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Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior (Dorset House eBooks)
 
 

Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior (Dorset House eBooks) [Kindle Edition]

Tom DeMarco , Peter Hruschka , Tim Lister , Steve McMenamin , James Robertson , Suzanne Robertson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Review

"Another masterpiece from the folks who brought you Peopleware. Anyone who has survived a software project or two will surely recognize many of these patterns and will be able to learn from most of them. Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies is a real joy." -- Joel Spolsky, author of Joel on Software

"People have always tried to understand themselves and each other. Our survival has depended on such understanding, as has the quality of that survival, from bare subsistence to deeply fulfilling livelihood. What people do individually, interpersonally, and within their institutional matrices, forms distinct frameworks of attitude and behavior. Perceiving the dynamics of these complexes (let's call them) confers both insight and power. Three attempts at such understanding leap to mind. The Chinese had the I Ching, or Book of Changes. Architects have had A Pattern Language. And medical psychology has had its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Brilliantly blending elements of all three (not least from that last one), Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies maps the patterns people create and follow--to their detriment and advantage--in the projects they engage within organizational contexts. Sharp, funny and dead-on-target, the book deserves a wide reading." -- Christopher Locke, coauthor of The Cluetrain Manifesto

"The 86 project patterns are grimly familiar to anyone who has worked in project-related organizations. Fortunately, some of the patterns are good ones, and should be encouraged. Sadly, though, many of the others are not only depressingly familiar, but astonishingly destructive to productivity, quality, and the morale of the project team."
-- Ed Yourdon, author of Death March

"Who else but these particular authors could mine 150 years of software team experience to capture memorable names for oft-encountered situations? I suspect you will start using these phrases in your work--I already have." -- Alistair Cockburn, author of Agile Software Development

Product Description

This is the digital version of the printed book (Copyright © 2008).

 

Adrenaline junkies, dead fish, project sluts, true believers, Lewis and Clark, template zombies . . .

 

Most developers, testers, and managers on IT projects are pretty good at recognizing patterns of behavior and gut-level hunches, as in, “I sense that this project is headed for disaster.”

 

But it has always been more difficult to transform these patterns and hunches into a usable form, something a team can debate, refine, and use. Until now.

 

In Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies, the six principal consultants of The Atlantic Systems Guild present the patterns of behavior they most often observe at the dozens of IT firms they transform each year, around the world.

 

The result is a quick-read guide to identifying nearly ninety typical scenarios, drawing on a combined one-hundred-and-fifty years of project management experience. Project by project, you’ll improve the accuracy of your hunches and your ability to act on them.

 

The patterns are presented in an easy-reference format, with names designed to ease communication with your teammates. In just a few words, you can describe what’s happening on your project. Citing the patterns of behavior can help you quickly move those above and below you to the next step on your project. You’ll find classic patterns such as these: 

  • News Improvement
  • Management by Mood Ring
  • Piling On
  • Rattle Yer Dags
  • Natural Authority
  • Food++
  • Fridge Door
  • and more than eighty more! 

Not every pattern will be evident in your organization, and not every pattern is necessarily good or bad. However, you’ll find many patterns that will apply to your current and future assignments, even in the most ambiguous circumstances. When you assess your situation and follow your next hunch, you'll have the collective wisdom of six world-class consultants at your side.

 


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 19677 KB
  • Print Length: 248 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (15 July 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DY3KQHM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #248,011 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Predigested experience 7 May 2008
Format:Paperback
Predigested experience appears to be what this book attempts to offer. A wealth of management and software development observations are offered up, presumably to enable practitioners to recognize them when they encounter them in their own situations, as opposed to discovering everything for the first time for themselves.

I've no quarrel with any of the observations they make, having seen many at first hand myself. The book is easy to read, I polished it off in about half a day. If you search on google for the usefully-rare phrase of "template zombie" you may be able to find a sample from the book which describes the patterns of "dead fish" and "film critic". That sample will probably give you a far better idea of whether the book is for you or not, than this review can.

Personally, I enjoyed the book - and found it somewhat interesting and relevant. However, it does draw from a lot of background knowledge which it doesn't attempt to explain or provide references for, suggesting it is aimed at practicing managers rather than academics? As it is, I suspect it will be more useful to someone who has SOME kind of software project knowledge already, either by working on one ( in any capacity ) or on some kind of software/management course, so as not to be 'thrown off' by offhand references to methodologies like SCRUM.

For what it's worth, altavista/babelfish translates "Seelenverwandtschaft" as "soul relationship".

Overall impression - interesting and worthwhile, although I would probably have been happier with a full references/bibliography list at the end, as well as a glossary. And I'm still trying to figure out where the New Zealand connection comes from - doesn't seem to appear in any of the short biographies of the authors. Four stars out of five.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book presents 86 so-called patterns of behaviour in organisations that the authors have identified during their work as software consultants.

The patterns themselves are not explicitly structured (e.g., through a common set of headings), instead they are rather presented as generalised anecdotes about things that can happen on a software project. The patterns are not related to another in specific ways, instead each is mainly presented in isolation. The authors don't make claims that their observations were typical. The length of a pattern description can range from 7 lines of text (pattern 23) to a few pages. I found the book entertaining to read.

What I found positive about this book:
1. The book provides some evidence for the messy reality of many software projects and organisations. This is an aspect that is often neglected in the literature.
2. The authors don't praise their own work and their writing style is unassuming and not patronising (unlike that of some other consultants).
3. The material covers a large spectrum of situations that can occur.
4. The anecdotes are amusing and generally sound realistic.

What I found negative about this book:
1. The so-called patterns are just unstructured narrative, while I expected a more structured and systematic approach. To me much of the text sounds rather vague.
2. There is usually no indication how often a 'pattern' was observed or the context of observations.
3. The authors only present their own view of events, which may be biased, as this group of expensive, external consultants will naturally have a very special point of view. They often present one single explanation as 'the right one' and fail to reflect on their own bias.
4.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must 23 Feb 2014
By Darren
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A must read for software development managers and project managers. Explains the anti patterns and patterns to avoid or encourage.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book 17 April 2009
Format:Paperback
This book is very clear and useful. I liked it very much. Sometimes need a deep knowledge of english language.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny and easy to read, but most of the content is well known 27 Sep 2009
By Henrik Warne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies is a collection of 86 patterns of project behaviour collected and documented by a group of 6 authors from the Atlantic Systems Guild.

Each pattern is presented with a title, a picture, a one- or two-sentence summary, and a few pages describing the pattern in more depth. This format works pretty well, and the book is both funny and very easy to read. However, when I finished reading the book and asked myself what I had learnt from it, I had to answer "Not much".

That's not to say it's a bad book, just that if you have been working in software development projects for a few years, there aren't that many new insights here. However, the book does a good job of singling out and labelling various project behaviours (usually bad ones), which is useful.

Of all the patterns in the book, the ones I liked the best were "The Blue Zone", "Practicing Endgame", "Mañana" and "Time Removes Cards from your Hand".

"The Blue Zone" describes the green zone, which is anything that is explicitly ordered or allowed by the project, and the red zone, which is anything explicitly forbidden. The blue zone is everything else, activities that are neither explicitly allowed, nor explicitly forbidden by the scope of the assignment. In the authors' opinion (and in mine, too), it is good to sometimes operate in the blue zone, in addition to in the green zone, in order to achieve the best outcome. Or, in the words of the quote ending the pattern: "The correct amount of anarchy on a project is not zero".

In "Practicing Endgame", the idea is that you should be thinking about and testing against your release criteria continuously, as opposed to leaving that till the end. The analogy given in this pattern is that of the university course, where you may have several tests throughout the term, in addition to the final exam. This "continuous" exam preparation gives better results than the one-off method of only having the final exam.

The last two of the patterns I liked the most both deal with time.

"Mañana" simply states that if your goal date is more than 30 to 90 days out, you need to set sub-goals that are within 30 to 90 days, in order to make the people on the project feel the right sense of urgency.

"Time Removes Cards from your Hand" describes how you have fewer and fewer options the longer you pretend that everything is fine, even though things are not fine. You might end up with many half-finished features, instead of a few completely finished features, and it might not be the most urgently needed features.

Except for the concept of the blue zone, which I like and which I had never seen explicitly described before, even the patterns I liked are not really teaching me a lot that I didn't already know.

In fact, if you are using agile methods like XP or Scrum, then you will recognize a lot of the patterns and advice as standard agile working procedures ("Straw Man" is another example of this).

On the other hand, there are a number of examples of anti-patterns from (it seems) process-heavy larger companies, for example "False Quality Gates" (documents are check for format, not contents), "Paper Mill" and "Orphaned Deliverables" (both deal with places where the measure of progress is documents, not working software), and "Cider House Rules" (rules are made by people unconnected to the project).

When it comes to the names given to the different patterns, there are some hits and some misses. A name that is both catchy and describes the pattern in a good way makes the pattern so much easier to remember. My favourite is "Template Zombies", which I think is pretty self-explanatory, but "One Throat to Choke" is also very good. But naming is hard, and there are many patterns that I feel have pretty awkward or non-descript names, like "Lease your soul" (about how to adopt new technology - I'm thinking more in terms of a tool-box than selling/leasing your soul to some new technology) and "System Development Lemming Cycle" (that the process used isn't tailored - but where did the lemmings come from?).

Another complaint is that the different patterns presented in the book are not organized around themes - instead they are just put in random order. I would have preferred if they were grouped together, since many of the patterns deal with related concepts.

So, in summary, the patterns in the book cover many different project behaviours. The descriptions are useful and well written, but if you have been involved in software development projects for a while, most of the patterns should already be familiar to you. Still, they may serve as a useful reminder - plus, you get (in many cases) snappy names for some of the behaviours, which may make them easier to diagnose and talk about.

Also, if you're interested in this book, check out episode 131 at Software Engineering Radio. That podcast is an interview with Tom DeMarco and Peter Hruschka about this book, and it is well worth listening to.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Day, Another Pattern Book 31 Mar 2008
By Earl Beede - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Patterns are all the rage these days in software development. You can't be a serious software person unless you invoke a pattern here or a pattern there. The bright folks at the Atlantic Systems Guild have named us 86 project patterns so that more of us can drop a pattern name here and there and get the mantel of being serious project folks.

Most of what you read in this book are patterns of things gone wrong patterns more than patterns of things gone right. I think that this is OK though I did find it a bit frustrating at times. There would be a suggestion on how to disrupt the negative patterns occasionally but, given the short, blithe entries, not a lot of detail. This book is more about diagnosis than about treatment.

So, read it more for enjoyment rather than serious project help. Anyway, most of the patterns, certainly the names, are all made up. "We make no claim to the universality of our observed patterns." Not measured, not tested, just observed. However, these are keen observers and I found myself agreeing with most of the entries.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another classic from "those Peopleware guys" 21 July 2008
By Rob S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The title and cover caught my eye (today!) in the bookstore and after flipping through, I couldn't wait to get home and blow through it.

It's clear why this is getting a 5-star average here @ Amazon. Written by the same folks who authored Peopleware (classic skilled-person management book), it contains ~80 patterns of project behaviour alternating between helpful and harmful.

Almost immediately I had several, "Ohhh yeah! That's what's going on!" moments. The authors do a terrific job of identifying patterns and the reasoning behind them. Being relatively new to a management gig, this sort of resource is invaluable. You might not be able to fix some of the issues, but you'll certainly be able to notice them more quickly - which is really the first step.

Each pattern is about 2-3 pages long, clearly identified in the table of contents and with pattern headings that stand out. This presentation allows me to quickly refer back to find out the suggested cure.

Most patterns are presented with prescriptive, corrective behaviour. Granted it's not a detailed dissertation on how to fix organizational issues, but enough to get an idea of the scope of the fix; work through it, or time to find another employer?

I'm already in the process of recommending this to my peers. It's such a brief, valuable read that anybody with skin in the game (from developers to CEOs) should give it a look.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These guys have visited my office (for 20 years_ 27 Mar 2008
By Dwayne Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love this book.

These guys must have been spying on my office for the past 20 years. Most of the bad things that happen where I work (and a few of the good things) are in this book. They truly are patterns of project behavior.

The book includes 86 project patterns. Each has a title, a one sentence summary, two or three pages of text, and a great illustration or photo. The first pattern is "Adrenaline Junkies" - the place I worked in 1986 where every thing is urgent and must be started now and no one eats or sleeps until it is done. The last pattern "Template Zombies" - the place I worked in 1996 where every thing is a template that must be filled without any thought. Working complex projects without any thought - not a good idea.

Flip through this book. Find a pattern - either good or bad - that fits your current project, bring the book to work and show people that your workplace is not unique, that others have done the same before, and what the result will probably be if you don't change.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Patterns and Anti-Patterns for Project Managers 22 Mar 2008
By Clifford Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book reads like a series of blog posts on software project management. The Principals of the Atlantic Systems Guild, which include the authors of Peopleware, present a series "patterns" observed during years of working with developers and project managers. The tone is far from dry and didactic, however. This is a very entertaining book to read.

The episodic quality of the writing makes summary difficult. Basically, the authors espouse an agile development philosophy without being too rigid about any single methodology. They take aim at project teams which love coding against impending deadlines ("Adrenaline Junkies") as well as at teams which love documenting all the irrelevant details of their work ("Template Zombies"). Dysfunctional patterns (anti-patterns?) can arise in agile teams as well as traditional groups.

Every project manager will likely pick up some new tips from reading this book. For instance, the chapters "Fridge Door," which advocates posting progress reports in high-traffic locations for all team members to see, and "War Rooms," which counsels setting up dedicated project rooms to 'center' projects, helped me to work out a strategy for lining up and coordinating the activities of people working on different aspects of our next big project.

By and large, the book consists of more anti-patterns than patterns. I learned more about what to avoid--and how to discern when projects have taken on the 'smell' of failure--than what to promote. But I suppose that avoiding anti-patterns is a good step toward implementing successful patterns. A few of the "patterns" are commonsensical or non-sequitors--like the observation that many software developers are also good musicians. Still, this is a quick and enjoyable read for managers who want to foster the agility and effectiveness of their teams.
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