|The Principles of Project Management|
|publisher||SitePoint / O'Reilly|
|summary||A practical introduction to project management|
Once you have decided to undertake a project, the next steps involve a proposal, identifying stakeholders, setting up an organizational chart and establishing communication protocols. This is the soft skill side of project management — a lot of the work is keeping the people the project is for interested and informed on where the project is heading. Much of the advice is practical — including dealing with the stakeholders who just aren't that interested in your project and picking a good project board — the less the better. Finally, once this is established it's time to make sure everyone is on the same page and agreed on the deliverables (the specific things the project will achieve).
By chapter three ("Getting the Job Done") we're into the actual material many readers (including myself) think of as project management — setting schedules, breaking deliverables into discrete tasks. For that, there's a lot of practical advice here — especially around making estimates and communicating them to stakeholders and team-members so they are not mis-interpreted as wild guesses or hard dates. Particularly good was the advice on refining estimates from a general size (is it a small, large or extra-large task), then, as the date got closer, change it to a more accurate estimate. As well as measuring performance, some management tools like work-flow and Gantt charts and issue lists are introduced in this chapter.
The last two chapters look at managing your team and completing the project. The "Keeping it smooth" chapter gives a good overview of the people management skills you will need working with team members. There's a fair bit of overage of team building (forming, storming, performing and adjourning) and a bit of coverage of collaboration over distances. Having done some small group management in the past, I think it covers all the bases well and it's applicable outside of project management as well.
Like many of the new SitePoint books this book explains a complex topic with a few illustrations and a clean layout. They're using that humorous information schema (light-bulb, bicycle horn, hand grenade) to good effect. One example of this is in Getting Started chapter: There is a section talking about what goes in a Project Initiation Document (PID), and there are break-out boxes on what it is not meant to take the place of.
For an example of the layout, the "Keeping it Smooth" chapter is a good example of how this book is organized; Topics are broken up by headings with points arranged as lists of short paragraphs, which makes it easy to skim. While it's a small book — 200 pages, about 25x20 cm — it's still good to be able to skim.
The glossary covers the particular usage of words in the project management domain.
Appendixes A-C list some tools,other resources (books and blogs) and C provides a list of qualifications and associations.
For a topic I was quite unfamiliar with when I started, I'd recommend this book as a good overview to the topic. The chapters follow a chronological order through a project — from picking a project — including those to avoid — planning and executing, managing the staff and stakeholders and finally, finishing your project and handing it off.
The author, Meri Williams, writes two blogs: GeekManager and Meriblog which readers might want to check out for further material. While each field has it's jargon, project management has a number to learn — and this book does a good job explain it.
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