wind'). However, this is not sufficient for implementing REAL projects, in real timescales. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to add in the uncertainties. Add these in before publishing the figures. There is a tool available on the associated web-site that enables some of the classic uncertainties to be factored in. This uses some industry standard figures to indicate the effect of, say, key staff leaving. The big no-no of software development is also discussed - what if the project fails? Figures indicate that a significant number of software projects fail (the authors quote 15%, but others may use different figures). Therefore failure has to be a risk on any project.
The authors discuss 'Earned Value Running' [EVR] as a way of measuring progress. Using such a measure moves away from the "90% complete" problem, and also enables the 'bells and whistles' of a project to be seen for what they are; items that are nice to have, but not item that are part of the core functionality. Such concepts as EVR can make a difference, and examples are provided from real life projects about many of the items discussed.
Much concerning 'risk' is involved with sharing knowledge, be this what is known or what is unknown. It is only when there is a culture of openness that there is a freedom to share risks (it is after all a risky business to discuss the items that would cause your department to fail to deliver to schedule). There a large variety of items that can follow on from an effective risk management strategy. One of these is what the authors call 'proactive incremental delivery'. This is equated with playing the loosing hands from your bridge hand first. However, what is written is not a prescriptive approach. After all, that would be risky!
There is one final point I wish to mention with this volume. There is a discussion of when NOT to share your risks with others. It takes a good deal of confidence to argue in part against the central thesis of a practical book. This is a VERY good, practical book, whose authors are not afraid to advise when not to use the ideas within.
Peter Morgan, Bath, UK (email@example.com)
What they have to say is always important. "Walzing with Bears" is no exception, and even if you should disagree with parts of the book, their arguments will force you to think about critical aspects of management that you may not have previously considered.
Reading the first few chapters, my only criticism was that they seemed to be oversimplifying some issues. Reading on, I realized that it was a deliberate and brilliant part of their teaching technique. In later chapters, the book carefully added the complexities that covered more and more of my early reservations in ways that made them easily understandable.
It's a terrific book.