Author: Andrew Stellman & Jennifer Greene
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2009
Aimed at: Team leaders and project managers
Pros:Insights from some highly experienced experts
Cons:Mix of writing styles some less good than others
Reviewed by: Mike James
This is the third of O'Reilly's Beautiful titles that I've dipped into and like Beautiful Code and Beautiful Architecture it is a collection of contributions from well respected authorities. As the subtitle puts it, you'll find "inspiring and cautionary tales from veteran team leaders" in this volume.
While the two previous titles are collections of edited essays originated by selected gurus the, almost half of the thirty one contributions are interviews conducted by one or both of Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene. Personally I found some of these over wordy and less illuminating than straightforward narratives but other readers may appreciate the level of detail included and the format does enable elements of humour to be included that might otherwise not fit in.
In the preamble, "Why Beautiful Teams" the authors explain how they moved from prescriptively advocating software practices, specifically agile programming, to realising there are many ways to run a project. This led them to trying to discover "what made some projects work while others crashed and burned". This book stems from the premise that the more you know about how different people run their projects the better equipped you are to run your own.
The first interview in the book is with Tim O'Reilly who shares his ideas on leadership. After this the contributions are arranged in five sections. Part One, People starts with a very readable essay with the title "Why Ugly Teams Win" in which Scott Berkun relates his experience at Microsoft. Part Two, Goals opens with an interview with Grady Booch in which he talks about the challenges of getting teams moving in the right direction and then Jennifer Greene has a personal story about conflict which is a relatively short but vey insightful chapter. Part Three, Practices includes a lively conversation between Scott Berkun and Steve McConnell and at least two of the contributions, from James Grenning, a signatory of the Agile Manifesto and Google's Alex Martelli extol agile practices. Andrew Stellman recounts his own experiences in "Bad Boss", the first contribution in Part Four, Obstacles. Part Five, Music consists of a single chapter in which record producer Tony Visconti shws that producing records and building software have a lot in common.
If you enjoy reading about other people's experiences there is plenty in this volume and you are bound to learn something from their trials and tribulations and the various approaches they have adopted to solve problems and overcome obstacles.