The Best Project Management Books
December 2, 2019 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations on project management books.

I own the PMBOK, but it's dry and I don't have need of a PMP at this point. What I want are books that are much more about practical wisdom in approaching project management. Books that are interested in minimizing PM overhead, but achieving the key goals.

I've managed projects. I've worked with a ton of PMs. I know what the pieces are, but I need books that teach me how to be more clever in applying them. Tell me, mefi, what books are going to up my PM game as a person that's often a project sponsor and needs to run his own projects?
posted by bfranklin to Work & Money (6 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
In which industry do you work?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:24 AM on December 2, 2019

Response by poster: IT.
posted by bfranklin at 8:58 AM on December 2, 2019

Response by poster: And I'll add -- not software development. Infrastructure, process change, enrollment activities, etc. are the sort of things I'm managing. Not looking for SDLC-related project management.
posted by bfranklin at 9:01 AM on December 2, 2019

There are a lot of terrible books on project management, and so much of those "clever" moments come from experience rather than book-learning. That said, though, I've had "a-ha!" moments from books, but really in the leadership/seeing how people react in different situations realm. Some off the top of my recently-read list:

Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists that Changed our Understanding of the Universe
Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz
Seven Million: A Cop, a Priest, a Soldier for the IRA, and the Still-Unsolved Rochester Brinks Heist
Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why we Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results
Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches and Project Managers in Transition (even if you're not an Agile shop)
The Phoenix Project
posted by okayokayigive at 9:51 AM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

More effective agile. It approaches projects through the agile lens, but the wisdom dispensed will be useful on any project.
Agile is an empirical approach that depends on learning from experience. This requires creating opportunities to reflect periodically and make adjustments based on experience.
Tighten Feedback Loops. Don’t take any longer to learn lessons than you need to; keep the feedback loops as tight as possible. This supports more rapid progress from Inspect and Adapt and faster improvements in effectiveness from Develop a Growth Mindset.
The book is full of nuggets like that seem obvious in hindsight but have taken years to acquire:

On working with remote teams:
Most problems with multi-site development are not technical; they’re interpersonal communication problems.

Periodic in-person communication is important. As one senior leader of a global company said to me, “The half-life of trust is 6 weeks.” When you see mistakes begin to increase, it’s time to put people on airplanes, have them play games together, eat together, and develop human connections.
That's what I like about this book, lots of practical suggestions.

The author, Steve McConnel, also wrote "Code Complete" and "rapid development".
posted by aeighty at 3:26 PM on December 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

This book taught me everything I needed to know about getting things done. It has all the practical wisdom you will ever need. Very well written, engaging, and enlightening. I am sure a few other people will chime in with the same recommendation. There is a great anecdote about junior project managers confusing spreadsheets with actually getting on the floor and making things happen.

Here are a few quotes I pulled from good reads:

“refuse to quit until every possible alternative has been explored.”
“Persuasion is stronger than dictation”
“Many smart people can recognize when there is a problem, but few expend the energy to find a solution, and then summon the courage to do it.”
“Effective management of open issues is purely about diligence. Someone has to both investigate potential problems and take the time to write them down.”
“forcing function is anything that — when put in place — naturally forces a change in perspective, attitude, or behavior. So, schedules are important forcing functions for projects.”

Seriously. Buy it.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:37 PM on December 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

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