Consultants and managers from diverse fields present perspectives on lessons learned from Gerald M. Weinberg. A celebration of Jerry Weinberg’s still-flourishing career, The Gift of Time is at once a tribute to a remarkable and influential software and systems pioneer, an introduction to his work, and a collection of lively and informative essays. Seventeen contributors focus on practical strategies and techniques acquired from Weinberg and subsequently applied and extended in their own work.
Readers, students, clients, colleagues, and friends of Jerry Weinberg, the contributors to The Gift of Time are notable authors and teachers in their own right. Reflections by Fiona Charles, Robert L. Glass, James Bach, Michael Bolton, Jean McLendon, Sherry Heinze, Sue Petersen, Esther Derby, Willem van den Ende, Judah Mogilensky, Naomi Karten, James Bullock, Tim Lister, Johanna Rothman, Jonathan Kohl, Dani Weinberg, and Bent Adsersen consider topics including:
The role of systems thinking as a foundational software testing skill
Understanding the relationships inherent in software quality and other complex problems
Building personal tools to confront the struggles of everyday life and work
Improving working relationships, and work itself, through congruent feedback
Applying models to solve problems in group dynamics
Observing behavior as an indicator of progress in process improvement
Developing critical organizational skills through experiential learning
Solving problems by examining underlying system dynamics
A compendium of valuable expert advice, the book addresses core issues on the human side of software projects.
Review By: Ben Linders 04/25/2011The Gift of Time is a collection of seventeen stories from people who have used the work of Gerald M. Weinberg (“Jerry”) about how his ideas have helped them to support organizations and make a difference. The book was edited by Fiona Charles, who collected the stories to celebrate Jerry’s seventy-fifth birthday.
Jerry Weinberg is a well known writer and consultant who gives workshops on leadership, consulting skills, and writing. Many of his books and articles are about human issues, and this is also a recurring theme in The Gift of Time. In Michael Bolton’s contribution, he mentions that Jerry often uses the question “Compared to what?” to make you aware that all things are relative. Another example is Esther Derby’s contribution on congruent feedback, in which she describes how Jerry has helped people to become aware of incongruity and to use that awareness to gain deeper insight and find better solutions.
Changing organizations implies changing the behavior of people, and The Gift of Time contains several articles on this subject. Judah Mogilensky describes patterns of behavior at different maturity levels. Being aware of these patterns results in a better understanding of how an organization is handling issues and helps you provide findings and advice.
Johanna Rothman shares a story on writing as a way to avoid writer’s block. This is a marvelous example of how Jerry helped her to look differently at a problem, which led to an unusual set of solutions.
Many people have been influenced by Jerry’s ideas, and Fiona Charles has done everyone who admires Jerry a big favor by selecting authors and collecting their stories into this great book. The diversity of the stories shows that Jerry’s ideas have been used in many ways. The authors describe in their stories how Jerry has helped them to make a difference, and this book can help you to do the same. It is an inspiring book, and I am sure that several stories will make you look at things from a new angle, discover ways to improve yourself, and deliver more value to the people you work with.
Review By: Ann Drinkwater 04/25/2011This book is a collection of essays presented through the eyes of various followers of Gerald "Jerry" M. Weinberg. Each chapter operates independently and provides insight into system development practices from the impressive life and career of Jerry Weinberg. Even though the text is a collection of short stories, the writing style throughout remained similar and was easy to follow. It would have been nice to further elaborate on some of the points and possibly reduce the number of chapters, or increase the length of the material. By the same token, this style and layout also has some benefits.
As I read, I found myself wanting to explore more on the topics and desired further discussions on the perspectives in the book. The desire and interest in acquiring more knowledge is a true indication of the educational leadership of Jerry Weinberg. Readings that present end to end theories often fall short in the interpretation and, consequently, the exploratory thoughts that lead to both system and organizational innovations. The content was structured around one of the hypothesis listed in the book, experiential learning. By providing minimal amounts of information on various topics, the reader is forced to further explore the topic on his own. As Jerry states it best, "people learn whatever they are most ready to learn."
I have participated in formal educational programs that provide the information in a structured format and those that are more group based with general guidelines. By far I grew the most personally and professionally from the group-based experiential learning experiences. Jerry also said it well with, "everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student."
Experiential learning and the focus on an effective approach to systems development were the two most interesting and relevant topics for me. The topic of systems development thinking and the need to think of all scenarios and reactions to various conditions and assumptions is critical for effective development and consequently testing.
Outside of these subjects, I found the following thoughts and statements accurate and good reminders:
Give Feedback—One uncomfortable conversation is better than an extended period of reduced productivity, resentment, and hurt.
Do Things That Are Meaningful to You—Writer's block is usually attributed to trying to write about something of little interest or something that doesn't matter.
Be Ready to Give up Your Plan—Once you have planned and practiced your plan, be ready to give up your plan. Being too rigid and not adapting to the situation can result in losing anything that had been gained.
This material is ageless and is more of an approach to thinking and personal growth that never becomes obsolete. The ideal reader is anyone who wants to improve their approach to analytical problem solving and organizational improvement and one who hopes to follow a logical, systematic approach to life.