The Soul of a New Machine

by John Turner

Posted on May 07, 2010

I am currently undertaking an MSc in Advanced Software Engineering at UCD, Dublin and recently took a module on ‘Software Engineering Process Frameworks’. As part of the pre-reading for this module the class were asked to read Tracey Kidder’s ‘The Soul of a New Machine’.

The book chronicles the experience of an engineering team struggling to design and develop a new computer under huge pressure, both internal and external.

This is not the sort of book I would ordinarily pick up and read as I normally find myself reading books on specific technologies, frameworks or methodologies. I must admit that I enjoyed the book and found that despite being published in 1981, Tracey Kidder’s observations on the way the organisation approached projects and the associated challenges were very familiar.

It was most striking that I have worked with many characters similar to those portrayed in the book. Kidder’s observations on, and reasoning about, their behaviour was very insightful. Kidder also focused on how the individual team members collaborated and the intricate personal relationships within the group.

Overall, an extremely interesting case study of people, process and practice and how they interact in a knowledge based industry.