I read a lot of books, and recommend a lot of books. I believe it’s possible to find something useful in almost every decent book. Still, over the many years of my life, there have been quite a few books and people that made a difference. I’m thinking of Dijkstra, Knuth, Weinberg, Brooks, Constantine, DeMarco, our own Kent Beck and Martin Fowler. I hesitate to list these authors, as surely I’m forgetting someone whose book made a big difference to my professional life.
Software for Your Head may be one of those books.
The book is based on the results of years of running the authors’ “Software Development BootCamp” courses, five intensive days where teams come together to envision a product, organize to make it, and then do so. From these simulations, done over a period of five years, the McCarthys have come up with that patterns that make up this book.
The ideas in the book are very challenging. The book is long. It is very readable yet hard to take in because some of the notions are hard to imagine. Can you imagine that it would be possible to reliably build teams where the members were fully present, committed to unanimously making the best decisions possible, committed to expressing their emotions and their ideas, committed to the productive confict of ideas, committed to true creativity, excellence, accomplishment, shipping the product? That’s what Software for Your Head asks you to imagine.
Often when people hear about XP, they get stuck because they think the world can’t really be that way. Believe me, Software for Your Head will do that to you in spades. Many of us have been on at least one great team in our lives; I hope most of us have that privilege at least once. Jim and Michele dare us to imagine that this experience could be repeated almost at will.
Is it possible? Will these patterns and protocols work? Will enough people study them, learn them, commit to them, adopt them? I don’t know. Certainly I hope they work and I hope people try them. I don’t know whether Jim and Michele are right, but I want them to be. I feel sure that they have at least a big piece of the truth.
What I’m sure of is this: if you read this book, really study and consider it, you will think thoughts you haven’t thought before, and you will likely learn something about yourself, your colleagues, and your projects. I read a lot of books and recommend a lot of books. This one is special. Do yourself a favor: buy it, read it, and give it deep consideration.