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Book Review: The Secrets of Consulting (TESTHEAD)

On February 9, 2012, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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First, I’m doing this in reverse order. I actually read “More Secrets of Consulting” almost a year ago, and from that experience, I decided to read some more of Jerry Weinberg’s books (Weinberg on Writing, Perfect Software, etc.). Thus it’s a roundabout way that brings me to the original “The Secrets of Consulting“.

This is a book that every tester is encouraged to read. If anyone asks other testers or programmers about which Weinberg books to read, invariably “TSOC” gets mentioned. So what do we get if we follow up and check out this now classic title (if we use automobile standards, anything over 25 years old is “classic”).

First, this book is a fun read, and it’s a quirky book full of American idioms that will really only make sense if you’ve grown up in the US or have family that has told stories of the US from the 40’s on through the 80s (when this book was written). The anecdotes may feel odd to people who didn’t grow up in the America of that time period, but for those of us who have, much of these details feel right and their amusement factor helps us remember the concepts.

Weinberg gives names to many of his principles that are whimsical, and that whimsical quality helps make them memorable. There are many folksy stories included, and if you have read any of Jerry’s books, this is a hallmark of his writing. For some, it may be off putting. For me, I find it endearing. Having had correspondence and communication with Jerry over the years, you recognize his voice and his demeanor in the prose, and it makes the stories very authentic. As such, principles like the Law of Raspberry Jam, the Orange Juice Rule, Rudy’s Law of Rutabaga, Marvin’s Great Secrets, etc. become easily recognizable and easily remembered. By themselves, these names are meaningless, but it’s the memorable stories that help them come to mind and make them ring true for me.

Don’t let the folksy qualities of the book fool you, there is a lot of very practical advice in this book, and while the stories may make you smile, maybe even laugh, or possibly shake your head, there is definitely a lot of real red meat in this book and letting it nourish you will indeed be worth your time. Some may complain that the advice is a little cynical in spots, or that they would never do the things that Jerry advocates, or that some of it comes across as unprofessional. To those people, I would suggest that they take themselves out of the equation for a minute, and examine human behavior. Jerry’s examples and laws are not cynical, they are human, and they map to the way that people actually behave and interact with each other. Jerry’s Laws are universal. The political, social, and behavioral problems we face tend to likewise be universal.

Most of all, this book is for every consultant out there, not just the ones that have that title tacked on their business cards and letterheads. When we get right down to it, every one of us is a consultant. We offer a service to our clients, and every law that Jerry espouses works just as well for us workaday employees as it does for official consultants. At some point in our careers each of us is going to need to be the bringer of news that others will not want to hear. How we deliver that news most effectively ultimately is up to us, but with these handy rules in mind, we can be more effective in sharing that news.

Bottom Line:

Don’t think that because you are not an officially titled “Consultant” that this book will serve no purpose or have no value for you. In fact, I’d suggest everyone take a little piece of masking tape and cover up the word “Consulting” and write down “Dealing with Other People, Period”. See, that way, when you reach for a copy of “the Secrets of Dealing with Other People, Period” then all of the story’s, rules, limits, and laws will make much more sense, and their ready applicability to *everyone* can be better appreciated. I’ve seen many people say that this book is one they read over and over. I can certainly understand why.

 

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