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AntiPatterns in Project Management [Hardcover]

William J. Brown , Hays W. "Skip" McCormick , Scott W. Thomas
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 18 2000 0471363669 978-0471363668 1
The trusty AntiPatterns team returns with an invaluable guide to anticipating and avoiding the myriad pitfalls of project management From the initial business-modeling and design/analysis to the implementation and testing phases, the management of an object-oriented project is by far the most complex and important aspect of software development--and the most error-prone. The management process is fraught with mistakes, programming defects, honest errors, and difficult people--and any single one is capable of sinking an entire project or system. In this, the third book in a bestselling series focusing on the ins and outs of AntiPatterns, the authors employ their trademark style and irreverent humor to explore every phase of project management and identify the many technical, software, and personality issues that can cause headaches.

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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 process 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, as well as examples borrowed from the field--is devoted to each AntiPattern. Anyone who has worked in software development will recognise many of the AntiPatterns here.

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 lifecycles. (In this section, the book lists no less than nine different software lifecycles that you can choose from.) 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.

Though 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 analysing what can go wrong, you can improve the odds in your favour in future development efforts by reading this savvy and well-organised volume. --Richard Dragan


"...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

"...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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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthwhile Read for Project Managers Dec 3 2002
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Good idea, disappointing execution June 29 2001
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Will add wisdom to your approach April 24 2001
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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