Book review: On the march with Ed Yourdon
- By Dan Romanchik
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
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
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
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
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
I bet that even some of my electronics engineering colleagues would find this
Death March, Second Edition by Edward Yourdon, ISBN 0-13-14365-X. Prentice
Hall, Saddle River, NJ. 2004.
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 www.blurty.com/~kb6nu.