The Art of Project Management Paperback – May 2 2005
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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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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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