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What I’m Reading: April 2015

Best project management books

Whoop! I have finished Mind Change*! It’s taken several months and lots of lugging it about on the train but it’s done. Having said that, I thought the earlier chapters were much more interesting than the bits about video gaming towards the end, but it was still an eye-opening read.

I’ve also read Driving Project, Program, and Portfolio Success: The Sustainability Wheel by Dave Shirley and Rich Maltzman, the authors behind Green Project Management. It’s not out yet but one of the perks of reviewing books is that I get to see them before they hit the shelves, and I offered the guys a nice comment to put on the cover too. It’s a practical guide to integrating ‘green’ into the business strategy delivered by your portfolios of projects, so if you work at PMO level it’s definitely worth a read. It’s also relevant to project managers, but you might as well start with Green PM first.

My least favourite thing I’ve read this month has to be Spider Sandwiches. It was a gift to the boys and they love it. Jack even went to bed with it once, which means it has trumped Thomas the Tank Engine’s Piano Book. When a book comes further up in his affection than something with a picture of Thomas on then you know it’s a winner. It’s the cockroach curry page that really gets my skin crawling. [click to continue…]

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The Feedback Imperative [Book review]

Giving feedback on teams

Just today I’ve had numerous bits of feedback. An online purchase showed me how far through the process I was. My Kindle app used the speed of my reading to tell me how much longer it would take to finish the book. I was sent a letter from my solicitor asking me to complete a feedback form on a transaction they’ve just done for me. Feedback is everywhere.

And yet managers prefer to fire or manage out troublesome people who could potentially have been ‘fixed’ with feedback. Many of the younger people on your project teams expect feedback from their managers more frequently than older team members: it’s one of the defining traits of Millennials, although I’m personally not big on stereotyping a whole generation. She glosses over the best feedback approaches for older team members: I suppose they just have to put up with the change in management style to one that is feedback-heavy even if it isn’t their thing.

Having said that, it’s a good read. The Feedback Imperative is a book about why talking gives you better results. It’s a coaching model for how to give staff feedback without annoying them, and it starts with defining feedback. [click to continue…]

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Playing the Project Manager [Book review]

Playing the Project Manager by Charles Smith

It’s not often that I review books that I don’t like. But let’s get it out there early: I didn’t like this one.

Playing the Project Manager* by Charles Smith wasn’t my cup of tea. It started out well enough because I thought it would be about how you manage yourself on a project and how you shape a career out of managing projects. That sounded interesting.

To an extent it is about that, but abstracted to a point where I couldn’t see how to use the information.

What I would have liked about it if I’d liked it

Charles argues that project managers perform a role in a business and through this form their professional identify and reputation. He says:

“Their credibility is built not on their knowledge of mechanised practices and administrative procedures, but on how they handle the complexities and challenges of the real project world.”

I agree that project managers are performers. When I go into a meeting I’m being an authentic version of myself but project management is the cloak I put on to get the job done. And I agree that the best project managers I work with know the tools but don’t much care about them. The important business of getting projects done happens around the edges of the project schedule, or risk log or any other of the essential documents for managing projects.

Generally I also like books with case studies and stories, and there are plenty of those, along with a discussion of what we can take from those experiences. [click to continue…]

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What I’m reading: March 2015

Great project management books

It’s true that what gets measured gets done. If I hadn’t confessed over the last two months that Susan Greenfield’s Mind Change had sat unread on the shelf then I would never have opened it. Writing about it here kept me accountable – eventually. I’m about halfway through and it was worth waiting for. It’s scary how malleable young minds are and now I have two of my own to shape I’m thinking twice about a lot of things, especially screen time.

I’ve also read Project Branding by Peter Taylor, which I had to get shipped from the US as it’s not available over here at the moment. It’s now decorated with sticky notes. I’m sure you have books like that too – full of comments and great ideas that you want to implement all marked up to put into practice…some day.

Fortunately, my boys are too young to get involved with the World Book Day dressing up, although a friend’s son went to school dressed as Supertato (as in superhero potato). As costumes go, I think she got lucky. Jack’s favourite Thomas character this month is Bertie and I’m not sure my sewing skills are up to sending him anywhere dressed as a bus.

Jeff Furman kindly sent me a copy of The Project Management Answer Book, now in its second edition with a flash red cover. Strictly speaking I haven’t actually read it yet but I feel like I have read parts of it already as I interviewed Jeff about it at the end of last year. The first edition was easy to read and very informative (and detailed) so this edition can only be better.

I’ve also read the Arras People Benchmark Report which is a very interesting take on the state of project management, mainly in the UK. It’s their 10th anniversary edition of the report, and the balance of male to female project managers hasn’t changed much since they started the survey.

There’s already a list of things waiting to be read next month including the proofs of a new book by Dave Shirley and Rich Maltzman, the authors behind Green Project Management. It’s about sustainability and project management – a cutting edge topic so I’m looking forward to that. You never know, I might actually get round to reading a novel as well.

What about you? Read anything good recently?

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