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Ambivalence


Prominent and presidentially decorated software process guru Watts Humphrey passed away last year. Over the years, I’ve read a lot of his work and I’ve always been ambivalent towards his ideas and methods. On the one hand, I think he’s got it right when he says Peter-Drucker-derived things like:

Since managers don’t and can’t know what knowledge workers do, they can’t manage knowledge workers. Thus, knowledge workers must manage themselves.

On the other hand, I’m turned off when he starts promoting his arcane and overly-pedantic TSP-PSP methodology. To me, his heavy, right wing measurement and prescriptive planning methods are an accountant’s dream and an undue burden on left leaning software development teams. Also, in at least his final two books, he targets his expert TSP-PSP way at “executives, senior managers, coaches and team leaders” while implying that knowledge workers are “them” in the familiar, dysfunctional “us vs. them” binary mindset (that I suffer from too).

I really want to like Watts and his CMMI, TSP-PSP babies, but I just can’t – at least at the moment. How about you? It would be kool if I received a bunch of answers from a mixture of managers and “knowledge workers“. However, since this blog is read by about 10 people and I have no idea whether they’re knowledge workers or managers or if they even heard of TSP-PSP or Watts Humphrey, I most likely won’t get any. :)

  1. Mark
    January 27, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I have studied Humphrey’s PSP/TSP in detail and it proves it’s utility for ROI. However, in Australia, I have yet to see it implemented. In fact, barely anyone knows of it’s existence. Everyone has drunk the Agile KoolAid. I would like to do an industrial test of the PSP tool Software Process Dashboard because tool support is critical. I am also unconvinced that most developers have the discipline or background to do detailed work and eschew accountability. But from my experience and others data, the methods work!

  1. April 15, 2011 at 6:17 am

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