This Month’s Pattern *

Introduction

Patterns and humans’ unique way of dealing with them

Abstraction is uniquely human. It is something we do every day, every waking hour. But it wasn’t always so. At some point in our prehistory, there had to be a very first instance of abstraction, a moment when an early protohuman stared at something vaguely familiar, and then with a sudden flash of insight, thought, “Hello! Thingumbob again!” That was the first abstraction. From that moment on, everything was different. Man was loose on the Earth.

Abstraction is profoundly human, but pattern recognition is not. It is not unique to humans at all. The mouse has figured out when the cat is likely to be asleep, when the humans are sure to be out of the kitchen, and when the crumbs have been recently dropped but not yet swept up. Your family dog knows all the signals that precede what you thought was going to be a totally unexpected getaway weekend. (Could it have been the suitcase?) And the neighborhood raccoon understands that when the tide is out, pickings are bound to be better on the beach than in your compost pile. But for all their pattern recognition mastery, what the mouse/dog/raccoon cannot do is observe, “Hello! Thingumbob again!”[1] That involves abstraction.

The key difference is how the essence is captured. Patterns are absorbed and refined over time, stored away in the deep, nonverbal recesses of your mind, and conveyed to you in the form of hunches. The hunch that a particular ballcarrier is about to dart left, or that your spouse is ready to explode in anger, is the result of recognized patterns from the past. So is the hunch that this week’s project status meeting is going to be contentious. The unarticulated pattern may be useful to you—it clearly has survival value—but its value can increase markedly when you mull it over and begin to develop from it some declarable observations.

For example, ask yourself this question: What did the few contentious meetings over the past year all have in common? Well, they were most often the ones that the boss’s boss attended, usually near the end of a quarter. In the worst meetings, the team reported a slip in the schedule. You form this into a statement of the pattern: “My boss tends to be extremely cranky about slip reported at a meeting, especially near the end of the quarter, when his own boss is in attendance.”

The recognized signals that led to this observation are still buried in your unconscious, still able to provide you with occasional hunches. But now, in a momentary connection between the right brain hunch and the left brain articulation capability, you’ve isolated the essence and turned it into words. You can write it down, formulate tests to check its validity, share it with others, and merge your observations with those of your co-workers.

Most people who do project work are pretty good at pattern recognition and derived hunches (“I sense that this project is headed for disaster”), but not so good at abstracting their patterns into a more usable form. Thus this book. We six authors have put our heads together to articulate the patterns we’ve been absorbing during our combined one hundred and fifty years of experience.

The form of a book imposes a certain ordering of presentation, since each page must necessarily come either before or after any other. But the patterns themselves have no natural sequence. We’ve ordered them to suit our own tastes, striving only for the most enjoyable reading experience from the first page to the last.

Whether you read them straight through or nonsequentially, bear in mind this cautionary note: We make no claim to the universality of our observed patterns. They certainly don’t apply everywhere. A given pattern may fit your organization or not. If it does, we hope it helps transform what before had only been a hunch into an observation you can express, test, and refine with your team.

In writing this book, we have been constantly aware of our debt to the architect and philosopher Christopher Alexander and his admirable book A Pattern Language.[2]  In this seminal work, Alexander and his coauthors articulated a few hundred patterns about architecture. The book helps us better understand the buildings we occupy—and the ones we’d like to—and it also shows us the way that thoughtfully articulated abstractions can elucidate any subject.

 


  1. The thingumbob quote is adapted from William James, The Principles of Psychology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1890), p. 463.
  2. See C. Alexander et al., A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).


* 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.

events

DeMarco Keynote at OOP Konferenz 2015 in Munich
29-Jan-2015 to 29-Jan-2015

Tom DeMarco gives the keynote at the OOP Konferenz 2015 in Munich, January 29, 2015.

Brussels, Mastering the Requirements Process
24-Feb-2015 to 26-Feb-2015

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

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
24-Feb-2015 to 26-Feb-2015

Suzanne Robertson teaches Mastering the Requirements Process. For more information on this popular course, contact Den Norske Dataforeningen

Oslo, ITSMF
3-Mar-2015 to 5-Mar-2015

Oslo, March 3-5. Suzanne Robertson presents a talk entitled Understanding and Communicating the Real Business Problem at the ITSMF Conference. She also runs a one-day workshop to explore The Requirements Food Chain. Details here

Hilversum, Mastering Business Analysis
17-Mar-2015 to 18-Mar-2015

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

London, Mastering the Requirements Process
24-Mar-2015 to 26-Mar-2015

The Spring edition of Mastering the Requirements Process with James Archer. Please contact IRM UK for details.

Rome, Mastering the Requirements Process
13-Apr-2015 to 15-Apr-2015

Rome, Mastering Business Analysis
16-Apr-2015 to 17-Apr-2015

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

London, Mastering Business Analysis
23-Apr-2015 to 24-Apr-2015

James Archer presents Mastering Business Analysis. Please contact IRM UK for details of this course.

Brussels, Mastering Business Analysis
28-Apr-2015 to 29-Apr-2015

James Robertson and James Archer teach Mastering Business Analysis. Contact IT Works for details of this course.  

Oslo, Mastering the Requirements Process
28-Apr-2015 to 30-Apr-2015

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

Stockholm, Mastering the Requirements Process
5-May-2015 to 7-May-2015

Oslo, Mastering Business Analysis
12-May-2015 to 13-May-2015

James Robertson teaches Mastering Business AnalysisContact Den Norske Dataforeignen for details. 

Hilversum, Mastering the Requirements Process
19-May-2015 to 21-May-2015

James Robertson presents Mastering the Requirements Process for Adept Events. Details and registration: English - Dutch.

Brussels, Mastering the Requirements Process
16-Jun-2015 to 18-Jun-2015

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

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
24-Nov-2015 to 26-Nov-2015

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

Melbourne, Mastering the Requirements Process
30-Nov-2015 to 2-Dec-2015

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

Sydney, Mastering the Requirements Process
30-Nov-2015 to 2-Dec-2015

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

in depth

Take a look at Tom DeMarco's new article in the January, 2015 issue of CrossTalk.  It's called Risk Management for Dummies.



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.


Tim Lister was one of the keynote presenters during Agile 2013. Tim’s talk “Forty Years of Trying to Play Well With Others” was a big hit. In this interview Tim shares some of the highlights of his talk.
Lister, Keynote at Agile 2013Tim Lister was one of the keynote presenters during Agile 2013. Tim’s talk “Forty Years of Trying to Play Well With Others” was a big hit. In this interview Tim shares some of the highlights of his talk
was one of the keynote presenters during Agile 2013. Tim’s talk “Forty Years of Trying to Play Well With Others” was a big hit. In this interview Tim shares some of the highlights of his talk - See more at: http://podcasts.bigvisible.com/?p=255#sthash.G1hS2edS.dp
was one of the keynote presenters during Agile 2013. Tim’s talk “Forty Years of Trying to Play Well With Others” was a big hit. In this interview Tim shares some of the highlights of his talk - See more at: http://podcasts.bigvisible.com/?p=255#sthash.G1hS2edS.dpuf
Tim Lister, Keynote at Agile 2013


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."



Read Tom DeMarco's essay from the July/August issue of Software Magazine.  It's entitled, Bells, Whistles, Power, and the Requirements Process.



In this podcast James speaks of his experience in the profession of architecture and how it provides inspiration for his work on innovation and creativity. He also discusses the role of the business analyst in agile teams. Listen to the podcast.


There are now seven books by Guild authors available as ebooks, either as Nook Books or as Kindle Books.  



See what all the fuss is about. Tom DeMarco's article in IEEE Software seems to have annoyed practically everyone: "Software Engineering, an idea whose time has come and gone?"


Shane Hastie's interview with the authors and book excerpt: Mastering the Requirements Process on InfoQ.


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



The Guild's Jolt Award book, Adrenaline Junkies and Template Zombies is now available in a Kindle edition.


Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister's perennially popular book Peopleware is now available in a Kindle Edition.


Tom DeMarco provides a video commentary about the Adrenaline Junkies book project. Learn how this Jolt Award-winning book came about.