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The Art of Project Management [Paperback]

Scott Berkun
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2 2005 0596007868 978-0596007867 1

The Art of Project Managementcovers it all--from practical methods for making sure work gets done right and on time, to the mindset that can make you a great leader motivating your team to do their best. Reading this was like reading the blueprint for how the best projects are managed at Microsoft... I wish we always put these lessons into action!" --Joe Belfiore, General Manager, E-home Division, Microsoft Corporation

"Berkun has written a fast paced, jargon-free and witty guide to what he wisely refers to as the 'art' of project management. It's a great introduction to the discipline. Seasoned and new managers will benefit from Berkun's perspectives."--Joe Mirza, Director, CNET Networks (Cnet.com)

"Most books with the words 'project management' in the title are dry tomes. If that's what you are expecting to hear from Berkun's book, you will be pleasantly surprised. Sure, it's about project management. But it's also about creativity, situational problem-solving, and leadership. If you're a team member, project manager, or even a non-technical stakeholder, Scott offers dozens of practical tools and techniques you can use, and questions you can ask, to ensure your projects succeed."--Bill Bliss, Senior VP of product and customer experience, expedia.com

InThe Art of Project Management, you'll learn from a veteran manager of software and web development how to plan, manage, and lead projects. This personal account of hard lessons learned over a decade of work in the industry distills complex concepts and challenges into practical nuggets of useful advice. Inspiring, funny, honest, and compelling, this is the book you and your team need to have within arms reach. It will serve you well with your current work, and on future projects to come.

Topics include:

  • How to make things happen
  • Making good decisions
  • Specifications and requirements
  • Ideas and what to do with them
  • How not to annoy people
  • Leadership and trust
  • The truth about making dates
  • What to do when things go wrong

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"The book is written in an easy and witty style that makes for an enjoyable cover-to-cover read, although the structure of the book makes it easy to refer to particular sections as required. Whether you are an experienced project manager or making the transition from developer to manager, I thoroughly recommend that you read "The Art of Projects Management" and keep a copy with you at all the times!" - Jenny Smith, The Developers Magazine - Jan/Feb 2007

About the Author

Scott Berkun is the best selling author of The Art of Project Management, The Myths of Innovation, and Making Things Happen. His work as a writer and public speaker have appeared in the The Washington Post, The New York Times, Wired Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes Magazine, and other media. He has taught creative thinking at the University of Washington and has been a regular commentator on CNBC, MSNBC and National Public Radio. His many popular essays and entertaining lectures can be found for free on his blog at Scott Berkun.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a readable PM book !! Dec 1 2005
Format:Paperback
Of all the project management related books I've read this one stands out for me in that it didn't put me to sleep after the first chapter. The writing is excellent and entertaining and covers areas that most theory heavy books don't. It's like having an experienced PM mentor guiding you through the maze of issues a manager faces. I'd definitely recommend this one to my colleagues. My only problem now is how to anonymously send a copy to my manager.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to Make Things Happen on Projects June 26 2005
Format:Paperback
Scott Berkun provides an entertaining and comprehensive overview of managing a project from start to finish. At times brutally honest and funny, it gives you practical and pragmatic advice for staying sane, motivating people, figuring out what is important and how to learn from your experience. Whether you are an experienced project manager or are new, you should be able to find some useful advice. I felt as if I took a great workshop that will help me to manage things in a more effective way. While the examples that Berkun uses are drawn from his experience in software development, the lessons can be effectively applied to any project. You can read the book through from start to finish for an overview of the processes and challenges that you will face or you can dip in to the book when you need some advice on how to get started, keep things going or to wrap things up. Along with the advice for keeping the project running, there is also some solid advice for dealing with the politics and personalities that surround any work situation. This book is staying beside my desk and I'll refer to it often.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
97 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Voice of Experience July 23 2005
By Benjamin Rossen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After many years as project manager in product development, I embarked on two software development projects, a new area for me, and found that some of my management skills were not relevant. After the first project stumbled, I purchased several software project management books and, after working through them in a disciplined way (taking notes on salient points and scaling them on their helpfulness for my work) found this to be the best. It is comprehensive - perhaps a little too wordy at times - and packed with practical advice. The lists of questions which come up regularly in this book can be turned into management check lists. Scott Berkun's points anticipated many of the problems I have since encountered; I am now reading this book for the second time and noticing things that were missed on the first read. As my experience has grown, I have come to recognize the voice of greater experience speaking through this book. Recommended for novices and experienced software project managers.
59 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, useful advice on how to realistically run a project July 21 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Scott does a great job in this book of providing well-organized, practically useful guidance on how to work on and run a project. Even if you're not actually in charge of a project, I'd recommend this as a book to help you understand what should be getting done on it. The three biggest areas he focuses on are how to ensure a project has proper focus and clear priorities, how to run meetings and do feature-level design, and how to handle a project as it moves from start to finish.

The key to proper focus and clear priorities is the tie between the mission, goals, features, and tasks in a project. Scott provides a great framework for tying them together, ensuring they're created, and ensuring the team understands them.

The advice on running meetings and doing feature-level design is the only area that might not work as well for those outside of Microsoft. While I highly identify with it, and think that he's clearly stated the best practices for our environment, your mileage may vary.

Finally, he does a great job of talking about the difference between the start, middle, and end-game. Many people try to use a single process throughout and either overburden the start of the project or allow the end-game to spin wildly out of control. Scott's very clear about how to apply the right level of touch and raise the process bar at safe but necessary increments as a project goes on.

The only negative thing I could find in the book is that some of the proofreading on the figures wasn't up to the same quality as the text. References to figures are sometimes pointing to the wrong one, and occasionally the legends are mislabeled.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book dispenses much needed advice Feb. 2 2006
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Perhaps one of the reasons I am still doing engineering work rather than supervising it 26 years after I received my BSEE is that I could never properly wrap myself around exactly what it takes to manage a project. I therefore approached this book with a great deal of trepidation. However, after I began reading it I became pleasantly surprised. Most project management books I've read in the past intersperse advice on project management with software engineering techniques and Tony Robbins style motivational anecdotes. This one sticks to the subject and is well organized. The book is not about any one specific project management methodology, but about fundamental aspects of all projects. The author recounts his own experiences while managing projects at Microsoft to provide insight into the less transparent aspects of project management. The book is divided into three major sections: "Plans," "Skills," and "Management." This organization provides a logical flow overall and allows topics to build on one another. In spite of this logical progression, the chapters are fit for random access, as the author himself recommends. One of my favorite chapters was "Figuring Out What To Do". Here the author outlines three basic perspectives: The business perspective, the technology perspective and the customer perspective. The author states that although the customer perspective is the most important of all three that is the most neglected and is the reason that many projects fail.
The chapter "How Not To Annoy People: Process, Email, and Meeting" was another chapter I really enjoyed. It offers down-to-earth recommendations on dealing with annoying behavior which the author lists in five categories:
When others
1. assume you're an idiot.
2. don't trust you
3. waste your time
4. manage you without respect
5. make you listen to or read stupid things
Since I've been guilty of being on the giving end as well as the receiving end of some of this behavior, this chapter helped me see some of the trouble I can cause myself as well as how I can effectively deal with it when it comes from others.
However, this book is more than just about how to deal with socially backwards misanthropes such as myself. It dedicates considerable space to creativity, dealing with ideas once you have them, making ideas actionable by using affinity diagrams to consolidate ideas, and employing iterative prototyping.
The third section of the book, which is specifically about management issues, contains chapters such as "Why Leadership Is Based On Trust". In that chapter the author points out that trust is built through commitment but lost through inconsistent behavior. Leaders must develop enough trust that people will bring issues to them during crises instead of hiding them. Trust, then, is at the core of leadership. Part of the reason that people will not trust some leaders is dealt with in the chapter "Power and Politics." Specifically, the author points out that power is misused when people work towards their own self-interest. If that person is a leader, and other people take note of this misuse, trust is lost.
In summary this book has much to say about all phases of project development as well as management. Highly recommended.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Needles in the Haystack? Dec 29 2007
By Wanderer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The subject of my review pretty much sums up how I feel about this book. After the first 100 pages, I thought to myself "I've gotten a handful of gems and a few good visuals, but did I need 100 pages to accomplish that?"

Seriously, that sums up my impression of the entire book. There is a LOT to be desired in terms of organization and it really feels like there's a lot of good information, but so poorly organized that it's hard to connect ideas. Several times per chapter, I find myself seeing references to how something will be better dealt with in further chapters. I have to ask myself why that happens constantly, and whether or not it says something about the organization of the book.

There also seems to be a tendency to wander away from central topics into tangents or only loosely related ideas. Very rarely does the author tie his thoughts back to what each particular chapter is about, or to a central idea. I have a hard time learning from books that are written this way. I have constantly found myself reading a paragraph in this book and thinking "Okay, but what does this have to do with the aspect of project management that this chapter is supposed to be about?" I tried very hard not to fall into that trap, but it kept happening.

I am an avid reading and an academic, so I know dry reading and I'm not saying that this is dry or anything like that. Quite the opposite, it's witty and fun to read in places. The thing that gets me so much is that it's poorly organized and poorly optimized. I find the author spends way too much time trying to say things and not nearly enough time relating them back to his main ideas.

I have read the authors second book, on Myths of Innovation, and I have to say that I was disappointed by going back to his first book (this one) on project management. I think his second book is excellent and vastly improved upon. It is much shorter than this project management book and MUCH better written, largely in part because of the organization but also because of how concise it is. In retrospect, perhaps he has since improved his craft, but his first outing (this project management book) is definitely tricky.

I see all the positive comments and I believe those people are being genuine about the content of the book. On the other hand, I do believe they have neglected to mention the issues I'm pointing out here. Don't get me wrong, there is useful information here, and lots of it. I have really enjoyed the nuggets that I've found in several chapters, but I lament the page count I had to forge through to get to them.

Again, the content is good here, but the presentation leaves a LOT to be desired. If you have issues with reading books where the author wanders away from central ideas and loses himself in tangents, and where you can easily forget what you're reading about in a particular chapter, you may have difficulties here. If you're just after the book for some good ideas about project management and plan to skim it, you should be okay. Anyone planning to read this from cover to cover is in for some real disappointment.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ready reckoner for the softer side of project management Aug. 24 2006
By @souvikstweets - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book is more than 400 pages of good, practical advice for project managers. Since 'art' is always a specific solution, as opposed to the generic formula based science, the value of this book will depend on the extent of experience a person has, the kind of project she is managing (hopefully IT) & the realm of her responsibilities.

It follows a coherent sequence beginning with writing vision statements for the project to end-game strategy that talks about wrapping up the project. In between, there is an ample amount of methodology type content - like how to write good designs, how to make good estimates etc. However, all these methodologies really talk about characteristics & points-to- consider-while-you're-at-it type content. For example, while discussing estimation Berkun talks about the common estimation mistakes & the features of a good estimate but does not discuss any estimation method like PERT.

Berkun is fairly funny as well & the text is replete with example situations from his years at Microsoft. While some readers might mistake this as being exhibitionist, I think a great deal is understood by the way of examples particularly when we're dealing with topics like management & project dynamics.

I must also acknowledge that this by no means a full presentation of all aspects of project management. For example, I did not come across any reference of project audits, & though there is ample discussion on good requirements & great design, I did not notice anything on the process of arriving at a WBS given a design, budgeting & the like. That said I believe that hardly anything on Project Management can hope to be a complete reference simply because of the complexity & ramifications this role can have.

This is a good book to have on your shelf, & you can flip through any chapter depending on your current requirement.

S!
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