Book: Growing Software

May 2nd, 2009

Growing Software
Proven Strategies for Managing Software Engineers
by Louis Testa

I was looking forward to the release of “Growing Software” because I really enjoy learning more about the people-oriented aspects of being a good technical leader. This book was in the works for quite a while and I had a pre-request in for a copy when it published.

The Bottom Line at the Top

The book focuses on fundamental management skills for newly minted development managers or leads. I will freely admit that what I am about to say is a matter of personal style, not credibility of content, but here we go.

Although I think “Growing Software” has a lot to offer, I would have my managers read these books first, in this order:

A Field Guide for Frustrating Meetings

The primary value in keeping this book in your office will be to look something up after a frustrating meeting, realizing you aren’t the first person to be in this situation.

This book is a field guide for the recent victim of promotion to management. Several of us (emphasizing the inclusiveness of me) have lived through this transition as fire bath. For those newly minted managers freshly scrubbed in the fiery waters, this book reads like a technical manual for how to manage up, down, and sideways.

Will it be useful for some? Definitely.

A Mile Wide

The subjects covered in “Growing Software” range from people skills, to managing documentation. From release planning to customer support. And covers a lot of things in between along the way.

With such a broad range of topics the depth on each is not extensive, and I am glad for it.  You will undoubtedly go to other resources to make decisions about how to handle specific conflicts, but it is invaluable to realize the conflict you are in is a repeated pattern with predictable outcomes.

That’s the beauty of the book. It reassures the newly chagrined development manager they aren’t in a unique world of dysfunction. Turns out, everyone deals with the same stupid issues regardless of where you work.

Recommend?

Yes. But…

If you are passing this down to your direct reports, additional context will be needed to accompany it

For example, Testa’s inclusion of waterfall software development is a reasonable topic for the book. What is missing is the statement that “this doesn’t work”. The subject is treated with a complete lack of preference or guidance, not unlike most of the other subjects.

For this reason, I would give Testa’s book to let my new manager know that finding a deliberate management style is important, but I would also include other resources to help them understand the direction I want them to grow.

On No Starch Press

No Starch Press is a really fun tech book publisher with titles that don’t belong in your typical MSPress or Addison Wesley bookshelf. I got turned on to them with the excellent book “Code Craft The Practice of Writing Excellent Code” by Pete Goodliffe.

 

 

 

With all due respect, Louis Testa’s style is somewhat different than my own.