Our Blog Excerpts Savings Contact


Dorset House Publishing
High-Quality Books on Software Engineering and Management.  Since 1984.
dorsethouse.com > titles


iDH Sign-Up

Get Our e-News
Delivered by FeedBurner

Adaptive Software Development:
A Collaborative Approach to
Managing Complex Systems

by James A. Highsmith III
foreword by Ken Orr

ISBN: 978-0-932633-40-8  
©2000  392 pages   softcover  
$44.95 (plus shipping)

Subject(s): Software Management, Software Project Management, Team Management

*For UPS Ground within U.S. only.
For more info., or for Int.'l or rush orders, click here.

Rate this

Apply Adaptive, Collaborative Techniques to
Manage High-Speed, High Change Projects

Winner of the Software Development
Jolt Product Excellence Award

About the Book

This innovative text offers a practical, realistic approach to managing high-speed, high-change software development projects. Consultant James A. Highsmith shows readers how to increase collaboration and adapt to uncertainty.

Many organizations start high-speed, high-change projects without knowing how to do themand even worse, without knowing they don't know. Successful completion of these projects is often at the expense of the project team.

This book emphasizes an adaptive, collaborative approach to software development. The concepts allow developers to "scale-up" rapid application development and extreme programming approaches for use on larger, more complex projects.

The four goals of the book are to

  • support an adaptive culture or mindset, in which change and uncertainty are assumed to be the natural statenot a false expectation of order
  • introduce frameworks to guide the iterative process of managing change
  • institute collaboration, the interaction of people on three levels: interpersonal, cultural, and structural
  • add rigor and discipline to the RAD approach, making it scalable to the uncertainty and complexity of real-life undertakings

This Title Is Now Also Available As an eBook Through Pearson Education at www.informit.com. To Order,

Click Here




"I particularly like his emphasis on focusing all decisions around the project's mission and using that mission as a way of continually asking - are we on the right track? He draws from the fields of cybernetics, engineering, chaos theory and economics for insights into how to take precise and relevant measurements.

". . . I recommend this book to anyone who would like some sound advice on facing and becoming more effective in the chaotic reality of systems development."

Atlantic Systems Guild

"Adaptive Software Development is probably one of the most important books about the software development process that you will ever read. . . .

"Should you read this book? If you want to succeed at developing software, the answer is a resounding yes. If you can accept having your belief structure challenged, yes. If you enjoy working on failed projects, political fighting, or users who are frustrated with the quality of the work that you produce, then don't bother reading Adaptive Software Development. I'm sure there's a 'Teach Yourself A New Technology in 21 Days' book that's more suited to your mindset."

Software Development Jolt Award Review

"This book's major contribution is a thoughtful examination of the environment required for flexible adaptive development teams and organizations . . .

"Senior software people must be able to evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of various approaches, and select what is appropriate for their respective environments and project/product constraints. They will benefit most from this book. . . .

"One would hope Highsmith continues with the development of his vision, publishing more specific (if condensed) case studies . . . It would be fascinating to be able to study organizations instituting various changes and applying these principles in difficult situations in order to become more flexible, adaptable, and ultimately, more successful."

—Pieter Botman

"If you are working in an environment where there is tremendous pressure to ship quickly, and where change happens constantly, then you may have seen some successful projects emerge from fuzzy beginnings. Highsmith has suggestions for creating a project environment that not only helps people live with those fuzzy starts, but also helps people create a project and a product of which they can be proud. . . .

"Highsmith shows the reader how to recognize when development practices need to change and how to acquire the skills to adapt. For a fresh approach to software development, be sure to check it out."

Johanna Rothman

"This is very likely the best book about software process that you will ever read. Highsmith has captured the fundamentals of how to succeed at software development in the modern age, presenting a framework of concepts and philosophies that can help your organization to adapt to the current realities of software development. Instead of following a strict set of tasks and processes, and then optimizing them over time, Highsmith instead suggests that your organization should strive for an adaptive culture that recognizes that uncertainty and change are the natural state. The material in this book is an excellent addition to that of eXtreme Programming (XP) and will help you to temper your tailoring of the Unified Process, OPEN Process, and/or the process patterns of the OOSP by also addressing the cultural aspects of your software organization."

Scott W. Ambler
President, Ronin International

"Highsmith's book has been highly praised in many circles and deservedly so. He applies many of the theories of complex adaptive systems to teams trying to build software in today's marketplace. This is a well written book that expounds a fundamentally different approach to developing software. . . . If you find yourself trying to force your classic approach to a new slippery problem(s), look at this book."

Dwayne Phillips
Systems and Computer Engineer/ Author of
The Software Project Manager's Handbook

". . . the first few chapters clearly indicated Adaptive Software Development (ASD) well suited my current projects. Your narrative style makes ASD easy to understand and caused me to read it again to gain even more subtleties. . . . ASD is what real product development is like. I have improved our results over previous projects by letting loose the employee reins while setting positive goals and necessary landscape contraints. The ASD approach allowed team members to invent solutions to the always present unexpected problems and yet deliver the product on time."

John Wolter
Wolter Works, Inc.
Ann Arbor, MI

"Jim . . . decided to tell us the truth, uncomfortable as it will surely make some of us: Managers do not simply plant a light at the end of a narrow tunnel, and then drive work effort down that tunnel to reach the light. . . . Rather, development teams need to seek a light that emerges along a discovered path, incrementally illuminating sign posts. . . . Adaptive Software Development gives us . . . the vocabulary we need to discuss the truth, and still create results. Bravo!"

Adele Goldberg
Founder and CEO of Neometron

". . . successfully rebuts software development traditionalists with results over process. . . . a must read for the thinking developer."

Rob Arnold
Former CEO of ST Labs, Inc.

". . . contains many examples and analogies that I can use in helping clients be more effective in using teamwork and group learning on software development projects . . ."

Cheryl Allen
KSI, Inc.

"This book, more than any I've read, best captures my philosophy of software management. . . .

". . . what the author advocates. . . is a sensible balance—not too much process nor too little. This book, along with Rapid Development, are my two favorite 'handbooks' for software management. . . ."

Elaine May
posted on Amazon.com

"Jim Highsmith . . . writes for those of us who have to develop real software in a competitive, constrained, high-change environment. . . . There can be no canned answers to the problems of modern, rapid software development. Adaptive Software Development heralds an emerging discipline of inventing and adapting strategies to fit each situation. This discipline requires that we study the dynamics of software projects and software people, not merely their practices or documents."

James Bach
Principal Consultant, Satisfice, Inc.

". . . Highsmith shatters longstanding beliefs on the optimization of complex systems . . . which in turn lead to frameworks or models that employ adaptive principles. Collaboration, joint creativity and innovation are the keys on Highsmith's path to successfully managing large projects."

Editorial Review
posted on Fatbrain.com

"If ever there is to be a case for light and flexible software development processes, methods and techniques, Jim Highsmith's book is it. He presents a thoroughly researched and cited argument for using what we know about complexity and chaos in software development. . . .

"The book is sprinkled with short and incisive words of wisdom that will spark debate among the 'just do it' and 'software must be disciplined' crowds. For example, 'Adaptation depends on leadership and collaboration rather than on command and control,' 'Adaptation is significantly more important than optimization' and in a complex environment, following a plan produces the product you intended, but not the product you need.' . . .

"In an ideal world, business sponsors of extreme project should read this book. It is must reading for the growing legions of developers intrigued by the idea of 'extreme programming' XP and need to have a deeper understanding of why it makes sense. . . ."

Customer Review
posted on Fatbrain.com

"This is an excellent book for any software developer, manager, QA analyst, or tester that wants to understand an intelligent way to build software in a rapidly changing environment. Unlike other works on Rapid Application Development (RAD) . . . this book lays a very strong foundation in the concepts of complex adaptive systems theory. . . .

"[Adaptive Software Development] goes beyond concepts and shows plenty of ways to apply the ideas."

Randy Rice
The Software Quality Advisor Online

"If fast-paced, high requirements volatility, and uncertainty characterize your development environment, and you can't figure out how to succeed, then Adaptive Software Development by James Highsmith can help. It offers an innovative approach grounded in the theory of complex adaptive systems, and it's both well researched and timely.

"It's real attraction, however, is that it provides a holistic approach to software development and management — adaptively, of course — and covers the crucial aspects of learning in software process environments. . . . a useful contribution to the changing profession of software engineering. . . . I am sure the software soldiers and their commanders operating in turbulent times stand to gain from this book."

Deependra Moitra
IEEE Software

"In my experience, management is the most critical component of a project, and the hardest to change. I particularly enjoyed Jim's discussion of how some managers who are stuck in command-and-control have a static view of the world, which prevents them from making sense of their current environment. Adaptation is a necessary and critical skill of competent managers. He contrasts the command-and-control managers to leader-collaborator managers, who learn how to make sense of the world, even if it doesn't conform to their well-understood beliefs. . . . Adaptive Software Development is a thought-provoking book. I enjoyed the mountain-climbing examples, and was able to adapt those examples to projects that I have worked on."

Johanna Rothman

"A great introduction to applying complexity theory to the software development process. . . . for every project manager that wants to know how the next generation of systems will be built."

James Odell
Consultant and Coauthor of
Object-Oriented Methods

"Well done! . . . a plethora of provocative ideas."

Robert N. Charette
ITABHI Corporation

"Offers a theory for software development management that suggests an adaptive culture in which change and uncertainty are assumed to be the natural state, as opposed to the conventional belief that optimization is the only solution to increasingly complex problems. The approach combines customer focus groups, versioning, time-boxed management, and active prototyping. The book does not provide a set of prescriptive rules or tasks, but a framework of concepts, practices, and guidelines."

SciTech Book News

"For many years there has been a natural tension between the textbook approach to software development and the market forces that encourage software to be produced quickly and cheaply. . . .

"James Highsmith now aligns the goals of the two camps — the academics and the practitioners — in a process that allows for both rigor and creative learning. . . . The book uses mountain climbing as a metaphor throughout, so that we clearly see how accomplishing something difficult requires us to deal with the realities of risk and uncertainty on the way to our goal. . . . the book is full of important questions that should be addressed by managers and developers alike. . . "

Shari Lawrence Pfleeger
IEEE Spectrum

"There are many points of sound advice in this book.

". . . reading this book made me think a little harder about some aspects of the software development process. The author's metaphors of biological adaptation and mountain climbing have many equivalencies in software development that should be seriously considered."

Charles Ashbacher
Charles Ashbacher Technologies
posted on Amazon.com

"Today's businesses operate in a quick-changing environment, where competitive edge can be measured in days and weeks rather than years. At the same time, the systems that service these markets must be reliable. The Adaptive Software Development cycle outlined in this book addresses these challenges and provides giudelines for functioning successfully in a fast-paced environment. It outlines the need for a collaborative environment in the organization as a whole and a new leadership style that doesn't attempt to control all aspects of a project. . . .

"The book takes the reader through each stage of a high change project, from initial conception, planning, development, and delivery. It provides insight on the models, techniques, and life cycle management as well as outlining the team interactions and roles. It provides a thought-provoking guide to project management in the new economy.

"The book introduces a new way of thinking about IT development and a different approach to project management that uses new terminology and requires a change in mindset. . . .

"The concepts being presented are well worth learning, and I'd encourage the reader to take the time to absorb them.

"Projects require participation from all team members, and Jim's approach stresses collaboration. It should be read by all members of the team, from programmer to business unit representative. . . .

"This is an easy-to-read-book that outlines specific strategies to empower a team."

—Diane Brockman
SQL Server Professional

Table of Contents

Excerpt: "Building Better Software"

Excerpt: Foreword by Ken Orr


Author Interview

Dorset House Catalog
This Book's Flyer

Also Recommended

Creating a Software Engineering Culture, by Karl E. Wiegers

Five Core Metrics: The Intelligence Behind Successful Software Management, by Lawrence H. Putnam and Ware Myers

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, 3rd ed., by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

Roundtable on Technical Leadership: A SHAPE Forum Dialogue, edited by Gerald M. Weinberg, Marie Benesh, and James Bullock

Waltzing with Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

How to Order

To order this book by credit card directly from Dorset House in New York, please call (800) 342-6657 or (212) 620-4053, weekdays, 9am to 6pm. Alternatively, print out our Faxable Order Form and fax to (212) 727-1044.

To order this book from an online bookstore, please see above.

To purchase at a bookstore, contact our Recommended Booksellers to verify availability. Any store can order from Dorset House using the book's title and ISBN number. Also, bookstores can order our books through Baker & Taylor.

We'd like to make it easy for you to order, so please contact us at any time for help!

New:3143 Broadway, Suite 2B  New York, New York 10027  USA
1-800-DH-BOOKS or 212-620-4053, fax 212-727-1044
Copyright © 1996-2008 by Dorset House Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved.
Home | Blog | Savings | Stores | Features | Titles | Authors | Subjects | Orders | About | Contact | Legal