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Theory-W Software Project Management Principles and Examples
July 1989 (vol. 15 no. 7)
pp. 902-916

A software project management theory is presented called Theory W: make everyone a winner. The authors explain the key steps and guidelines underlying the Theory W statement and its two subsidiary principles: plan the flight and fly the plan; and, identify and manage your risks. Theory W's fundamental principle holds that software project managers will be fully successful if and only if they make winners of all the other participants in the software process: superiors, subordinates, customers, users, maintainers, etc. Theory W characterizes a manager's primary role as a negotiator between his various constituencies, and a packager of project solutions with win conditions for all parties. Beyond this, the manager is also a goal-setter, a monitor of progress towards goals, and an activist in seeking out day-to-day win-lose or lose-lose project conflicts confronting them, and changing them into win-win situations. Several examples illustrate the application of Theory W. An extensive case study is presented and analyzed: the attempt to introduce new information systems to a large industrial corporation in an emerging nation. The analysis shows that Theory W and its subsidiary principles do an effective job both in explaining why the project encountered problems, and in prescribing ways in which the problems could have been avoided.

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Index Terms:
Theory-W software project management; case study; information systems; project engineering; software engineering
B.W. Boehm, R. Ross, "Theory-W Software Project Management Principles and Examples," IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering, vol. 15, no. 7, pp. 902-916, July 1989, doi:10.1109/32.29489
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