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AntiPatterns in Project Management 1st Edition

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471363668
ISBN-10: 0471363669
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Written for the project manager or IT professional, AntiPatterns in Project Management describes 18 "AntiPatterns" that can go wrong in the realm of software project management, plus management techniques and tips to overcome them. Filled with real-world insight and case studies that describe actual projects gone awry, this title gives a solid measure of management expertise that can help you succeed with your next project.

Early sections of the text set the tone with management techniques that stress standards and rigorous software processes. The authors discuss the importance of managing people, technology, and processes for successful project management. While most books on patterns keep descriptions short and almost schematic, an entire chapter--filled with background material on the causes, solutions (or "refactoring") to move beyond it, and examples borrowed from the field--is devoted to each AntiPattern. (The names of companies have been changed, which makes for less dramatic reading, although this was no doubt a legal necessity.)

Anyone who has worked in software development will recognize many of the AntiPatterns here. First, bad management and bad management practices get their due--managers who don't or can't manage, projects that are late and require that staff be added at the last minute, and obstreperous employees (or "corncobs") who can't or won't work in teams.

Descriptions of technology AntiPatterns include troubles with distributed technologies, lack of architecture, demos that grow into unusable "finished" software, and software that hasn't undergone any planning at all. When it comes to process management, things can go wrong, too, as in the case of misapplied software life cycles. (In this section, the book lists no fewer than nine different software life cycles from which you can choose.) Other process AntiPatterns include customers who drive software design all the way through to disaster, the "domino effect" of changes to staff that can destroy team effectiveness, and management that demands adherence to an already late shipping date. Final sections show how these AntiPatterns often occur in conjunction. The book concludes with some "critical aspects" for successful project management.

Although a bit theoretical at times, this title has plenty of practical advice on improving your everyday project-management success. As the authors note, the great majority of software projects today are considered failures. By reading this savvy and well-organized volume, and analyzing what can go wrong, you can improve the odds in your favor in future development efforts. --Richard Dragan

Topics covered:

  • Introduction to AntiPatterns for project managers
  • Standards, refactoring, and solutions for AntiPatterns
  • Case studies
  • People-management AntiPatterns (Micro-management, Corporate Craziness, The Brawl, Size Isn't Everything, Chaos, and Process Disintegration)
  • Technology management AntiPatterns (Batteries Not Included, Distributed Disaster, Gilding the Lily, Wherefore Art Thou Architecture, Killer Demo, and One-Shot Deal)
  • Process-management AntiPatterns (Planning 911, Lifecycle Malpractice [including nine software life cycles], The Customer/Too Many Hands in the Soup, One Size Fits All, The Domino Effect, and Myopic Delivery)
  • AntiPattern collisions
  • Best practices for project management
  • Strategies for improving project management


"...an interesting book that contains a lot of material..." "If you care about being a good manager you will read this book..." (Overload, September 2000)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (July 18, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471363669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471363668
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,250,287 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The basic idea of the book is good: Identify and classify commonly occuring project management problems (AntiPatterns), discuss them a bit, and present a solution.
However, the book mostly fails to deliver.
For one, the book has imposed a superficial and poorly fit structure to the description of every AntiPattern. The result is that lots of information, like the causes and results of the AntiPattern, will be described two or three times in slightly different forms. This bloats the book needlessly. If a different form had been selected - say, a collection of essays - the book could have been 150 pages instead of the massive ~450 pages it is now.
Another reason the book fails, is that many of the solutions seem firmly planted in old thinking about project management as advocated by SEI, NASA/SEL, and others. Significantly, change is mostly regarded as evil. One of the recommended solutions to change in the Chaos AntiPattern is "Develop a software development plan and stick to it". In the Gilding the Lily AntiPattern (a.k.a. "Gold Plating"), it states that "Often the architects and developers must be physically prevented from making changes." Also, while incremental or iterative development is carefully mentioned in places, most of the solutions fit best with linear, phased, and pretty inflexible development paradigms. The book would have benefited from using solutions from more agile methodology thinking.
A third reason is that some of the solutions don't attack the root causes at all. The one and only solution to the Process Disintegration AntiPattern (where people don't follow the process because it is too heavy) is to institute an internal, no-process-at-all, developer-driven project.
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Format: Hardcover
A very talented software engineer highly recommended this book to me as an engineering manager. I was intrigued to find that some of the Amazon.com reviews were sooooo negative. However, I bought the book anyway and found it to be quite useful.
The book uses the methodology of AntiPatterns, which is a hot topic in the software development community, to analyze problems with project management. This is simultaneously the book's strength and its weakness. Antipatterns are just one tool; one way of looking at the world; one way of analyzing a situation. Another useful addition to the toolkit is always welcome and the book clearly delivers one. On the other hand, if you are looking for the unified theory that will solve all project management problems, it doesn't deliver on that. (I am still looking for that book.)
One reason the book might receive mixed reviews is that it does have a tone of irreverence towards management. For example, in the Executive Summary, it says "The primary cause of software development failure is the lack of appropriate project management." While this may be true, some project managers may not enjoy reading about it. Similarly, the book has a tendency to identify the root cause of problems as "haste, ignorance or sloth", most likely on the part of management. This may be true, but perhaps not all that helpful or enjoyable to read.
Overall, I found the book to provide a valuable perspective on software project management. The book will not solve all of the world's project management problems but that's OK with me.
Read the book and use the principles wisely.
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Format: Hardcover
This is certainly an enlightening book, bringing up many points to consider. The writers are experienced, and though this results in an overly authoratative tone at times, their work is sound. The problem I have with the book is not actually the book itself. If a project manager can be so opened-minded as to step back and look at the problem with an accurate perspective, having a clear idea of all the facts of the case, they should be able to use this book to accurately diagnose and fix the problems they face. If they can't do that this book may be less useful.
On the other hand, reading this book adds perspective, which may be enough to help one step back from the situation and reevaluate.
In addition, since the authors reference their earlier works frequently, it might be best to read the other books first.
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Format: Hardcover
You can acquire knowledge and skills from being shown how to do things right. You can also gain a lot from other people's mistakes. I learned project management the right way with a book titled Visualizing Project Management. It gave me the techniques with which to build experience. This book, Anti-Patterns in Project Management, gave me wisdom.
As I read this book I could not help but cringe because just about every anti-pattern discussed reflected what I had seen or endured (or inflicted in some cases) during projects. What I took to be business as usual, and attributed to human nature, turns out to be worst--but common--practices. I am sure that anyone who has managed or performed on a project has seen the same practices time and again. What makes this book valuable is the fact that the authors show you how to rectify these bad practices, and they do so with humor and a practical approach.
My favorite set of anti-patterns addresses the people part of the equation because, in my opinion, people are the root cause of failed projects. Why? People indulge in politics, have personal agendas and are too often assigned to responsibilities without any requisite experience or skills. Sound familiar? Also, "people" select the technologies and develop and implement the processes that are covered in the other two groups of anti-patterns. Learn from the anti-patterns provided here and you are well on your way to transforming a project from a nightmare into one that will be successful. Of course, the process and technology anti-patterns discussed will probably be as familiar as the people ones, but they can be resolved once you take the authors' collective advice about how to deal with the people-focused anti-patterns.
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