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Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  684 ratings  ·  42 reviews
The authors, consultants in risk and management, show how to identify and embrace worthwhile risks in software development and offer strategies for common risks that software projects face, such as schedule flaws, requirements inflation, and specification breakdown. Annotation (c) Book News, Inc., P
Paperback, 196 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Dorset House Publishing Company, Incorporated
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Jean Tessier
Oct 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: software
The guys from Peopleware are at it again. This time, they tackle the management attitude that plays the ostrich and keeps its head in the sand, denying reality instead of facing it. They are making a case for knowing what risks lie ahead, how to notice them, and how to prepare for their possible occurrence.

In their usual style, the authors keep things light and simple, yet offer quick and easy rules to get you going. The book is peppered with anecdotes taken from their professional experience. Y
Paolo Bizzarri
Aug 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good book. Lots of interesting advices on risk management for software projects.
A bit outdated, since now many of the practices are part of the standard for software industry, but very good otherwise.
Christoph Kappel
This is a tough one to rate. The whole topic is kind of interesting with lots of funny anecdotes and real world stories, but there is a BUT:

There are lots if diagrams (which took me a bit time to understand) and many formal rules how to do risk management, mitigation and so on, but still I'd like to see a real world example. Just to keep funds and people at the ready is a weird approach.

So I enjoy examples how to make an unrelated diagram about running like any of you, but something real-worldy
Tomas Urbonaitis
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great book on project risk management - I wish more managers would read it AND use ideas expressed here in practice. The only issue, that I have, is that it relies quite heavily on upfront planning (although it stresses the importance of incremental delivery) - but I guess it is a necessity, if you want to manage risks, as opposed to "just do it and see how it goes". ...more
Michał Węgrzyn
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leadership
I usually devour books like that, but this title made me change my tactics. I was deliberate in reading only a few pages since this book is full of great insights and I wanted to spend more time and meditate on the most important topics. Great read.
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting materials on the first half of the book
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: partly-read, work
I was hopeful after Peopleware, but they lost me pretty early with "get a copy of our project management spreadsheet". Consultants and optimists! ...more
Aleksey Abramov
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Richard Wu
Sep 20, 2016 rated it liked it
Found this book lying around the office. Picked it up - quick read, clear language. The theory (first half) is more interesting than the suggested praxis (second half).

A major weakness of the book is its complete failure to address Parkinson's Law, which was proposed in 1955, is a legitimate phenomenon, and undermines large swathes of the proposals laid here. I find it hard to believe that the authors, being seasoned experts in management science, were unaware of its existence, and thus charge t
Dec 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: management
Basic risk management introduction for IT projects, that challenges the delusionary optimistic can do mantra of so many companies. It is very useful to become aware of technical risks and the importance to raise them early and manage them, along with a number of approaches to minimise those risks. Also acquiring the basic risk management vocabulary helps understand the problems from the business perspective and helps us technical people be better aligned with the company objectives (i.e. financi ...more
Aug 23, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: manager-fu
Has some interesting observations about why nearly all software projects run late, and why most organizations do a terrible job at managing risk. It also presents a model for estimating risks and their probable impact to your project schedule - which seems like it ought to be very useful, but I haven't figured out how to put it into any sort of practice in my own projects. Part of the issue is that the model assumes that you have a pretty good method in place for estimating how long things ought ...more
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: geekery
Good but not as good as Peopleware, this book talks frankly about managing risk in intellectual projects with unflinching honesty, and does a lot to attack various corporate cultures where downplaying and minimizing risks takes hold, putting blinders on everyone and often leading to disaster.

A lot of this stuff is intuitive and can basically be boiled down to saying "Oh for heaven's sake, just use your brain and apply real world thought to business decisions" which sadly, often needs saying. And
Evan Leybourn
Oct 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Too many organisations to not understand how to identify, treat and mitigate risks. And those that do, often overcompensate. Waltzing with Bears takes readers on a journey of risk and risk management in a very entertaining and enlightening way. My only criticism of the book; in many places Tom doesn't support his statements with sufficient evidence. Any much of the evidence that is put forward in anecdotal, qualitative or statistically insignificant.

That being said, I would recommend this book t
Aug 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I've read this book in connection with work-related stuff (pushing my little project at work) - I found this book more honest on dirty-laundry of software projects than usual books on project management. But here and there it was not enough for my needs, hence if you are new to software/systems project management and looking for more information - READ this book BUT don't stop on it, look for other books too. ...more
Bjørn Taranger
The book argues the case that software projects need to address the risks associated with the project in a structured an methodical manner. Risks are always present, and those that you ignore will occasionally hit you hard.

I find the basic premise of the book quite convincing and relevant. I also believe that some of the practical steps recommended in the book have been superseded by the agile methodologies that are dominating the field nowadays.
Mar 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A quick read on managing risks you should not miss. Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister put the important aspects in a little book that is not going to bore you with much theory. If you want to go deeper in the theoretical fundaments, then you find all the references you need. If you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole, you can follow along and get a well written explanation on what you should look out for, how to gather risks and what your job is to manage them.
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was classical DeMarco and Lister - statements made more than 10 years ago, still being valid for the industry :) Highly enjoyable read and full of straight to the point statements. I would have only hoped, that chapter 19 (Value is uncertain, too), chapter 21 (Value offsets risk would have been longer.
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book talks so perfectly well about risk and uncertainty and exposes why we don't do it on IT projects and what are the repercussions. DeMarco and Lister really understand how and why agile works and this was in 2003. Most organisation as still way behind their thinking. ...more
Sergey Zubov
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first half of the book that contains common information about risk management is great. But the second one that teaches how risk management should be performed seems a bit outdated. If you aren't a big fan of waterfall-like processes, you'd better skip the second part. ...more
Bobby Ratliff
Nov 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: work
Intersection of corporate culture and project management. In your company is it safe to talk about risks in a realistic way? DeMarco and Lister examine failed projects and techniques to manage risk better.
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book on software risk management.
Mar 26, 2009 marked it as to-read
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
A great inteoduction to managing risk in any project, team, or as an individual.
Mar 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Kim by: Chris Spiller
Some good ideas. However, it fails to take into consideration certain essential concepts such as Parkinson's Law and Student Syndrome. I still prefer the more holistic approaches of TOC and CCPM. ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
easy to read and small enough to read on a weekend
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've ever read on the real world of software project management. Explains risk management in clear-eyed, comprehensible terms. And yeah, the title is a Dr. Seuss reference. ...more
Jeff Dalton
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting book with some pragmatic advice for anyone that manages software projects.
Dec 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good book full of practical examples and techniques around risk management. Formal, but still accessible.
Jake Spencer
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Best book on software risk management I've ever read... ...more
Mattia Battiston
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great guide on how to really do risk-management properly. The book offers lots of practical tips and gives lots to think about.
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Tom DeMarco is the author of fifteen books, including five novels, a collection of short stories and the rest business books. His most recent work is a seemingly jinxed love story, The One-Way Time Traveler.

Traveler Cover

Before that he wrote Dark Harbor House, and before that Slack and Peopleware and The Deadline.

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Twists, turns, red herrings, the usual suspects: These books have it all...and more. If you love mysteries and thrillers, get ready for dozens...
126 likes · 29 comments
“Risk management is not the same as worrying about your project.” 1 likes
“The pathology of setting a deadline to the earliest articulable date essentially guarantees that the schedule will be missed.” 0 likes
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