Review: Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies

This is another book in the project management vein. I put it in my Amazon wish list about a year and a half ago, though I only recently got around to buying it. I had a manager strongly dissuade me from reading it based on title. Apparently, Zombies are not approved work fare. ;-)

On the one hand, this book was a fascinating read because so many of the patterns were familiar. Seeing that my experiences haven't been unique, but are often common enough that they have been identified and named was interesting to me. On the other hand, it was a little bit depressing because I had hoped that the industry was more mature than what I have experienced. Apparently, there is a lot of opportunity for improvement everywhere.

The idea of using patterns to describe software development project behaviors struck me as quite appropriate. Unfortunately, the book mostly just presents anecdotes and stories. The patterns all have catchy, if sometimes misleading, names and all have a distillation of the observations of the authors. They do not have any consistent presentation structure. Some patterns mention pros and cons. Some tell you when they should be applied. Some mention ways to implement them, while others just say what behaviors would destroy the pattern when it is already functioning. Maybe this is natural for a book on behavior patterns. In some way it feels unfinished, like the notes for a more detailed book to follow.

Despite the anecdotal feel to the pattern presentation, this was an enjoyable read. I wish I had read the book earlier, it might have helped me identify and then avoid or correct some problems I have seen on teams I've worked with. After a quick review of the pattern names and summaries, I believe I have observed every one of them in the wild. Some only lasted for short periods, while others were long-running.

This book will be of value to any managers/team leaders who are honestly seeking organizational improvement. Because of the natural proclivity humans have for pattern matching, being exposed to these patterns will help identify them when they occur. This, in turn, could facilitate guiding an organization or team away from the detrimental ones and toward the desirable ones.


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