Sunday, July 29, 2007

Book review: TSP - Coaching Development Teams

One of the little knows secrets of the ACCU is that members can get free books.  All you have to do in return is to write a review.  The review will be posted on in the ACCU book database on the website (available to anyone free of charge) and most likely (space permitted) included in an edition of CVu magazine.

Members can get a full lists of the books waiting for review from the website, and none members, well… think how much your £35 membership fee could save you.

As regular readers of this blog will know I’m very interested in the subject of coaching.  So I decided to review the latest book from Watts Humphrey (farther of the CMM) TSP: Coaching a Development Team.

The review will appear online soon and in CVU a little later, but for blog readers, well, you can have it early…

Coaching seems to be everywhere these days.  I know I've been banging on about it for a couple of years but I am not alone; Phran Ryder wrote about it in CVu last year; several of the Agile methodologies suggest a team coach; and the general press seem to cover business or life coaching every month.  Now the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University (yes, the people who brought you CMM and CMMI) have decided to jump on the bandwagon too.

I should perhaps state my bias up front.  Good stuff does come out of the SEI but my first reaction to anything they produce is scepticism.  I know this isn't good of me but I recognise the bias and try to compensate.  In reviewing this book I'm trying to be even handed.  And in truth, a lot of what does come form the SEI is well researched and thoughtful.

So to the book. This is one of many books from the SEI that covers the "Team Software Process" or TSP for short.  Now I don't know much about the TSP so in reviewing this book I was hoping to learn a lot about coaching development teams and a little about the TSP.  As it is I've learned a little about coaching development teams and a little about the TSP.

The book is completely true to its title.  Lets take it word by word:

  • TSP: The book is TSP based, TSP runs through everything in the book.  I felt at a disadvantage because I don't know the TSP and this limited what I could get from the book.  Neither is it a book to learn TSP from.

  • Coaching: it seems the TSP takes a very directive approach to coaching and assumes the coach is the TSP expert on the team.  Manager and developers look to the coach for help running the process and resolving process issues.

  • Development: its about software development teams (who else would use TSP?)

  • Teams: between the TSP advice there is good advice for team coaches.  Unfortunately the author tends to use more words then necessary.  The book could probably have been written in half the number of pages.

The feel the book is culturally biased towards large American corporations, maybe these are the only people who use TSP in which case it doesn't matter.  But if you are European, Indian or a small corporation I wonder if you will find the book so applicable.  Other than this the book is well written and the author knows his subject.

In summary this book is true to its title.  It is about coaching TSP teams.  If you are coaching another type of development team you will learn something here but there are other sources were you could learn more in fewer pages.  If you are coaching a TSP team you might well find this book very valuable. 

To the best of my knowledge nobody has yet written a good process-neutral book on coaching development teams.  In the mean time if you need to coach a team, and they are not following TSP, I suggest you read some of the more general books on management coaching. 

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