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Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior

24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0932633675
ISBN-10: 0932633676
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Editorial Reviews


"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

"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

"utterly delightful collection of essays about 86 'project patterns' . . . These 'patterns' are grimly familiar to anyone who has worked in project-related organizations; and unfortunately, they can be found in small companies as well as large ones. Fortunately, some of the patterns ('Rattle Yer Dags' and 'Nanny,' for example) are good ones, and should be encouraged. Sadly, though, far too many of them ('Dead Fish,' 'Project-Speak') are not only depressingly familiar, but astonishingly destructive to productivity, quality, and the morale of the project team. . . . I really love this book, not the least because each pattern can be read and understood in a moment or two, since they take only 2-3 pages to explain. . . . If Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies gets the attention it deserves, Scott Adams may have to return to Corporate America and get an honest job as a project manager." --Ed Yourdon, author of Death March

About the Author

If your organization builds systems of any kind, chances are that some of the methods and approaches that it uses came originally from the Atlantic Systems Guild. Collectively, the authors have published nearly twenty previous books, including Peopleware, Mastering the Requirements Process, The Deadline, Essential Systems Analysis, Waltzing With Bears, and Process for System Architecture and Requirements Engineering.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset House (March 3, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932633676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932633675
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #988,586 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Henrik Warne on September 27, 2009
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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Earl Beede on March 31, 2008
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Rob S. VINE VOICE on July 20, 2008
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Clifford Anderson on March 22, 2008
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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