Deathray Bibliography

Where we provide references to the people who developed all the ideas we present as our own.

Allen,T. Managing the Flow of Technology. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 1977.

Very dated but interesting study of information flows in science and engineering organizations. It’s hard to believe no one has updated this work for the Internet age.

Allen, T. and Henn, G. W. The Organization of Architecture and Innovation: Managing the Flow of Technology. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, 2007.

Amabile, T. and Kramer, S. The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press. 2011.

Austin,R.D. Measuring and Managing Performance in Organizations. New York: Dorset House, 1996.

Small, dry book full of wisdom and data about how not to screw everything up when you measure things. Must read for code miners.

Bar-Yam,Y. Making Things Work: Solving Complex Problems in a Complex World.Knowledge Press, 2004.

This guy came to talk (at my suggestion) at ITA Software years ago. He’s a mathematician and complexity theory guy from MIT.  The book needed better editing but is full of interesting ideas. Very theoretical, but, thankfully, no math.

Bazerman, M. H., and Watkins M. D.  Predictable Surprises: The Disasters You Should Have Seen Coming and How to Prevent Them. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004.

Explains the persistence of certain types of disasters by showing that they have deep roots: economic, political and cognitive that prevent people from recognizing and avoiding them over and over. Obvious parallels to the big fail that so many large software projects turn out to be.

Beck, Kent Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace ChangeBoston: Addison-Wesley, 1999.

Becker, G. S., and Murphy, K. M. The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge.Working Paper No. 79, Center for the Study of the Economy and the State. The University of Chicago, 1992.

Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman, Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration. New York: Basic Books, 1998. 

This one is focused on people management, specifically when you’re trying to do something new-to-the-world, and when the people involved are geniuses, as opposed to merely believing they are.

Bierce, A. The Devil’s Dictionary:

CORPORATION, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.

Brooks, F. The Mythical Man Month: Essays on Software Engineering Anniversary EditionBoston: Addison-Wesley, 1995.

The first and to my mind, still the best set of essays on software engineering.And in the 20th anniversary edition he explains all the things he got wrong the first time around. 

Clark, K., and Fujimoto, T. Product Development Performance: Strategy, Organization, and Management in the World Auto Industry.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1991.

Deming, W. E. Sample Design in Business Research. New York: Wiley Classics, 1990.

Deming, W. E. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study, 1982.

After all these years, Deming is still the only author on this list who has bought me lunch. But I remain hopeful.

Dorner, D. The Logic of Failure: Recognizing and Avoiding Errors in Complex Situations. Cambridge MA: Perseus Books, 1989.

This is a simple introduction to complex systems (like software development) focused on why they’re prone to mis-management and failure. Several of the chapters are given over to discussion of computer simulations and those can be skimmed. There are some useful takeaways.

Dyer, M. The Cleanroom Approach to Quality Software Development: Wiley.

A well-written account of a hyper-rigorous approach to producing zero-defect software that no one uses. It’s so different from conventional thinking that it’s a valuable read nonetheless. You could get a used copy on Amazon for $.01 the last time I looked. 

Fugimoto,T. The Evolution of Manufacturing Systems at Toyota: New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

IMO, this is the best book about Toyota. It is very theoretical. The most relevant chapter describes all of Toyota as an information processing system, an approach that works extremely well for software development, and one I stole from him for that very reason.

Galbraith, J. Organizational Design: An Information Processing View. Interfaces Vol.4, No.3. pp 28-36. May 1974. 

Gawande, A. The Checklist. New Yorker. December 10, 2007.

The Checklist Manifesto: the short version.

Gawande, A.  Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance. New York: Picador, 2008.

Inspiring book about how process improvement can save lives, it Includes a few ideas that have yet to make it to industry. 

Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., and Kahneman, D., eds. Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgement. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Jack Hirshleifer and John Riley, The Analytics of Uncertainty and InformationNew York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

The single best text on the subject.

Hopp, W.J., and Spearman, M.L. Factory Physics: Foundations of Manufacturing Management.  McGraw Hill 2000.

This is a fascinating (for me) very deep analysis of factory operations.  Long on deep principles, short on pithy BS, like for example: (“Quality is free” - Phillip Crosby, Quality is Free; “Simultaneous loose-tight properties” - Tom Peters, In Search of Excellence; “I must work harder” - Boxer, Animal Farm)  

Hubbard, Douglas W. How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of ‘Intangibles’ in Business. New York: Wiley, 2010.

Kahneman, D. Slovic, P and Tversky, A. eds. Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Magretta, J. What Management Is: How It Works and Why It’s Everyone’s Business. New York: Free Press, 2002.

A very short, well-written summarization of what management is all about. One of my favorite books on the subject.

Milgrom, P., and Roberts, J. Economics, Organization & Management. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992.

The standard text on managerial economics from two guys from Stanford. 

Parnas, D. L. On the Criteria To Be Used in Decomposing Systems into Modules. Communications of the ACM, Vol. 15, No. 12, December 1972 pp. 1053 - 1058.

Parnas, D. L., Clemments, P.C., and Weiss, D.M.  The Modular Structure of Complex Systems. Computer Science and Systems Branch, U. S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington D.C., USA.

Peterson, Christopher. A Primer in Positive Psychology. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Reinertsen, D. Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development. Redondo Beach CA: Celeritas, 2009. 

This collection of techniques for improving a product development process (hardware or software) in terms of cost, output, cycle-time, etc., is a cross between the grad school version of Lean Software Development and a lightweight version of Factory Physics, repurposed for product development rather than manufacturing.  This is a book I wish I had written.

Roberts, J. The Modern Firm. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. 

A fine, short book connecting organizational design to performance through the miracle of managerial economics, by the top guy in the field.

Sapolsky, H. The Polaris System Development: Bureaucratic and Programmatic Success in GovernmentCambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1972.

Out-of-print classic describing the highly successful Polaris nuclear submarine project and how it got that way. Ironically, this was the project that gave us PERT, and indirectly MS Project, which has had roughly the same impact on many projects that a nuclear submarine might have.

Shulz, K. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Entertaining, informative and very well-written account of humanities innate genius for folly.

Sterman, J. D. Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World: McGraw Hill, 2000.

Von Hippel, E. The Sources of Innovation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Classic book that introduced the concept of “Lead Users” to product management. About as much fun to read as most economics treatises. 

Von Hippel, E. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2005.

Another fine book from EVH. I got a free copy on my Kindle, but you should pay for a hard copy to prove his points about giving away information not hurting the creator economically.

Weber, S. The Success of Open Source. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

Written by a Berkeley political scientist, it looks at open source as a production system and I highly recommend it to anyone who cares about software development and can stand the academic prose. If there’s a more insightful book about Open Source tell me what it is.

System and Project Management course taught by Olivier de Weck, Steven Eppinger and James Lyneis 

This MIT class covers the application of system dynamics to project management. I would put at the top of the list if it were a book. 


Deathray Research

Deathray Research is Larry White's software engineering blog. Larry is an engineering manager and hacker at Google, and lives in Beverly, MA. He's been managing large software projects for years and finally thinks he knows what he's doing.* The opinions expressed here are his own.

*Actually, he thought he knew what he was doing the whole time.

PS - I bought the domain years ago thinking i would use it for a startup. Or a blog, maybe.

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