TMMM: Why Did The Tower of Babel Fall?

The chapter overs the importance of communication, and how this can be aided by organisation and documentation.

Three types of communication are defined

  • Informally. Good telephone service and a clear definition of intergroup dependencies will encourage the hundreds of calls upon which common interpretation of written documents depends.
  • Meetings. Regular project meetings, whith one team after another giving technical briefings, are invaluable. Hundreds of minor misunderstandings get smoked out this way.
  • Workbook. A formal project workbook must be started at the beginning. This deserves a section by itself.

– Federick P. Brooks, JR

Some of the technology covered aren’t relevant any more such as the telephone and workbook. It was facinating to read about how the team switched from a loose leaf book to a microfiche to save a million dollars; furthermore with the progress in technology they would look at keeping the workbook on a file to be consulted from a display terminal. How times have changed.

Even though technology has progressed, even today we use the same types of communication but with a different medium.

  • Informally. Instant messaging, Email, Video hangouts etc - a lot of these methods like email and IM are text based so no need to keep a telephone log!
  • Meetings. Still as popular as ever. To borrow from the Agile lexicon, this is your humble standup. It’s fun to see how often this book bumps up against ideas which are in common use with the proliferation of Agile methodology.
  • Workbook. Project wiki, API documentation etc, almost exclusively online.

The Tower of Bable metaphor feels clumsy and some of the methods to manage communication are obsolete but the core concepts are sound and I found this chapter a really interesting read.

Noticed an error or omission? Please look at submitting a pull request.