Two work perspectives

Watts Humphrey and Dee Hock are two pioneers, in different areas, and in different ways. They also have two very different ways of seeing work.

Watts Humphrey: Work is, or has to be, repeatable

Watts Humphrey provides his view on process improvement in Three Process Perspectives: Organizations, Teams, and People (Kluwer Academic Publishers, Annals of Software Engineering 14, 2002). Humprey describes in this paper his work with process assessments in IBM and the development of the CMM, PSP, and TSP.

The first group Humphrey assessed was one of IBM’s semiconductor facilities. It used process measurements to identify quality problems and cut manufacturing costs by over 50%.

With silicon chips, you have to control the process in order to consistently improve the yield and reduce costs. This means that you need to examine every defect, identify its cause, and then change the process to eliminate the cause. This, in turn, requires precise process measurements, and a defined and stable (repeatable) process.

Watts Humphrey’s view is that a similar approach is necessary in software engineering, and developed the CMM, PSP and TSP. Here is my analysis of all three (long post).

Dee Hock: Work is a blend of chaos and order (chaordic)

Dee Hock challenges our habitual ways of seeing work in his book One from Many: VISA and the Rise of Chaordic Organization (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005). Hock describes the chaordic processes present in our organizations and the use of chaordic concepts in organizational development.

Dee Hock’s view is that there is a place for process control—you need a dust-free environment if you want a perfect silicon chip—but that it by no means implies that control is the best way to deal with work. But that’s what Humphrey did with software development.

Watts Humphrey is called the “father of software quality.” Dee Hock was actually a pioneer in software development too. Here is his own story of the chaordic (agile) development of VISA’s first electronic authorization system in the early 1970s. Dee Hock threw out IBM, but that’s another story.

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. He shares his reading, book reviews, and learning on his personal blog.

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