This Month’s Pattern *

60 Food++

The members of the project team regularly eat their meals together, and when possible, plan and prepare them as a team.

During production of the wonderful anime movie Spirited Away, the director realized that the film would miss its summer opening unless the animation team quickened its pace. The team decided its best way forward was to work longer hours. One night, when everybody was working late, one of the team artists took it upon himself to cook spaghetti all’amatriciana. Everybody who was still at work—and there were quite a few of them—ate together and declared that they loved the experience. The following night, a different team member decided she would cook for everybody, and the night after that, someone else took a turn cooking. And so, a team tradition came about. Each night, one or other of the team members would prepare a meal for everybody. Even the director, Hayao Miyazaki, decided to show off his skills and cooked a noodle dish that was a culinary triumph. This simple act of cooking for the rest of the group had a galvanizing effect: the animation team met its deadline, and the movie opened on time. the rituals surrounding food—the preparation, the interactions while eating, the cleaning-up process—forge a bond among all who participate. 

One team we knew was obsessive about its food. At lunchtime, one or more of the team members would rearrange tables in the cafeteria—this was strictly against cafeteria policy—so that the entire team of sixteen could sit together. Places were guarded and interlopers were turned away until the entire team was seated and eating together. 

These teammates didn’t eat together because the project manager asked them to—they felt it was part of being a team, and they wanted to eat with each other.

When late nights were called for, to meet some pressing deadline, the members who were not needed for urgent work would drive to the supermarket and bring back food. They could just as well have gone home instead, but they stayed to provide food for the late workers and to eat with them. 

You will notice that something almost magical happens to a team when it plans and prepares a meal. First, there is the adventure of gathering ingredients. This is not fast food, and some teams thrive on making the search difficult by demanding hard-to-find ingredients. Then comes the preparation: the skilled cooks do the difficult preparation, while kitchen slaves (as they are affectionately known) take care of the grunt work. Still others set the table, and so forth. 

The food, when it arrives, is a team product. “We built this, we made it all come together, and now we are going to enjoy eating it” is the collective thought of the team as it sits down to the communal meal. And for teams working on long, amorphous projects, this is a “project within the project,” one that can be completed quickly and savored. 

You can also see an example of food bringing people together in the café society that has sprung up around the world. People regularly schedule business meetings in coffee shops. Laptops and papers compete with cappuccinos and croissants for table space. The feeling of intimacy brought about by sharing food—we consider coffee a food—makes the meeting more valuable. It is particularly telling that salesmen, trying to establish a strong connection with their prospects, make frequent use of cafés and food. 

Eating together does not guarantee that your team will succeed, just as not eating together does not condemn your project to failure. However, we observe that many successful teams take advantage of the rich interactions that are part of preparing and eating food together.

* Each month we plan to publish here one of the patterns from our Jolt Award book, Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies — Understanding Patterns of Project Behavior. (Watch this space for a mere 86 months and you'll have read the whole thing.) The book is published by Dorset House Publishing, in the US and Hanser Verlag in Germany. It is available at Amazon and also as a Kindle book.


Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
15-Sep-2015 to 17-Sep-2015

Mastering the Requirements Process with Suzanne Robertson. Contact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

Brussels, Mastering the Requirements Process
15-Sep-2015 to 17-Sep-2015

James Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact I.T.Works for details.  

London, BA Conference Europe
21-Sep-2015 to 23-Sep-2015

Business Analysis Conference Europe. Details and registration a Details and registration at Business Analysis Conference Europe 2015.

Stockholm, Mastering the Requirements Process
29-Sep-2015 to 1-Oct-2015

Hilversum, Mastering Business Analysis
5-Oct-2015 to 6-Oct-2015

James Robertson teaches the popular Mastering Business Analysis. Details from Adept Events in English or Dutch.

Brussels, MRP part 2
7-Oct-2015 to 8-Oct-2015

Brussels, Mastering Business Analysis
07-Oct-2015 to 08-Oct-2015

James Robertson teaches Mastering Business Analysis. Contact IT Works for details of this course.  

Rome, Mastering the Requirements Process
19-Oct-2015 to 21-Oct-2015

Rome, Mastering Business Analysis
22-Oct-2015 to 23-Oct-2015

James Robertson teaches Mastering Business Analysis. Contact Technology Transfer for details of this course.  

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process part 2
2-Nov-2015 to 3-Nov-2015

Suzanne Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process part 2. Details for this advanced class at Den Norske Dataforeningen.

Hilversum, Mastering the Requirements Process
3-Nov-2015 to 5-Nov-2015

James Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details please contact Adept Events. Dutch description, or in English.

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
4-Nov-2015 to 6-Nov-2015

Mastering the Requirements Process with Suzanne Robertson. Contact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

London, Mastering the Requirements Process
11-Nov-2015 to 13-Nov-2015

James Archer teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For details and registration, please contact IRM UK.

Wellington, Mastering the Requirements Process
17-Nov-2015 to 19-Nov-2015

The ever popular Mastering the Requirements Process. For details please contact Software Education.  

Melbourne, Mastering the Requirements Process
23-Nov-2015 to 25-Nov-2015

Mastering the Requirements Process. Please contact Software Education  for details and registration. 

Sydney, Mastering the Requirements Process
23-Nov-2015 to 25-Nov-2015

James Robertson teaches the popular Mastering the Requirements Process sponsored by Software Education.

in depth

Suzanne and James Robertson's "Requirements: The Masterclass LiveLessons-Traditional, Agile, Outsourcing". 15+ Hours of Video Instruction. 

Take a look at Tom DeMarco's Risk Management for Dummies article, published in CrossTalk.

Als auf der Welt das Licht Ausging, the German edition of Tom DeMarco's science fiction epic, Andronescu's Paradox, has now been published by Hanser Verlag in Munich.  Translation by Andreas Brandhorst.

James Robertson’s webinar for Software Education explains how agile stories are best used to ensure the right solution. Writing the Right Agile Stories on YouTube. Download the webinar slides.

Suzanne and James Robertson’s article The Requirements Food Chain explores how the originators and consumers of requirements interact with each other as the requirement matures.

Read Tom DeMarco's article from the July/August edition of IEEE Software: Sigil, BlueGriffon, and the Evolving Software Market.

Suzanne Robertson is one of the Agile Experts who discuss the subject of Scrum versus Kanban. The report is published by the Cutter Consortium and they have kindly made it available to readers of our web site. The lead author, Johanna Rothman, sets forth her argument that one is not necessarily better than the other; they are just different and it's up to the organization to figure out which method is best under which circumstance. In response, seven of Cutter's Agile experts discuss their views on Crossing the Agile Divide.

Complete Systems Analysis - the Workbook, the Textbook, the Answers by Suzanne Robertson and James Robertson is now in e-book format. It is available as a Kindle book, from InformIT, or you can download a sample chapter.

Announcing the publication of the third edition of Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister's iconic text, Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams.  The book is available now from Amazon or directly from Addison Wesley. See press release on Business Wire.

Tom DeMarco's speculative novel, Andronescu's Paradox is now available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  

"This war isn't going to blow anything up, only turn everything off."

Mastering the Requirements Process, third edition Getting Requirements Right is now available as a Kindle Book, Nook Book, or in traditional paper.