About Watts Humphrey

An Outrageous Commitment, A Lifelong Mission

When Watts Humphrey arrived at the Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI) in 1986, he made what he called an “outrageous commitment to change the world of software engineering.”

By all accounts, he succeeded.

During his tenure at the SEI, Watts Humphrey established the Software Process Program, led development of the Software Capability Maturity Model, and introduced the Software Process Assessment and Software Capability Evaluation methods. These later became the basis for the development of the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), a framework of software engineering best practices that has been adopted by thousands or organizations throughout the world. Humphrey also led the development of the Personal Software Process (PSP) and the Team Software Process (TSP). In 2005 Humphrey received the National Medal of Technology, the highest honor awarded by the President of the United States to America’s leading innovators.

Humphrey, 83, died on October 28, 2010 at his home in Sarasota, Florida.

“Watts Humphrey was one of the icons of software engineering--one of a handful of engineers like Barry Boehm, Fred Brooks, and Vic Basili who have helped define this young field," said SEI director and CEO Dr. Paul Nielsen. "Watts brought engineering to software engineering. His work has had immeasurable impact on the global software community, tirelessly urging the community to emphasize quality, measurement, and performance."

Known as the “Father of Software Quality” Humphrey dedicated the majority of his career to addressing problems in software development including schedule delays, cost increases, performance problems, and defects.

“He was a wonderful leader and a wonderful man. He set forth an energizing goal and an inspiring mission that we all wanted to be a part of,” said Anita Carleton, director of the SEI’s Software Engineering Process Management (SEPM) Program, who was initially hired by Humphrey. “He was my lifelong mentor and my boss.”

Born on the Fourth of July, 1927, in Battle Creek, Michigan, Humphrey credits his father—an MIT-trained engineer who later worked on Wall Street—with shaping his work ethic and approach to problem solving. Early in his school years, Humphrey struggled to read and failed first grade. His father, also named Watts, pulled his son out of school and moved the family to Litchfield, Connecticut, where his oldest son could attend a school to receive more individual instruction.

“He insisted that I didn’t fail, the school failed, and he was going to get to a school that would help,” Humphrey told interviewer Grady Booch in an interview published in early 2010 for the Computer History Museum. Humphrey, who was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia, graduated valedictorian of his high school in 1944. After high school, he deferred studying at the California Institute of Technology to serve in the United States Navy during World War II.

In the Navy, while in officer training, he was initially trained to be a radio gunner, but later was trained to take Morse code where, once again, he earned top marks.

A Lifelong Learner

After his service, Humphrey earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at the University of Chicago, studying under Enrico Fermi. He then completed a master’s degree in physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and an MBA degree, with an emphasis on manufacturing, from the University of Chicago. There, he later recalled, professor Judson Neff taught him the three most important things in manufacturing: planning, planning, and planning.

“He said ‘if you don’t plan, you can’t run a manufacturing operation,’” Humphrey explained. “That had an enormous impact on me.”

Cost accounting also made an enormous impact on his later work. “It’s a tremendously powerful field, the whole idea of measurement and precision,” Humphrey later explained.

After graduation, he worked full-time as director of scientific personnel for a lab that was being started at the University of Chicago while taking night courses at IIT in electrical engineering.

Early Influences

From 1953 to 1959, Humphrey worked at Sylvania in Boston.

“I was put in charge of circuit design, but I had never done circuit design,” Humphrey explained in 2009, in an interview for the SEI Library archives. “That was a marvelous early experience. I discovered that I was managing people who knew more than I did about what they were doing. The typical management view is manager knows best. Rather than fake it, I decided to spend my time asking questions. I asked people ‘How do you do that? Why are you doing that?’”

This approach, of not assuming he knew more than the people he was managing just because he was managing them, became a guiding philosophy throughout his career, Humphrey explained.

In his first year at Sylvania, Humphrey enrolled in summer courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the Whirlwind Computer that were taught by professors from Cambridge University. It was there that he met his future wife, Barbara, who was working in the computer lab. The couple married in May 1954.

Ever the learner, Humphrey wanted to know more. He inquired about computer courses at Northeastern University.

“They didn’t have any, but they convinced me to teach one. So instead of taking a course I turned out to be the professor,” Humphrey explained. In order to prepare, he spent weeks at the Harvard and MIT libraries and put together a course on computer design. “I ended up writing a book on it,” he said. His class consisted of employees at Honeywell Corporation who spent their days building computers.

Humphrey said the experience again reinforced the philosophy that to manage or teach effectively you need to respect the knowledge and experience of those who you are managing or teaching.

“The idea of not having to know more than your students or your employees and to deal with them rationally anyway and to be a manager and to be in charge, has stood me in good stead ever since,” Humphrey said.

When Humphrey arrived at IBM in 1959, he initially worked in hardware as a computer designer and architect. He transitioned into software and became the director of programming and vice-president of technical development where he supervised 4,000 software professionals across 15 laboratories and seven countries. This transition from hardware to software management and the challenges Humphrey faced became yet another catalyst for his research into the field of knowledge work, a term initially coined in the 1970s by Peter Drucker to describe the intangible skills and know-how that many workers in information technology, as well as other fields, bring to their jobs.

“I discovered through this period that hardware management principles, while sound, weren’t effective in a software setting,” Humphrey said in an interview in early 2010. “Software is large-scale knowledge work. It’s hard to manage people when you don’t understand what those people are doing.”

Shortly before he arrived at the SEI in 1986, Humphrey wrote a much-discussed column in IEEE Spectrum, asserting that a massive, complex system—in particular the Strategic Defense Initiative—could be programmed with high quality and reliability if it were done by “strong technical teams that use a highly disciplined development process.”

An Outrageous Commitment

When he arrived at the SEI, Humphrey worked to clarify that process.

“Changing the world of anything is an outrageous personal commitment. That’s what makes it outrageous. I felt it needed to be done. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and I wanted an environment where I could work with folks and do that,” Humphrey explained in the 2010 interview.

“Changing the world of anything is an outrageous personal commitment. That’s what makes it outrageous. I felt it needed to be done. I knew I couldn’t do it alone, and I wanted an environment where I could work with folks and do that,” Humphrey explained in the 2010 interview.

Larry Druffel, SEI director and CEO from 1986 to 1996, said that when Humphrey arrived at the SEI, he came with a vision based on his work at IBM; software could be managed by process.

“We all understood the importance of things like version control, configuration management and methodology, but I don’t think anyone knew how to put those into a transferable form,” Druffel said. “Not everybody thought that it was a good idea at the time, but he was persistent, and he was proven right. It could have died easily after several iterations. There were enough people out there criticizing it. But he stayed with it and he made it work.”

Working with a team, Humphrey identified characteristics of best practices in software engineering that began to lay the groundwork for what would eventually become the Software Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and, eventually, CMMI.

Druffel nominated Humphrey to be the first ever SEI Fellow, a designation awarded to people who have made an outstanding commitment to the work of the SEI, and who continue to advise SEI leadership on key issues.

“After we named him fellow, I said ‘Watts, you can work on anything that you want to.’ He said ‘I’ve always believed we can provide statistical control to what the individual software engineer does,’” Druffel explained.

The Beginnings of PSP and TSP

Jim Over, who now leads the TSP initiative at the SEI, said Humphrey had begun his work in bringing discipline to the individual software engineer—the basis for the Personal Software Process (PSP)— long before his appointment as an SEI Fellow.

Humphrey first tested his theories on a process that he developed for managing his personal checking account. Next, he tested this on the personal software development process by writing more than 60 small programs in Pascal and C++, Over explained. Humphrey then began working with organizations to pilot this new personal process for software engineers.

Not long after, Humphrey published his first PSP book, A Discipline for Software Engineering, and developed a course for software engineers. Over, who enrolled in the first PSP course offered at Carnegie Mellon, said it changed his career.

“When you learn how to properly measure your own performance and analyze the result in order to improve, you get real, lasting, behavioral change that leads to performance gains and improvement,” Over explained, adding that the class went from underestimating their work by about 40 percent to being within a few percent under or over estimate on each assignment. “We had a 10 times reduction in the number of defects that escaped to the unit testing phase by the end of the course. These results were unbelievable. If I hadn’t been there I would not have thought this possible.”

After the course, Over stepped down as a project leader and began working with Humphrey to transition TSP and PSP into software engineering practice. During the course of their work together, the two became close friends.

“What will stick with me? First the belief that with both the maturity model and the PSP/TSP, Watts has created a framework that is the right stuff for software engineering and probably most kinds of related work. It works. Second is the value of data. Third are all the little quotes. Watts is a master at reducing the complex to the simple, and there are hundreds of these little gems,” Over said.

  • Watts on planning: What’s the most significant factor in determining when a project will finish? When it starts. If you can’t make accurate plans, plan often.
  • Watts on producing quality work: If you want a quality product out of test, you must put a quality product into test.
  • Watts on assessment: If you don’t know where you are, a map won’t help.

During his work as an SEI Fellow, Humphrey faced many naysayers, Druffel recalled. With each critic, he would listen and adjust his approach, but never once did he give up on the idea that he could teach software engineers the skills they need to track their own work, adhere to plans, and develop defect-free software. After PSP was established, Humphrey applied those same concepts to engineering groups as part of the Team Software Process (TSP).

Today, TSP has been adopted by leading software organizations across the globe including Intuit, Oracle, and Adobe. In 2006, the SEI launched a TSP initiative with Tec de Monterrey, a leading private university in Mexico, to help Mexico become a better national provider of IT products and services. In South Africa, the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is working with the SEI to pilot TSP in organizations as part of an effort to make the country’s IT sector more competitive.

“What Watts brought is an acceptance of the discipline of software engineering,” Druffel explained, “He was working on these ideas when he left IBM in 1986. Here we are in 2010 and he was still working on related concepts. That’s persistence. Most people don’t stay with something that long. He had staying power.”

Dedication to Family

As Humphrey emphasized the importance of discipline to the global software engineering community, he also talked often of the importance of family to friends and colleagues.

His daughter, Sarah Humphrey, said her father’s struggles with reading and his own father’s support shaped his work ethic at an early age.

“He loved to learn and I think the reason he loved to learn is that he had a victory over how hard it was, through the support of really wonderful people." —Sarah Humphrey

“He loved to learn and I think the reason he loved to learn is that he had a victory over how hard it was, through the support of really wonderful people. His father was a huge champion of his,” Sarah Humphrey recalled, adding that her father was a huge proponent of flash cards. If he didn’t know something, he would make a flash card for it. He had stacks of flash cards, and separated them into piles based on what he knew, items that he was still a little unsure of, and another pile for any concept that he still hadn’t mastered. “He was one of the most insanely disciplined people I’ve ever met. I used to set my watch according to what he would do in the morning, where his newspaper was, how it was folded next to the plate, the orange juice is here, the newspaper is here and that means it must be x time.”

Sarah Humphrey recalled that when she was little, her father tried to teach all of his children how to sail. During her lesson she kept refusing to take the tiller from her father.

“So he jumped off the boat and swam ashore. That was just great. I took the tiller,” she recalled. “He would always say ‘Never say I can’t. Say I can.’”

Humphrey’s seven children are Kate Humphrey Pickman, Lisa Humphrey Fish, Sarah Humphrey, Watts Humphrey Jr., Peter Humphrey, Erica Humphrey Jarrett and Christopher Humphrey. He has eleven grandchildren: Luke Pickman, Eric Fish, Jesse Fish, Colin Fish, Daniel DeCamello, Jessica Humphrey, Dorothy Humphrey, Alex Jarrett, Chris Jarrett, Charlotte Jarrett and Nicolas Humphrey Oberparleiter.

A Favorite Passage

Humphrey, with Steve Masters, was also instrumental in coordinating the first Software Engineering Process Group (SEPG) conference, which was held in Pittsburgh. The conference series, now in its 22nd year, hosts annual events in Asia, Europe, North America, and Latin America. At the conferences, it became a tradition for SEPG attendees to run with Humphrey in the mornings.

While at the SEI, Humphrey earned many accolades for his work including the National Medal of Technology, the country’s highest honor in this field. In early 2009, Humphrey was selected as an ACM Fellow by the Association of Computer Machinery, its most prestigious member category. He received an honorary doctorate of software engineering from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, and was a member of the university’s Industry Advisory Board, and computer and software engineering departments. He was also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Empirical Software Engineering and the journal Software Process Improvement and Practice. He is the author of 12 books, and hundreds of technical reports, journals, and columns.

“You are lucky in your life to have a person who inspires you and puts forth a world objective to excite you so much that you want to engage in that mission with them,” Carleton explained.

She keeps a copy of all of Humphrey’s books on a shelf above her desk. While talking about Humphrey and the impact that he has made on her personally, and on the field of software engineering, she pulls down A Discipline for Software Engineering to read a well-worn passage, a favorite. It’s a passage, she says, that defines Humphrey and his message. It crosses all disciplines and fields of study.

“Deciding what you want from your chosen field is like asking what you want from life. Surprisingly often, people achieve their objectives, but in ways they did not expect. Life rarely turns out the way we plan. While our carefully developed strategies may go down in flames, a new and more rewarding opportunity shows up in the ashes. The key is to keep an open mind and keep looking. In life, we all reach the same end, so we need to concentrate on the trip. Just as with a process, once you decide how you want to live, the rest will follow. Devote yourself to excellence, and you just might achieve it. That would be worth the trip.”

“That is Watts. He devoted every aspect of his life to excellence,” said Carleton. “I spoke to Watts recently, and he told me ‘My life’s work is in your hands now.’”

The Watts Collection

Reports and Papers

Team Software Process (TSP) Body of Knowledge (BOK)
(July 2010) The TSP BOK helps practitioners and employers assess and improve their skills, and shows academic institutions how to incorporate TSP into their engineering courses. (CMU/SEI-2010-TR-020)

The Personal Software Process (PSP) Body of Knowledge, Version 2.0
(August 2009) The Personal Software Process (PSP) body of knowledge (BOK) contained in this report provides guidance to software professionals who are interested in using proven-effective, disciplined methods to improve their personal software development process. (CMU/SEI-2009-SR-018)

The Watts New Collection: Columns by the SEI’s Watts Humphrey
(November 2009) news@sei columns written by the SEI's Watts Humphrey between June 1998 and August 2008 (CMU/SEI-2009-SR-024)

Systems of Systems: Scaling Up the Development Process
(August 2006) Systems of Systems: Scaling Up the Development Process (CMU/SEI-2006-TR-017)

Safety-Critical Systems and the TSP
(November 2005) Safety-Critical Systems and the TSP (CMU/SEI-2005-TN-011)

Team Software Process (TSP), The
(November 2000) The Team Software Process (TSP) (CMU/SEI-2000-TR-023)

Software Product Liability
(August 1993) Software Product Liability (CMU/SEI-1993-TR-013)

Introduction to Software Process Improvement
(June 1992) This 1992 report explains why some of software problems have been difficult for organizations to address and outlines the actions required to address them. (CMU/SEI-1992-TR-007)

Software Process Development and Enactment: Concepts and Definitions
(September 1992) Software Process Development and Enactment: Concepts and Definitions (CMU/SEI-1992-TR-004)

Comparison of U.S. and Japanese Software Process Maturity, A
(December 1991) This 1991 report characterizes the software processes used by software managers and practitioners in the U.S., Japan. (CMU/SEI-1991-TR-027)

Conducting SEI-Assisted Software Process Assessments
(February 1989) This report describes software process assessment as it is performed in organizations with the assistance of the SEI. (CMU/SEI-1989-TR-007)

State of Software Engineering Practice: A Preliminary Report, The
(February 1989) The State of Software Engineering Practice: A Preliminary Report (CMU/SEI-1989-TR-001)

Software Process Modeling: Principles of Entity Process Models
(February 1989) Software Process Modeling: Principles of Entity Process Models (CMU/SEI-1989-TR-002)

CASE Planning and the Software Process
(May 1989) This report discusses software process maturity and its relationship to planning and installing computer-aided software engineering (CASE) systems. (CMU/SEI-1989-TR-026)

Role of Assessment in Software Process Improvement, The
(December 1989) The Role of Assessment in Software Process Improvement (CMU/SEI-1989-TR-003)

Method for Assessing the Software Engineering Capability of Contractors, A
(March 1988) This 1987 document provides guidelines for assessing the ability of DoD contractors to develop software in accordance with modern software engineering methods. (CMU/SEI-1987-TR-023)

Preliminary Report on Conducting SEI-Assisted Assessments of Software Engineering
(July 1987) Preliminary Report on Conducting SEI-Assisted Assessments of Software Engineering (CMU/SEI-1987-TR-016)


The Ideal Software Job

Happy Birthday Watts, PSP Song

Competing in the Software Age, Part 1 by Watts Humphrey

Competing in the Software Age, Part 2 by Watts Humphrey

Competing in the Software Age, Part 3 by Watts Humphrey


Reflections on Management: How to Manage Your Software Projects, Your Teams, Your Boss, and Yourself
(March 2010) A Lifetime of Invaluable Management Insights from Legendary Software Quality Guru Watts S. Humphrey

TSP: Coaching Development Teams
(April 2006) Most modern software development projects require teams, and good teamwork largely determines a project’s success. The Team Software Process (TSP), created by Watts S. Humphrey, is a set of engineering practices and team concepts that produce effective teams, thereby helping developers deliver high-quality products on time and within budget. TSP bridges Humphrey’s seminal work on the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), an improvement framework for the entire software organization, and his Personal Software Process (PSP), practices designed to improve the work of individual developers.

TSP: Leading a Development Team
(September 2005) In this essential guide to TSP, Humphrey uses his vast industry experience to show leaders precisely how to lead teams of software engineers trained in the Personal Software Process (PSP).

PSP: A Self-Improvement Process for Software Engineers
(March 2005) Secure Coding in C and C++ presents hundreds of examples of secure code, insecure code, and exploits, implemented for Windows and Linux.

Winning with Software: An Executive Strategy
(December 2001) Based on his own extensive management experience, Watts S. Humphrey, the world-renowned expert on process improvement, shows corporate executives and senior managers how to gain control of a software operation and how to transform that operation into a professional and businesslike engineering function.

Introduction to the Team Software Process
(September 1999) This book, particularly useful for engineers and students trained in the Personal Software Process (PSP), introduces TSP and the concrete steps needed to improve software teamwork.

Introduction to the Personal Software Process
(December 1996) This workbook provides a hands-on introduction to the basic discipline of software engineering, as expressed in the author's well-known Personal Software Process (PSP).

Managing Technical People: Innovation, Teamwork, and the Software Process
(November 1996) Drawing on the author's extensive experience as a senior manager of software development at IBM, this book describes proven techniques for managing technical professionals.

Discipline for Software Engineering: The Complete PSP Book
(January 1995) This book scales down to a personal level the successful methods developed by the author to help managers and organizations evaluate and improve their software capabilities—methods comprising the Personal Software Process (PSP).

Managing the Software Process
(January 1989) This landmark book introduces the author's methods, now commonly practiced in industry, for improving software development and maintenance processes.


A Superior Process: Requirements
(February 2005) This presentation from Watts Humphrey provides information about the benefits of process improvement, as well as examples of organizations that could have used process improvement effectively.

Large-Scale Creative Work (2005)
(April 2005) Keynote presentation slides from SEPG 2005 by Watts Humphrey

“He was a wonderful leader and a wonderful man. He set forth an energizing goal and an inspiring mission that we all wanted to be a part of.”

— Anita Carleton

Stories and Memories of Watts

My experience was late in life ... during my tenure as managing editor of CrossTalk. We did a long, comprehensive interview with him in June 2009. He still was in great spirits, despite the diagnosis, despite his recent treatment. It was a fascinating meeting. ~Drew Brown


I'm shocked and sad to know that Watts Humphrey is no more with us. I'm also embarrassed that I came to know about this so late. I first came across this name in my college library, I saw a thick orange cover book with an interesting title Discipline for Software Engineering during my post graduation in Software Engineering in University of Mysore. First time I came across a book which was very practical and as a student I could implement those concepts. I loved the book. The idea of improving Personal Productivity fascinated me. This is the book that has influenced me to choose my career in Software Quality and Process Improvements. Later I read all his books and started collecting them as my personal assets. I was fortunate to meet him in person and take his autograph on a book when he visited the Wipro campus in Bangalore during IEEE SPA award assessment. He asked me "Have you read this book", I replied "Of course, all your books sir". I could see a broad smile and appreciation on his face. He may not be there with us physically, but his lives with us with his ideas and the rich knowledge base he has left us. In my view, the best tribute to this extraordinary man is to implement his ideas and to take forward the field of Software Engineering. ~Raghavendra Mithare


I first met Mr. Watts Humphrey as he was supporting training for either Baldrige Examiners or TickIT I was attending in the very early 90's. We were chatting at a classroom table. When he found out I was the Director for Quality at Intergraph Corporation, at that time in history a SW/HW development firm quickly approaching Fortune 300, he produced a copy of the CMM Document, very thin at that time, I think it was v1.0 in an envelope and handed to me. Watts was very excited and energetic, the ultimate professional and gave a tremendous "sales pitch" about it and strongly recommended we use it. He could not have been more correct in his recommendation. Thanks to Mr. Darryl Davis and Mr. John Wiley (John has since passed on) we began that journey shortly thereafter. ~Frank Knight, Ph.D.


I have known Watts for many years. He was always very generous with his time. I would email him with a question to be answered in my "SPIN doctor" column in the Boston SPIN Newsletter. His responses were always prompt and right on. Through the years, we became friends - discussing software issues, solutions, how TSP and the CMM fit together. Watts always encouraged Donna Johnson and I (LOGOS International) to continue our research into the problems facing small projects, organizations and companies who ventured into the CMM/CMMI world. He felt we were making an impact and encouraged us to coninue our work. This last year Watts and I have been emailing, encouraging each other to continue our writing. He was open about his situation and was positive and upbeat inspite of it. He was a unique, solid, bright, and devoted man to his field, fellow engineers, and family. He has left a huge legacy on which we can build and continue to improve our software engineering profession. Thank you Watts and I will miss our little chats. ~Judi Brodman


I had a keen interest in software process improvement after completing a masters degree in computer information systems, and studying about the Capability Maturity Model in one of the courses on the Software Lifecycle at the University of Phoenix, Denver Tech campus. Since the company I now worked for was located in Pittsburgh, I attended SEPG meetings that were held monthly at the SEI. Watts came to one of the meetings and did a presentation on PSP shortly after writing the book, "A Discipline for Software Engineering." Watts was so entertaining, energetic, and passionate about the PSP, that a work buddy (Jim McHale) bought 2 PSP books (one for him and one for me) at the CMU bookstore that week. We started doing the exercises together during lunch, and started applying the stuff to the work we did. The PSP radically changed my software engineering mindset to focus on producing high quality software, and I thank Watts for his important contribution to my profession. ~Steve Karg


We were privileged to have the participation of Watts Humphrey in November 2007 in Santiago of Chile, where he presented an important speach in SEPG LA 2007, organized by SPIN-Chile in conjunction with the SEI and the ESI. In addition to its undeniable technical skills, is necessary to emphasize its proximity to people, always in a pleasant tone and level, showing a broad willingness to teach and give advice to anyone who came near him. No doubt his departure leaves a big void, but we thank him for the successful passage through our lives.~Marisol Meneses R.


Marvelous: meaning amazingly exceptional, wondrous, or of superior quality. It is not a word that we use much these days, but Watts used it often in his stories and conversations. When we shared good news with Watts, his response was usually "marvelous." Reflecting on his life, it struck me what an appropriate word this is for Watts. The way, with the support of his father, he overcame his struggles with dyslexia was marvelous. His experiences as a young man, from serving in World War II, to his college wrestling, to his study with an eminent physicist, were marvelous. His wonderful wife and amazing family are marvelous. His love of learning and talents in teaching were marvelous. His career, accomplishments, discipline, work ethic, commitment, inspiring leadership, and gifts to our profession were marvelous. Both directly and indirectly, he improved the careers and lives of others, including mine, my wife's, and our dyslexic son's. Watts was, absolutely, marvelous. ~Darryl L. Davis


I’ve been very sad these recent days, since we won’t be able to share with Watts new challenges and successes. He touched my life not only with his teachings but with his example of commitment, enthusiasm and vitality.

I guess that you also feel deeply sad, and I hope that this sadness could soon become a joyful memory, filling us with pride and appreciation to God for letting us crossing our lives with Watts.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to travel to Florida this weekend, but as well as I did in the past months, I will pray for him and also for his family and friends to accept and overcome his loss.
Agustín de la Maza Huesca

Watts was not only a leader and innovator in the field of software engineering, he was a wonderful friend and mentor. He practiced what he preached. I want to share some personal memories of Watts. Even after the longest workday, he would still get up early the next morning and go for his 5K run. He continued to do this even after he was diagnosed with his illness, as long as he possibly could. He started learning to play the piano late in life. On a trip to Bath, England, after dinner in a restaurant, he sat down at the piano and entertained the other diners. On another overseas trip, he upgraded me to first-class using his frequent-flyer miles. But once we were airborne, and sitting next to each other, he discussed his flight schedule with me: the hours he had allocated for us to discuss upcoming work, the hours he was going to read, and the hours he was going to sleep. Despite being a million-miler on more than one airline, he still carried a packing checklist in his briefcase, that he used for every single trip. He was a lifelong learner, and was always reading a book on topics both related and unrelated to his field. He really believed that when given the chance, people will do the right thing. I will miss him. ~Noopur Davis


I was very impressed when I first read Watts Humphrey's book in software process. Since then, I have been using Humphrey's book as a textbook in my classes at CSU Fullerton. He gave us genius insight and new views in many aspects of software process and improvement. His idea will continuously live with us. ~Chang-Hyun Jo 


I teach the Personal Software Process class at USC. I use Watts's material (with some updates by Winsor Brown of USC). I am always delighted by Watts's sense of the best way to do things. In the PSP, he considers others' ways of approaching topics, and then frequently tweaks them; I have found that his tweaks are always improvements. Watts knew how to do things well. Another distinctive feature of Watts's work was his emphasis on character. One example is the paragraph Anita cites on the Web tribute from the PSP book, which is about how one should lead one's life. Another example is in the introduction to his book on coaching the team software process, where he describes his experience on his college wrestling team and how the coach improved his character; Watts dedicated the book to his coach. These references to character are important for professionals, but unusual in textbooks. Between his establishing technical foundations of Software Engineering, such as the CMM and the PSP/TSP, and his emphasis that being a software engineer requires character, I agree with Dr. Nielsen that Watts was one of a handful of people that have established the profession of software engineering. I'll miss him. ~Jim Alstad


It is indeed sad news. While I was a project Manager for one of the accounts in my organization, I wanted to ensure if we also introduce the concepts of planning and monitoring to the level of team members also and help them better manage their own work and that way we help develop a sense of ownership of work and encourage alignment with the overall project planning. Why does planning to start only with the module leads? Can we also have a mechanism in which team members can report their progress of their work confidently and accurately in quantitative terms and can adopt self adjusting techniques to make up for variances between effort expended and percent completed ? I felt that by using the concepts of PSP, WBS and Earned Value at team member level this could be addressed. We piloted this in one of our projects and I wrote to Watts for his comments. I was very happy when the reply came that it is completely consistent with PSP and TSP. In a latter e-mail, I wrote to him that would it be alright to conclude that Process would therefore help people to be rational? And that in turn would enhance their performance and create harmony / Happiness? Hence, would it be alright to say process improvement would imply performance improvement? And since it is the people since, its my PEOPLE, who practiced, PSP and gave me this opportunity to write on the topic would it be appropriate in his opinion, moving forward, would PEOPLE Software Process (PSP) sound better that PERSONAL Software process (PSP) for PSP. Watts replied "You make an interesting point but the name is too well established at this date to change." Such was the encouragement I received from him through e-mail being thousands of miles away. ~Jaydeep Chakraborty


It's indeed a sad news. I met Watts first time in 1984 when I was assigned to study software engineering at IBM's Software Engineering Institute in NYC, then after number of years of absence, at a conference held at Waseda University in Tokyo where he attracted more than 2000 professionals and there he talked about PSP. I was honored to be an interpreter of his presentation. Then I met him again at one of the SEPG meetings. He is indeed a person who should be remembered by software professionals to think deep on what one is supposed to do at software development in a more disciplined way. I was very much encouraged to pursue the disciplined approaches at software development, and still his influence stays on me. I thank you Watts. ~Katsu Shintani


Having founded a manufacturing business before founding a software business, Watts Humphrey, Watt's father, and I realized the shared quality aspects are at the core of any successful business. Today, I stand on the shoulders of a long history of giants. Watts Humphrey is one. ~Ken LLoyd


I was very sorry to hear about Watts Humphrey's passing. As your web site says so well, he has been a role model for all of us on how a single individual can make the world a significantly better place in his field of endeavor. We will miss him a lot, but his constructive spirit and fundamental contributions will live on after him. ~Barry Boehm


I met Watts as an IBM Resident Affiliate at the SEI in 1993. I was so excited to have the privilege of meeting the IBM VP whose team ushered in large-scale complex software systems development. He was everything I expected- demanding in his questions and considerate of my responses. Years later, as I drove in rush hour traffic, I answered a call on my cell phone from an unknown caller. It was Watts. It was the third conversation with him, as well as my last. He said that he had been thinking about the issues in the industry and the fact that things had not gone the way he had hoped and as quickly as he had hoped. He said that he knew I was a "road warrior" and asked that I share with him what I was seeing. I acknowledged that I was seeing things as he did. He asked me what I thought was the reason. I replied, "Greed." He paused and said, "You may be right." I, like many others,feel the loss of this great man. He was as a father is to us. With Watts in the world we felt safe and strong in our convictions of what is right and what is wrong. He will be missed. ~Jeanie Kitson

I had the good fortune of interacting with this great man when the task of introducing Watts Humphrey to the audience during the Asian SEPG conference of year 2000 fell on me. What struck me most were his humility, a strong sense of fairness and a deep understanding of the body of knowledge to which his contributions will always remain as the Mandala of Watts Humphrey - the CMM, PSP and TSP. The simplicity and structure of this trilogy is proof enough to credit him as the Father of Software Quality. Watts Humphrey and his contributions to the field of Software Engineering will always be remembered here in India, since practicing the discipline of the Software CMM and the structured path to achieving high process maturity as laid out in this model, has created one of the world's most profitable economic ventures - the Indian Software industry. "CMM" would probably be the first mantra which is invoked prior to setting up any software company or initiating a software project in this part of the world. The tremendous benefits from practicing a discipline and therefore institutionalizing high process maturity became evident to the whole world in 1993 when Motorola India became the first commercial Level 5 organization on the Software CMM. We Indians owe a lot of respect and gratitude to Watts Humphrey for teaching us the secret to differentiate ourselves in such a short period of time, by helping us focus on producing superior quality software solutions. Watts continues to live eternally in every line of code produced from India! ~Raghav Nandyal


That is such a great loss for the whole community. The persons like Mr. Humphrey becomes pillar of changes across globe. Please do accept my deep condolences and I hope his family also find some peace at such trying times.. I also wish to extend whole hearted condolence to SEI. He gone but not forgotten. Respectfully, ~Arvinder Singh


Watts Humphrey has invented new stream of software process quality, which gave birth to lot of quality professionals My sincere condolences to watts humphrey  ~Srinivasa Rao Ganta


Watts is one of the most remarkable people that I have ever worked with. He was on a mission to change the world of software engineering until the very end of his life, when he was busy working on his last two books. I will cherish the last 10 years of working closely with Watts and his work will forever be a part of me and thousands of others around the world. ~Dave Scherb


I once had the honor of introducing Watts at the SEPG Europe conference. When I asked him how I should introduce him, he said "Just tell them that I write books."

Watts didn't want a long introduction, he wanted to get on the stage, and talk to the audience. That was how he was, always focused on getting results! Thanks Watts for all the times that we met, and all the things that you have done for the Software Process Improvement community!  ~Ben Linders


"Watts, in spirits can never be away from the humanity, let alone the Information Technology practitioners. I was fortunate to meet Watts during the SEPG 2000 Conference at Bangalore, India. I had just joined Sunlet Systems, a start up company floated by my cousin Dr. Sudarshan Murthy and his close friend. Ms. Judy Bamberger had flown down to Bangalore for the conference. She being a coach to Sudarshan, trained us in the basics of Software Engineering. I went to the conference with Judy and she was gracious enough to introduce me to Watts during a lunch session.

During our conversations, Watts commented, You guys have done such wonderful jobs in manufacturing sector; people like you should contribute to the evolving software engineering discipline through cross pollination and make it richer yet affordable, such that they impacts the Quality of the life of every individual. This statement was indeed a turning point in my thinking not about Software Engineering, but the concept of Quality Life. My heart is saying YOU WILL BE EVER WITH US WATTS. ~Anil Kumar Vasista


We would like to express our sincere condolences on the recent passing of Mr. Watts Humphrey. All our colleagues in Procesix also send their thoughts and prayers to the SEI and to Mr. Humphrey´s family at this difficult time.

On the occasions that We spent time in his company over the years, we did come to realize his great kindness, discipline, extraordinary vision and professionalism.

We also do know that his works changed the lives of many.

Very sincerely, ~Procesix Team: Pablo Henríquez, Luciano Guerrero, Clara Hernandez, Marcelo Amadio, Jorge Arriagada, Carmen Rodriguez, Lenin Lozano, Jorge Villar, Liliana Florez


Shortly after joining the SEI in 1995, I was given the opportunity to participate in an early public offering of the PSP for Engineers course and the Instructor Training. Watts taught the course with Jim Over, Dan Burton, and Daniel Roy assisting. It was a turning point in my understanding of software engineering and process improvement. It made it all very personal and proved to me what these concepts were all about and that they really do work in actual practice. I feel fortunate to have gotten to know Watts a little as a professional and as a person. His personal commitment to software quality and to creating broad, contructive change for the betterment of his fellow man and his chosen field has been an ongoing inspiration for me both in my career and in my life. I am deeply indebted to him for that and for laying the groundwork to subtly but significantly change the practice of software engineering and project management -- for showing what is possible. I will always remember hearing him say "quality is personal, " and something like, "If you don't ask someone to produce a quality product, you aren't likely to get one." Thank you Watts. I will miss you. ~Carlo J. Rodriguez