Best project management resources
February 9, 2018 6:06 AM   Subscribe

I have been tasked at work with taking on a more formal project management role. I have 20+ years of professional experience, and have led projects of various sizes, but have never been The Project Manager. We're also looking at developing a PMO. I have a lot of exposure to project management principles, and I have a purple belt (Lean certification), but I want to improve my skills and my cache of resources related to project management. What are some good intermediate- to advanced-level resources on project management?

I'm working in a technical team that does lots of database development, DBA work, analytics, reporting, some application development, and some general IT support. We have a lot of ongoing work as well as heavy demand for new development.

I don't need a primer on project management; I'm more interested in collecting techniques and tools for the various aspects of the role, such as templates for charters, trackers, etc., communication and meeting strategies and tools, and developing a PMO. Open to books, websites, online courses, etc. My goal is to start developing a deeper practitioner's understanding of the field and at the same time amass a "bag of tricks" with options and ideas for a variety of situations. I'm not especially concerned with certification at the moment.

Our approach is currently mostly waterfall with some Agile techniques, so all methodologies are welcome. PMs of MeFi, hit me with your favorite PM resources!
posted by jeoc to Work & Money (6 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Are you PMP certified?
posted by idb at 6:31 AM on February 9, 2018

I've been in software project management & engineering management for quite a while. It's a bit old, but I really like the Software Project Survival Guide by Steve McConnell. It is a prescriptive approach to the subject. The far larger and more in depth Rapid Development gives you a broad survey of techniques along with guidance as to what works when.
posted by elmay at 6:37 AM on February 9, 2018

I'm in the PM world -- EV, actually -- and I'll say from the getgo that while I have never experienced a positive correlation between PMP certification and effective project management, the actual PMBOK is definitely worth reviewing even if you think you know it already. Let me stress that I know you say you don't want a primer, and that even with that condition you should still read this.

That can be a great starting point.

Joining PMI, if you aren't already a member, can be useful for networking and exposure to how other folks are solving similar problems.
posted by uberchet at 6:56 AM on February 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hi, I’m a project manager in the robotics industry - so some hardware and some software. At my current job I’m director of project management and, new for me, our product is more software than hardware, so I’ve been learning all kinds of new stuff about Agile software development management and how to apply that to an integrated product that has more traditional waterfall paradigms around planning hardware. Some thoughts:

I’ve taken the PMP coursework but havent done the exam. I found the coursework/PMBOK to be useful for honing my quantitative PM skillet, but useless for developing any of the intuition and mindset that comes with experience.

I spend a lot of time googling peoples’ blog posts about how they’ve applied X principle to Y type of development. Tools like Jira that support Agile development really support development of one very particular type of product, so figuring out how to map Agile best practices and Jira functionality into how I know things need to get done has been challenging (in a good way). I’ve found posts from people in similar situations to be incredibly helpful in showing me different ways to frame the problem.

Separate the strategies from the tools. You can do waterfall management without MS Project and Agile without Jira, so keep them separate as you explore them.

Talk extensively with people who are new to your organization who may have recently come from orgs that use frameworks or tools you’re interested in. Find out the things they thought were most helpful and which things were wastes of time. Certainly talk with other PMs, but definitely talk to individual contributors who have worked within different methodologies - they’ll have a lot of useful things to say, I’ve found.

Above all, be prepared to iterate on your own process. If something turns out to fall flat with your team, change it. Don’t keep going with something that doesn’t work just because you started that way. You’ll look better to your team if you adapt to their needs and strengths than if you adhere blindly to a particular framework.
posted by olinerd at 7:11 AM on February 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Software development PMO manager here

Couple more books I'd recommend:
Making Things Happen - Scott Berkun - lots of good advice on the practicalities of how to manage development, and doesn't neglect the people side of things
The Handbook of Program Management - good book about how to do program management and run a PMO that improves practice across an organisation

If you want to go further into Agile, you may want to look at some of the frameworks for scaling the process to larger groups (SAFe and LeSS are the main ones I'm aware of).

What Olinerd said is really true: no process or methodology works all the time, and one of the important jobs of project managers is to find processes that work for their group and enable them to deliver the project successfully.
posted by crocomancer at 7:49 AM on February 9, 2018

As recommended by crocomancer, Making Things Happen - Scott Berkun. It is the only book I have ever read that teaches you how to actually get things done which is ultimately what you should be thinking about every day as a PM.

The best lesson from that book is that ineffective PM's get too wrapped up in thinking tools are the job. Spreadsheets, Microsoft Project, burndowns, and sticky notes are great, but there is no substitute for sniffing out equivocation, weasel words, bullshit, passing the buck, email ping-pong, or any of the other things that doesn't move the ball down the field. You job is not writing headlines, it is making headlines by increasing the probability of good things happening.

Always remember to simply ask this question: "Who is doing what by when". A spreadsheet can help you track that, but don't confuse tools with actual progress.
posted by jasondigitized at 12:46 PM on February 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

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