Celebrating Watts Humphrey

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. I'm sure many of you read it, but here it is anyway. It says it all better than I can:


~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

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

~Carlo J. Rodriguez

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

Watts Humphrey Timeline

Click for an interactive timeline of milestones in Watt Humphrey's life.

Highlights from Watts Humphrey's National Medal of Honor introduction.

Anita Carleton, director of the SEI's Software Engineering Process Management (SEPM) program, reads from her favorite book by Watts Humphrey.

Noopur Davis, SEI visiting scientist, talks about her first TSP launch with Humphrey.

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