Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Personal Software Process (PSPsm)

Over a decade ago, Watts Humphrey, then of the SEI, published the PSP – Personal Software Process, as a way that individual engineers in any technical discipline could “improve their estimating and planning skills, make commitments that they can meet, manage the quality of their work, and reduce the number of defects in their products.”*  Back in 1994, there was a course taught at the University of Lowell that endeavored to teach engineers this process.  It was in part sponsored by the SEI and was taught as an evening course to encourage practicing engineers to participate.  It was only offered once, unfortunately.  I had the opportunity to encourage one of my staff to take the class (he was pursuing a Master’s at ULowell at the time) and both of us learned much in the process.
This was before I got involved in either Agile or Theory of constraints, but still understood that multitasking was not increasing out productivity, though it was the only real way to accomplish the energetic schedules we continuously made for ourselves.  What we learned through this class was just exactly how everything we did during the day contributed to thwarting our estimates.  Initially, the results of the class exercises made my engineer feel inadequate and made me wonder how any of us got anything done in a day.  He was required to log all of his phone calls and all the time he spent emailing and effectively how much time context switching took from his productive time.  There seemed to be an unnecessarily large amount of measuring being done, but it was the only way to really see.  In hindsight, now I wonder how much, if any, Heisenberg Principal we were actually seeing – the task of record keeping was just that: another task we multitasked on top of his other daily work.
In the end, this was a great undertaking as we learned everything that really needs to be taken into consideration when estimating.  What we logged in our record keeping effectively are all the tasks that add up into the 60-70% of the non-productive part of what we now call velocity.

* PSP Body of Knowledge, CMU/SEI-2005-SR-003


Post a Comment

<< Home