First and foremost, my thanks to Bill Thomas for all the work he did in putting this book together. He did a superb job of selecting topics and ordering the material so that it makes a cohesive whole. Even though I wrote all of the papers, reading them again brings back lots of memories of the wonderful experiences I have had in more than 60 years of professional work. In this time, I have been blessed with many opportunities and many wonderful associations. It has never ceased to amaze me how helpful people can be. Whether they are managers, peers, or subordinates, much of what I have learned has been due to the mentoring, advice, critiques, and even disagreements I have had over these years.
Second, I would like to comment briefly on where we are going. While what I have done has been exciting and rewarding, it is only a small step in the direction of the truly astounding changes coming in the not-too-distant future. Software has been hard to manage, because it is a new kind of work: large-scale knowledge work. Starting before the design of the ancient pyramids in Egypt, humans have been doing knowledge work, but on a small scale. While lots of people worked on these massive constructions, only a few of them were creative designers.
The first clues that large-scale creative work could be different were with the ancient cathedrals. While many people worked on them, the overall architecture was designed by a very few people. However, there were hundreds of skilled artisans who also did creative work. They saw themselves as creating a cathedral for God, and they worked, not for some chief engineer or boss, but for the Almighty. These workers were volunteers, and they had an overall vision and motivation that was more than just doing a job. Of course they didn't manage to tight schedules or control costs, but they did manage themselves.
What makes software more like building cathedrals than traditional work is that it is large-scale creative work. Never before have dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of people tried to work together to produce a single massive creation. Now, with the advances being made in team and multi-team management, we are learning how to do large-scale knowledge work.
once these methods are widely practiced, we will see an enormous flowering of creative engineering. Large and complex systems will be produced on predictable schedules and for planned costs. As soon as we can do this, the possibilities of what we can design and build will be greatly expanded. We will be able to do many of the things we have thus far only dreamed about.
When we have truly mastered large-scale knowledge work, we will be ready for some unprecedented international crisis like deflecting a rogue meteoroid or reengineering the earth's atmosphere. Assuming that we have the vision and technology, we will then have the management skills to actually bring off such a massive project and to do it on a predictable schedule. Hopefully, such international crises will not arise and, hopefully, there will be no need to escape to another world or to rebuild this one, but with these new knowledge-working methods, we should be able to do it.
Finally, I have dedicated this book to three marvelously skilled doctors. About a year ago I was told I had an inoperable cancer
Prologue xxiii of the liver and given three to six months to live. By a series of almost miraculous events, we found Dr. David Ryan at Mass General Hospital who introduced us to Dr. Theodore Hong, a radiologist who had invented a treatment specifically designed for my kind of cancer, and to Dr. David Forcioni, a gastroenterologist. Because of the care and skill of these three gentlemen, I completed the treatment and the latest reports show no sign of cancer. Dedicating this book to them is my way of saying thank you.
—Watts Humphrey January 12, 2010
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