Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies – Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior

Tom DeMarco, Peter Hruschka, Tim Lister, Steve McMenamin, James Robertson, Suzanne Robertson. Dorset House Publishing, 2008. Hanser, Germany, 2008. Also available as a Kindle book.

How project behavior patterns affect the work and the organisation. Winner of the 2009 Jolt Award in the general books category.

“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

“I loved this book – it was by and large a really fun read. I laughed at all the chapter headings and at most of the descriptions of bad project behaviour (others were a bit sobering), and cheered for the examples of great behaviour. Why the laughter? Because I recognised all these patterns – and I’ll be the first one to say that more than likely I’m guilty of behaving badly on a project or two!

What this book highlights is a really important fact – we’re all human. And funnily enough, project teams are made up of humans, and our stakeholders are also humans. Humans don’t always communicate very well – we don’t listen, make up stories, lie, cheat, steal, stamp our feet. It’s a wonder we get anything done at all. When we do, it’s because we played fair, everyone got their say, knew what had to be done, by when and by whom.

More specifically for me, Chapter 67 “Phillips Head” is quite topical right now as it talks about how a great innovation doesn’t always get accepted straight away. And in a similar vein, Chapter 68 “Predicting Innovation” describes how to ensure a team keeps developing good innovative ideas using iterations, whilst keeping anxious stakeholders appraised of predicted delivery dates.

If you want to know what pattern your project is following I’m pretty sure you are more than likely to find it in this book.”

I should also mention it goes straight into my “re-read” pile. — Desirée Purvis (née Chu), CBAP

“Congratulations on your book award. I too found it very useful and a real eye-opener for any business; a must-read for any
manager. Well done!” — Gennaro Pastore, Quality Control Manager, Dunhill.

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