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Adrenaline Junkies

Adrenaline Junkies and
Template Zombies:

Understanding Patterns of
Project Behavior

by Tom DeMarco, Peter Hruschka, Tim Lister, Steve McMenamin, James Robertson, and Suzanne Robertson

ISBN: 978-0-932633-67-5  
©2008  248 pages   softcover  
$35.95 (plus shipping)

Subject(s): Software Project Management, Team Management

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Behaviors That Make Software Projects
Wonderful or Awful or Frustrating or
Satisfying or Successful or Doomed

Winner of the
Jolt Product Excellence Award

About the Book

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.


". . . Reading the book felt like attending a good conference. It includes a lot of interesting material, some confirming what you already know, some of which areless relevant for you, but some that are very useful. The net result is some discoveries that help think about your work, discuss it, and improve it."
Ben Linders, IEEE Software

"Brilliantly insightful. At one moment you'll think 'Darn, I do that . . . we're toast' followed quickly by the reassurance of 'I'm not the only one. There's hope!'"
Howard Look, VP, Software, Pixar Animation Studios

"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

"A remarkably compelling book that captures with vignette, anecdote and history, both the anthropology and sociology of software project dysfunction. There is the knowing and weary but not-yet-cynical voice of experience that will make project leaders, managers and participants flinch and wince with recognition."
Michael Schrage, MIT Media Lab

"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

"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

"Written with a combined sense of humor and deep insight. The book clearly conveys why projects fail and what can be done about it. It is all doable practical advice delivered in a very friendly and acceptable way."
Warren McFarlan, Professor, Harvard Business School

"This is an absolutely must-read book for everyone running an IT organization. Actually, the lessons in this wonderful book are applicable to anyone running any kind of project-based organization—just about every organization. The metaphors are funny in that kind of tragic-funny you've been there kind of way. You will recognize the common pathologies of projects everywhere. With a dose of courage and this book in hand, you will be able to create a healthy project environment where people can thrive and still deliver consistent results."
Lynne Ellyn, Sr. Vice President and CIO, DTE Energy

"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

"I love this book. It is as though the authors were spying on my office for the past 20 years. . . . 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."
Dwayne Phillips, author of Working Up to Project Management, http://dwaynephillips.net/

". . . Unless you have been blessed to a level that no one to my knowledge has ever been or you have never worked, then there will be patterns in this book that will cause your head to nod in agreement. Using colorful language on occasion and consistent blunt talk, the authors tell it straight, providing advice that pulls the facade off of some of the common notions of what makes a project work. . . . a bit of chaos, animated discussion with disagreement and respectful truth telling are all signs of an efficient and productive team.
". . . This past year, I authored a new major and minor program in Management Information Systems (MIS) for the college where I teach. Two of the upper-level classes in the program involve the study of the proper ways to manage IT projects. This book will be used as a supplementary text when I teach those courses."
—Charles Ashbacher, Journal of Object Technology

". . . a compelling read; you sit and read one essay, muse on it, and promptly read another. . . . The pleasure comes from recognising the wicked portraits of some especially clueless roles on projects. Who hasn't met the project manager in Management by Mood Ring who always talks in optimistic, eternal-present tones with nary a mention of progress towards targets or deadlines? And what about the Film Critics who perpetually lob tomatoes into a project, with no feeling of responsibility to help make it work any better? . . .

"Few other groups in the world today could have assembled such a wealth of expertise in project management, and none, perhaps, could have written about it so engagingly. I think you'll enjoy reading it. If you're in a position of power, I hope you'll take it to heart."
—Ian Alexander, posted on Amazon.com

"How can you keep from getting sick by infection? You need to build up immunity. There are two ways to do this. One is by surviving an earlier bout with the disease, and the other is by getting vaccinated.

"Reading this book will "vaccinate" you against the negative project behaviors it describes, so that they can be recognized and dealt with before they cause project failures. Learning from the failures of others is a lot faster and cheaper than learning "the hard way" (by taking part in failed projects yourself). Get everyone on your team a copy, so that the cries of alarm cannot fail to be heard."
—Mark Wallace, posted on Amazon.com

"I highly recommend this book. Many books that relate to technical or managerial subjects are difficult to read -- a lot of stuff you don't care about, and the occasional nugget. Adrenaline Junkies is a book of nuggets. Each chapter is a nugget or 'pattern,' including a phrase, a picture, a sentence and a couple of pages of descriptive text. . . . Not everyone will care about every pattern, but the book is organized in such a way that the reader has control over what to miss. Some patterns validated my own experiences. Some provided new insights. A couple I didn't get. My recommendation: read through the book. . ."
—Robert Newbold, posted on Amazon.com

"God, what a great read! Serious topics, but plenty of humor to take the edge off. As usual, this team of folks have got it right. For everyone in the software development arena, this is a must read!"
—Erlo Banfield, posted on Amazon.com

". . . this is one of my 'must keep' books which I'll refer to over and over again in the years to come. This book describes both behavioral patterns, good things to do, and behavioral anti-patterns, bad things to do. . . . Most of the patterns are in fact positive strategies, such as Eye Contact which stresses the important of distributed workers meeting together physically on occasion to build trust and communication channels. . . .

" At times the behaviors described seem fairly common -- they are, which is why they're captured as (anti-)patterns. This is good, because as Mark Twain pointed out common sense isn't very common, so pointing common behaviors out to people can be quite valuable. Also, what you may think is common may be an eye-opening revelation to someone else, and vice versa. . . . Anyone serious about their IT career will find this book to be a valuable investment."
—Scott Ambler
, Dr. Dobb's Journal

"What makes a project successful or doomed -- loved or hated? Those are the questions Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies: Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior hopes to answer, looking critically at the archetypes of people and engineers that people constantly fall into. . . a comprehensive guide that offers an example of what is a good and bad behavior coming from team members in management of a project. . . . highly recommended to anyone in charge of a group project and for community library business collections."
—Jim Cox, Internet Bookwatch

". . . contains a list of behaviors found in projects, some of which will make them a joy and others that will make them a terror. . . . In [my favorite], the authors point out that if the social structure of the organization is such that every item of work must always be commented on with a 'Good job' then the result is mediocrity. To be successful, people must be able to give and receive constructive criticism. . . ."
—Charles Ashbacher, The Journal of Object Technology

". . . very useful, a real eye-opener for any business, a must-read for any managerwell done!"
—Gennaro Pastore, Quality Control Manager for Dunhill

The 86 Patterns

1 Adrenaline Junkies
2 Rattle Yer Dags
3 Dead Fish
4 Happy Clappy Meetings
5 Nanny
6 Referred Pain
7 Mañana
8 Eye Contact
9 Management By Mood Ring
10 True Believer
11 Lease Your Soul
12 System Development Lemming Cycle
13 No Bench
14 Face Time
15 I Gave You a Chisel. Why Aren't You Michelangelo?
16 Dashboards
17 Endless Huddle
18 Young Pups and Old Dogs
19 Film Critics
20 One Throat to Choke
Interlude: Project-Speak
21 Soviet Style
22 Natural Authority
23 The Too-Quiet Office
24 The White Line
25 Silence Gives Consent
26 Straw Man
27 Counterfeit Urgency
28 Time Removes Cards from Your Hand
29 Lewis & Clark
30 Short Pencil
31 Rhythm
32 The Overtime Predictor
33 Poker Night
34 False Quality Gates
35 Testing Before Testing
36 Cider House Rules
37 Talk Then Write
38 Project Sluts
39 Atlas
40 Everyone Wears Clothes for a Reason
41 Peer Preview
42 Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
43 It's Always the Goddamned Interfaces
44 The Blue Zone
45 News Improvement
46 Telling the Truth Slowly
47 Practicing Endgame
48 The Music Makers
49 Journalists
50 The Empty Chair
51 My Cousin Vinny
52 Feature Soup
53 Data Qualty
54 Ben
55 Miss Manners
56 Undivided Attention
57 "There's No Crying in Baseball!"
58 Cool Hand Luke
59 Shipping On-Time, Every Time
60 Food++
61 Orphaned Deliverables
62 Hidden Beauty
63 I Don't Know
64 Children of Lake Wobegon
65 Co-Education
66 Seelenverwandtschaft
67 Phillips Head
68 Predicting Innovation
69 Marilyn Munster
Interlude: The Cutting Room Floor
70 Brownie in Motion
71 Loud and Clear
72 Safety Valve
73 Babel
74 Surprise!
75 Fridge Door
76 The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow
77 Piling On
78 Seasons for Change
79 Paper Mill
80 Offshore Follies
81 War Rooms
82 What Smell?
83 Lessons Unlearned
84 Sanctity of the Half-Baked Idea
85 Leakage
86 Template Zombies

Click to Download the PDF Preview (~5MB PDF): Four Chapters

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DeMarco on YouTube
The 86 Patterns
Sample Chapters

PDF Preview: Four Chapters
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By this Author

Complete Systems Analysis: The Workbook, the Textbook, the Answers, by James Robertson and Suzanne Robertson

The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management, by Tom DeMarco
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, 3rd ed., by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
Process for System Architecture and Requirements Engineering, by Derek Hatley, Peter Hruschka, and Imtiaz Pirbhai
Slack: Getting Past Busywork, Burnout, and the Myth of Total Efficiency, by Tom DeMarco
Waltzing With Bears: Managing Risk on Software Projects, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister

Also Recommended
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, 3rd ed., by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister 

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