Book review: On the march with Ed Yourdon

I spent a good portion of my career in electronics engineering designing test equipment and managing product development teams. These projects have a lot in common with software development projects, but rarely do they turn into ''death marches.''

Perhaps this is because software engineering is more a psychological problem than a technical one. This is not to demean my software-development brethren, but it may be that the problems electronics engineering project managers face are more concrete than those faced by software development managers. A printed circuit board is certainly more tangible than a message-passing scheme using XML.

Unfortunately, few software engineers can turn themselves into electronics engineers. This means that they're going to have to deal in one way or another with death march projects. And that's just what this book will help you to do.

Yourdon's best advice comes in Chapter 5, ''Death March Processes.'' Indeed, Yourdon himself says, ''If you remember only one word from this chapter -- or, for that matter, the entire book -- it should be triage.''

The concept is that once a project has reached death march status, it will be next to impossible to fulfill all the requirements by the time you reach your deadline. That being the case, the best you can do is to determine which features you must implement and concentrate on getting those done.

Of course, as Yourdon says, triage should be a part of your strategy from the very beginning, but rarely do project managers begin triage until a project is in trouble.

While this book should be read before you begin a project -- with a view to keeping it from becoming a death march -- it should be helpful if you're already on one.

I bet that even some of my electronics engineering colleagues would find this book useful.

Death March, Second Edition by Edward Yourdon, ISBN 0-13-14365-X. Prentice Hall, Saddle River, NJ. 2004.

About the Author

Dan Romanchik is an engineering manager turned writer and Web developer. His current passion is amateur radio. You can read his amateur radio blog at


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