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Peopleware – Summary and Discussion Guide

The questions below are meant to be used in a guided discussion on the book, “Peopleware: Productive Teams and Projects” by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. If you are interested in more detailed notes from this book, they are available here.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams


A brief synopsis of the book is reprinted below from Amazon.

“Few books in computing have had as profound an influence on software management as Peopleware . The unique insight of this longtime best seller is that the major issues of software development are human, not technical. They’re not easy issues; but solve them, and you’ll maximize your chances of success.

For this third edition, the authors have added six new chapters and updated the text throughout, bringing it in line with today’s development environments and challenges. For example, the book now discusses pathologies of leadership that hadn’t previously been judged to be pathological; an evolving culture of meetings; hybrid teams made up of people from seemingly incompatible generations; and a growing awareness that some of our most common tools are more like anchors than propellers. Anyone who needs to manage a software project or software organization will find invaluable advice throughout the book.”

Discussion Guide:

How Managers and Developers View Quality

The authors talk about the differing perceptions of software quality between managers and software developers. Managers view quality as an attribute of the product that can be tuned based on the needs of the marketplace. For the developer, their self-esteem is strongly tied with the quality of the product. The authors claim that maintaining a high quality of software, beyond what the end-user desires, leads to higher developer productivity.

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time allocated for it, resulting in a heavy reliance on schedule and deadlines. The authors claim that bureaucracies are prone to such problems because they give little job derived satisfaction to their workers. However, in tech, people generally get job-derived satisfaction and unreasonable deadlines are counterproductive.


Team Building

Research states that two people from the same organization tend to perform alike. That means the best performers are clustering in some organizations while the worst performers cluster in others.

Team Dyanmics

It’s critically important for employees to feel that their work is meaningful and impactful. The authors note that a lack of affiliation with others on the project and the project goals can result in poor employee performance. In offices with high employee churn, employees have a “just passing through” mentality and don’t feel a sense of loyalty to the organization. However, strong teams are catalyzed by a common belief that the work is important, and that doing it well is worthwhile.

Are Managers Part of the Team?

“Managers don’t have the one thing that any team needs in order to jell, “common ownership of the work product” according to the authors. However, the authors also state that “The purpose of a team is not goal attainment but goal alignment.”

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