Saturday, January 26, 2008

Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies

Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior is a new book from Atlantic Systems Guild, scheduled for publication in February 2008. It is a collaboration by Tom DeMarco, Peter Hruschka, Tim Lister, Steve McMenamin, James Robertson and Suzanne Robertson. I met both Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister through the Boston Software Process Improvement Network and am a fan of their previous book Waltzing with Bears about managing risk in software development. Although the Atlantic Systems Guild general focuses on software development issues, this book really focuses on people issues and behaviors that are applicable anywhere.

Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies applies pattern recognition concepts to human interactions in the project environment. The Guild focused on the hidden notions that govern behavior and interactions on projects and teams Just as architect Christopher Alexander and his IT counterparts Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, and John M. Vlissides, deal with the technological aspects of software patterns, this new book focuses on the social and human aspects.

The book identifies 86 project and team behavior patterns, which often go unrecognized, and provides amusing 1-2 page vignettes describing each of them. The patterns are the unwritten rules that frequently drive behavior. People tend not to think about them, or acknowledge them for what they are. The first step to dealing with behavior patterns is recognizing their existence.
The book has been endorsed by:

Howard Look,VP, Software, Pixar Animation Studios
Alistair Cockburn, author of Agile Software Development
Ed Yourdon, author of Death March
Warren McFarland, Professor, Harvard Business School and others

If you are interested and willing to invest a few minutes, you can download an 18 page sample pdf that includes the table of contents,introduction, and a few patterns.

Dead Fish: From Day One, the project has no chance of meeting its goals; most people on the project know this and say nothing.
Film Critics: Film critics are team members or corporate spectators who have determined that the value they add to the project lies in pointing out what has gone wrong or is going wrong, but who take no personal accountability to ensure that things go right.
Hidden Beauty: Some aspect of the project’s work moves beyond adequate,beyond even elegant . . . and reaches for the sublime.
There is an aesthetic element to all design. The question is, Is this aesthetic element your friend or your enemy? If you’re a manager, particularly a younger manager, you might be worried that any aesthetic component of the designer’s work could be a waste, little more than the gold-plating that we’re all taught must be avoided. This aesthetics neutral posture in a manager acts to deprive designers of appreciation for work that is excellent, and to refuse acknowledgment of any valuation beyond “adequate.”The opposite posture requires that you be capable and willing to look in detail at your people’s designs, and be aware enough to see quality when it’s there.

The book is now available for pre-order through Dorset House or Amazon. (The current Amazon price is $35.95 with a 5% pre-order discount)
Roller coaster image available under a Creative Commons License from Kalense Kid's photos

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