Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Interview: Johanna Rothman on Schedule Games and other Organizational Dysfunctions

Interview: Johanna Rothman on Schedule Games and other Organizational Dysfunctions

Johanna Rothman is an organizational consultant and coach, author of several books for managers in technical environments, and co-creator of the AYE (Accelerate Your Effectiveness) conference. Deborah Hartmann interviewed Johanna Rothman at Agile2007 about her third book - and discovered that there are names for some of the the scheduling games we all groan over, when they surface in our organizations: including Bring Me A Rock, Queen of Denial and Pants on Fire!

Rothman's books come from hard-won experience:
What I focus on is risk: whether it is risk in the people that you have in the project, risk in how you manage the people on the projects, or the risk in the projects themselves. And that’s what I do; help people see it help people manage it. Some of it is coaching; there are certainly workshops and training. I do assessment to really see what’s going on and what are the causes. Because you can have many number of symptoms that come from very different root causes. And you want to know what is causing it here and now.
Her third and latest book, Manage It. Your Guide to Modern Pragmatic Project Management, presents strategies for helping less-than-Agile organizations benefit from some common-sense practices used by Agile teams, including iterative and incremental development, even if they are resistant to whole-hog implementation, or for other reasons cannot implement a fully Agile approach:
Because: there are many organizations where the whole pattern doesn’t fit, where either the people won’t work in an Agile way, or they say: “No, get out the garlic and the crosses, the Agile people are hackers”. I don’t want to fight with everybody and I don’t want to label. I want to help people do what’s most effective for them.
That being said, it's hard not to notice  that the strategies she offers would address some Agile teams' problems, too!
That was why I put the schedule games chapter in, because I think if people have a name for something, even if it’s a team who says: “Oh, our VP Joe is playing “Bring me a Rock” or “Queen of Denial” – which is yet another schedule game – at least you have a common vocabulary. And having a fun name, with cartoons (I actually had a cartoonist draw some cartoons for that chapter), I think helps people get a little prospective on it.
Her chapter on "Recognizing and Avoiding Schedule Games" includes multiple strategies to try when these games surface within teams or organizations. Teams implementing Agile often find themselves faced with these games, and enormous energy can be spent trying to combat, adapt to, or circumvent them. Her list of games includes:

6.1  Bring Me a Rock
6.2  Hope Is Our Most Important Strategy
6.3  Queen of Denial
6.4  Sweep Under the Rug
6.5  Happy Date
6.6  Pants on Fire
6.7  Split Focus
6.8  Schedule Equals Commitment
6.9  We’ll Know Where We Are When We Get There
6.10  The Schedule Tool Is Always Right
6.11  We Gotta Have It; We’re Toast Without It
6.12  We Can’t Say No
6.13  Schedule Chicken
6.14  90% Done
6.15  We’ll Go Faster Now
6.16  Schedule Trance

"Schedule Games" is just one area covered in this book. The table of contents includes:
  • Starting a Project
  • Planning the Project
  • Using Life Cycles to Design Your Project
  • Scheduling the Project
  • Estimating the Work
  • Recognizing and Avoiding Schedule Games
  • Creating a Great Project Team
  • Steering the Project
  • Maintaining Project Rhythm
  • Managing Meetings
  • Creating and Using a Project Dashboard
  • Managing Multisite Projects
  • Integrating Testing into the Project
  • Managing Programs
  • Completing a Project
  • Managing the Project Portfolio
Listen to the interview to hear where the book came from and how it can benefit a broad range of organizations: Johanna Rothman: Agile Risk Reduction for Traditional Teams

Rate this Article


Hello stranger!

You need to Register an InfoQ account or or login to post comments. But there's so much more behind being registered.

Get the most out of the InfoQ experience.

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Community comments

  • You should listen to Johanna

    by Guy Nirpaz,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Me and my team had the pleasuere to meet with Johanna in various occasions. The influence this woman has on our success is amazing.

    Not only she's doing a great job at writing book, she's also very pragmattic and anti-dogmatic.

    I advise on reading her books and listen to what she has to say, as I personally learned a lot.


Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p

Allowed html: a,b,br,blockquote,i,li,pre,u,ul,p