Slack - Tom DeMarco

I’ve always been a fan of DeMarco’s work. I tend to nod my head and agree as I read, and wish that all the software development managers that I work with would read his books. Slack is an excellent analysis of the problems plaguing large corporations’ software development efforts.

The book starts off looking at how and when knowledge work gets done; the myth of the fungible resource, and how the drive for efficiency in many corporations leads to everyone being so busy that they have no time for anything but the task at hand. Busyness replaces business. DeMarco addresses the costs of this pressure, the effects of ‘aggressive schedules’ and many of the other every day issues that paralyse these ’efficient’ organizations.

The book then looks at change management and DeMarco comes to the conclusion that it’s impossible for change to occur in organizations unless there is some slack. Highly ’efficient’ organizations are less flexible and thus less effective than organizations where the people involved actually have a little time to think about what it is they do and how they could make it better.

We end up with a lightning tour of risk management; “Can Do” attitudes are directly at odds with proper risk management as to manage your risk you need first to accept that it exists. Can Do cultures don’t allow this doubt to be aired publicly and so can’t even begin to manage risk.

The book grabbed me, was easy to read and was one of those books where I felt the author was just confirming all the things I already knew to be true. The section on risk management is very approachable and gives some excellent ammunition for the next meeting that you have where people refuse to accept the existence of project risks.

Highly recommended.