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Out of the Crisis is one of two books on management I’ve found particularly helpful. As a field of study, there are so many free parameters that it’s difficult to beat doing little more than collecting case studies and leaving the learning experiences as an exercise to the reader.

Deming’s synthesis of his own experience while presenting case studies and quotations from people he worked with makes the book easy to use as a reference. While his style is archaic now that computer-assisted book writing (word processing) has matured, I think it hits the right amount of abstraction to be applicable to nearly any industry.

As to it’s particular applicability to software–if you think software is a trade rather than a profession this books manufacturing focus can helpfully demonstrate the difference between commodity and craft production.