Re: Timeless Classics of Software Engineering

From: Anne & Lynn Wheeler <>
Date: Fri, 27 Aug 2004 14:24:46 -0600
Message-ID: <> (Eric Hamilton) writes:
> Thanks for a stimulating topic.
> I heartily agree that Mythical Man Month is essential reading for
> anyone who wants to understand large scale software projects.
> The other essential on my book case is Lakos' "Large Scale C++
> Software Design". It's applicable to any language and has enough
> rationale that's grounded in real development practices and the
> problems of large scale projects that I think it's relevant to the
> original topic.
> A few years ago, I happened to reread Brooks and wrote up a
> collection his insights that resonated with me. I've attached it
> below in hopes of whetting the appetite of anyone who hasn't already
> read it and as a reminder for those who haven't reread it recently.
> I encourage everyone to (re)read the full book.

one of boyd's observation about general US large corporations starting at least in the 70s was rigid, non-agile, non-adaptable operations. he traced it back to training a lot of young people received in ww2 as how to operate large efforts (who were starting to come into positions of authority) ... and he contrasted it to guderian and the blitzgreig.

guderian had a large body of highly skilled and experienced people ... who he outlined general strategic objectives and left the tactical decisions to the person on the spot .... he supposedly proclaimed verbal orders only ... in the theory that the auditors going around after the fact would not find a paper trail to blaim anybody when battle execution had glitches. the theory was the the trade-off of letting experierenced people on the spot feel free to make decisions w/o repercusions, more than offset any possibility that that they might make mistakes.

boyd contrasted this with the much less experienced american army with few really experienced people which was structured for heavy top-down direction (to take advantage of skill scarcity) ... the rigid top-down direction with little local autonomy would rely on logistics and managing huge resource advantage (in some cases 10:1).

part of the issue is that rigid, top-down operations is used to manage large pools of unskilled resources. on the other hand, rigid top-down operations can negate any advantage of skilled resource pool (since they will typically be prevented from exercising their own judgement).

so in the guderian scenario .... you are able to lay out strategic objectives and then allow a great deal of autonomy in achieving tactical objectives (given a sufficent skill pool and clear strategic direction).

random boyd refs:

Anne & Lynn Wheeler |
Received on Fri Aug 27 2004 - 22:24:46 CEST

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