Mary Poppendieck is the author of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, listed at #42 on the Top 100 Best Software Engineering Books, Ever. Mary Poppendieck started her career as a process control programmer, and she ended up as a department manager and project manager. Over time she has found retirement elusive as she lectures and teaches classes with her husband Tom. A popular writer and speaker, Mary continues to bring fresh perspectives to the world of software development. Mary and Tom have their own site at www.poppendieck.com.
These are the five questions I asked Mary, and the answers that she gave me…
1. What has been the toughest challenge in your past?
My toughest challenge was holding a professional job while my children were very young, in a society where almost everyone believed that a women’s place was at home.
2. What is the main source of inspiration for what you do?
I believe that the world will be a better place when there is a thriving middle class in every country, and a way into that middle class for anyone in the country. I think that excellence in software development is a viable path to middle class wealth. Doing a little bit to help people around the world improve at software development is my small contribution to making the lives of developers more pleasant and the world a better place.
3. What activity should be on every manager's daily list?
Every day a manager needs to think about what motivates the individuals for whom she or he is responsible, and figure out how to constantly provide those motivators so as to bring out the best in everyone.
4. What can we learn from you in the near future?
In 1982, Daniel McCracken & Michael Jackson published an ACM Software Engineering Note titled “Lifecycle Concept Considered Harmful.” They said: “Any form of lifecycle is a project management structure imposed on system development.” I think we should continue to be skeptical of project management structures imposed on system development. Project management approaches tend to go in and out of style over time, so it is important that we do not confuse project management techniques (including Scrum) with systems engineering.
Good system development techniques (such as Designed-in Quality, Information Hiding, Minimizing Dependencies, and Continuous Integration) have never gone out of style – although they have occasionally been forgotten. These so-called “technical” approaches are foundational – they are not optional. An excellent systems development environment includes Learning Cycles, Skilled Technical Leaders, Respect for Complexity, and the Merging of Design and Implementation.
5. What is more interesting than software development?
Well, these are the answers given by Mary Poppendieck. I hope you liked them!