Grabin, Weapon of Victory

Just finished reading a great book about project and product management. The author got an assignment at a chief constructor and director of a small engineering department in one of the factories.

Initially, they used a linear waterfall-like process, so it took months and years from begin of product development to creating a first fully working model, and another several years to organize the mass production.

Over a decade, the author had introduced a completely different, agile process, which key factors have been employee motivation, seeding and maintaining of a creative, competitive company culture, time-boxing, working in pairs, continuous integration, small incremental releases, customer on-site, testing from the very beginning, ergonomic and usability, unification and reuse, and over-disciplinary thinking. All this allowed them to shorten time to first model from a year down to stunning 45 days. Oh, and by the way, they managed to increase productivity of the mass production by 18 times. How cool is that!? But wait, there is more.

The author of the book is a russian cannon constructor Grabin, and his memoirs are about events happened between 1930 and 1945. His cannons F-34 (used in the russian tank T-34) and Sis-3 have dominated the second half of the World War II, at least on the ost front.

Freaky. Freaky. Problems that cannon constructors had seventy years ago are to such an extent similar to the problems of the contemporary software development, that I’ve even thought in the first several chapters that the whole book is a fake or a joke of some contemporary project manager.

It is also very entertaining to read about politics that are an essential part of any product management. Grabin must constantly manoeuvre between different decision makers and stakeholders. Sometimes, he has to take the risk and to produce a cannon without any budget or allowance; and to get such allowance when the cannon is ready and obviously superior to anything produced before in the country. Sometimes, he ignores direct orders. Sometimes, he escalates.

And when it doesn’t help, he escalates again and again, until he speaks with the Stalin himself and manages to convince him. Grabin was probably one of the few people who could argue with Stalin to the extent that Stalin started to throw chairs; and still managed to survive that.

The book in electronic form (in russian):  Грабин Василий Гаврилович. Оружие победы.

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any translations.

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