New England Project Services

 

 

Book Reviews

The following are some books I have found helpful.

Books about project, portfolio & quality management

A Guide To The Project Management Body Of Knowledge
by The Project Management Institute
Great information about all aspects of project management ...read Mike Cooper's review

Project Planning, Scheduling & Control
A Hands-On Guide to Bringing Projects in on Time and on Budget
by James P. Lewis, 1995
An outstanding "how to" book with practical guidance...read Mike Cooper's review

Quantifying the Value of Project Management
Best Practices for Improving Project Management Processes, Systems, and Competencies
by: William Ibbs, Justin Reginato, 2002
The follow-up to "The Benefits of Project Management", this contains cost information on the "virtuous cycle of project management"...read Mike Cooper's review

In Search of Excellence in Project Management
Successful Practices in High Performance Organizations
by Harold Kerzner, 1998
Find out what companies are actually doing with project management...read Mike Cooper's review

Software Quality Management and ISO 9001
How to make them work for you
by Michael G. Jenner, 1995
Great for relating ISO 9001 to your organization...read Mike Cooper's review

Achieving Project Management Success Using Virtual Teams
by Parviz F. Rad and Ginger Levin, 2003
A useful addition to the project management knowledge base covering an area I have not seen well represented before....read Mike Cooper's review

IT Project Estimation
A Practical Guide to the Costing of Software
by Paul Coombs, 2003
The estimation process revealed - it does not have to be a black art....read Mike Cooper's review

Books about general business subjects

Solution Selling
Creating buyers in difficult selling markets
by Michael Bosworth, 1995
An outstanding book about the sales process, and understanding buyers - project managers often need to "sell"...read Mike Cooper's review

Visionary Business
An Entrepreneur's Guide to Success
by Marc Allen, 1997
For those starting or looking to improve a small business...read Mike Cooper's review

The Consultant's Calling
Bringing who you are to what you do
by Geoffrey M. Bellman, 1990
Understand more about being a consultant...read Mike Cooper's review

Real Change Leaders
How you can create growth and high performance at your company
by Jon R. Katzenbach and the RCL Team, 1996
New ways change is really happening in many organizations...read Mike Cooper's review

The New Pioneers
The Men and Women Who Are Transforming the Workplace and Marketplace
by Thomas Petzinger, Jr., 1999
Inspiring examples of new ways of working...read Mike Cooper's review

Jack Welch and the GE Way
Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO
by Robert Slater, 1999
Big themes that make common sense for many organizations, not just large ones...read Mike Cooper's review

The Dilbert Principle
A Cubicle's-Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions
by Scott Adams, 1996
Classic Humor, you've probably read this one...read Mike Cooper's review

Books about more interpersonal subjects

Managers as Mentors
Building Partnerships for Learning
by Chip R. Bell, 1998
Outstanding book on what mentoring should really be about...read Mike Cooper's review

The Employee Handbook of New Work Habits For A Radically Changing World
13 ground rules for job success in the information age
by Price Pritchett, 1994
Makes you think about fitting into the changing world...read Mike Cooper's review

Stewardship
Choosing Service Over Self-Interest
by Peter Block, 1996
Changing how managers behave...read Mike Cooper's review

The Power of Purpose
Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work
by Richard J. Leider, 1997
Many of you know you are in the wrong job, yet you don't move. Why?...read Mike Cooper's review


ALL REVIEWS

A Guide To The Project Management Body Of Knowledge
by The Project Management Institute, review by Mike Cooper

Great information about all aspects of project management
Identifies and describes aspects of project management that are generally accepted across all industries.  As the official publication of the PMI on this subject, it is an excellent reference guide for anyone interested in the profession of project management.

It will not give you a cookie cutter step by step approach to project management, so you need to interpret it and take what actions you deem are appropriate for your situation.   It can form the basis for project management practices in an organization.


Project Planning, Scheduling & Control
A Hands-On Guide to Bringing Projects in on Time and on Budget
by James P. Lewis, 1995, review by Mike Cooper (a revised edition was published in 2000)

An outstanding "how to" book with practical guidance
I have
recommended this book to many new project managers.  Considering both the human and technical sides of project management, the book provides a great step by step approach to the subject. (Skip chapter 6 "Schedule Computations", since scheduling tools like Microsoft Project hide the need for you to understand these details).

It is this direct applicability to the work of a project manager that makes the book so good. The Project Management Institute's Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) gives information about all aspects of project management - James Lewis's book brings this to life by showing you how to actually execute many of the processes.

(Note that I have the 1995 edition, I have not read the current 2000 edition)


Quantifying the Value of Project Management
Best Practices for Improving Project Management Processes, Systems, and Competencies
by: William Ibbs, Justin Reginato, 2002, review by Mike Cooper

The follow-up to "The Benefits of Project Management", this contains cost information on the "virtuous cycle of project management".
William Ibbs continues his research into project management, partially funded by the Project Management Institute.  Buy this in preference to The Benefits of Project Management if you only get one of these.  This short book documents the latest findings, this time concluding that project management does indeed have value. The three key quantitative findings are:

  1. Companies with more mature project management practices have better project performance.

  2. Project management maturity is strongly correlated with more predictable project management schedule and cost performance.

  3. Good project management companies have lower direct costs that poor project management companies.

These findings, and the manner in which they are presented, should help people make powerful arguments for improvements in project management practices in their company.  There is guidance on the steps you will go through from poor PM activities to good PM activities - the "virtuous cycle of project management".


In Search of Excellence in Project Management
Successful Practices in High Performance Organizations
by Harold Kerzner, 1998, review by Mike Cooper

Find out what companies are actually doing with project management
An excellent study of the subject of project management and how it is understood and applied in a number of companies.  Also contains project management maturity and project management excellence questionnaires. .

There are little gems throughout the book, such as "One or two years is a reasonable time frame for aggressive companies to reach the growth phase" (of the project management life cycle, prior phases being embryonic, executive management acceptance, and line management acceptance).


Software Quality Management and ISO 9001
How to make them work for you
by Michael G. Jenner, 1995, review by Mike Cooper

Great for relating ISO 9001 to your organization, although not quite up to date
Takes a step by step approach through the ISO 9001 standard, and really helps you figure out how you can implement it.  As with any process or standard, please make sure you understand what your real drivers are before implementing a program - what business value do you expect to get out of it?  The ISO 9000 series of standards has been updated since this was written, so make sure you relate the contents to the latest version of the standard.

Achieving Project Management Success Using Virtual Teams
by Parviz F. Rad and Ginger Levin, 2003, review by Mike Cooper

The book does admit many similarities between running projects with dispersed team members and those where team members are co-located, and determines that it is important to define project management for all projects, then focus on the differences that come from dispersed teams. This means it can take a while to sift through it to find out points that relate specifically to virtual teams. Although it takes time to find, the book does document a good set of things to be careful about when running projects with virtual teams.  Additionally, there are questionnaires to help determine the effectiveness of your virtual teams, and an organizational maturity model for virtual teams to help you understand what you might be capable of striving for.

All told, this book does provide helpful information in a reasonably informative manner, although I would have liked to see some kind of "quick summary of issues to watch out for and plan for" for experienced project managers.  It is a useful addition to the project management knowledge base and covers an area I have not seen well represented before.

Some of the helpful comments from the book relate to the following:

Communications - well, we all say this is more difficult, but what specifically? The book identifies the following:

  • confirming understanding of messages

  • more difficult to judge personality

  • a feeling of lack of recognition of effort / work results from remote team member

Some areas of projects that become more complex are:

  • requirements analysis

  • integration management

  • configuration management

Some new / modified approaches are needed:

  • more leadership skills are needed, at each remote location

  • meetings need to be even more focused when they are held via phone / video

  • email guidelines should be given

  • use of some kind of web based team room in place of a physical project war room

Also noted was that people are more likely to be focused on their individual tasks than the overall project (a potential negative), and that you may get less groupthink and more novel ideas (a potential positive).


IT Project Estimation
A Practical Guide to the Costing of Software
by Paul Coombs, 2003, review by Mike Cooper

I've known Paul Coombs for over 20 years, having worked with him at Logica in the 1980's.  He was always one of the most practical software developers / designers I had the pleasure to work with - avoiding unnecessary complications and looking for appropriate ways to tackle problems.  His approach to estimating followed this trend, as he always looked for ways to turn estimating from a black art into a more precise process.

Paul has more experience than most of developing systems, and like many of us has experienced first hand the problems caused by poor estimation.  In this book he provides an easy to follow series of steps towards getting realistic estimates, and why they are important.  There is discussion of various estimating techniques, and their pros and cons.  Along with the book comes a CD with a cost model spreadsheet to help you develop project budgets that take into consideration contingency.  (This model is somewhat similar to that available from the tools area of our website, although it makes for explicit allowance of contingency at the task level).

If you are new to software estimating and find even this straightforward book daunting (it may appear that there is much work to do, but in fact if you want an accurate estimate there is much work to do) then at least read and take into consideration his 12 "Blindingly Obvious Rules of Estimation", the first of which is "Your estimate will be wrong".  If you find it strange that a book explaining how to estimate says up front that in spite of your best efforts your estimate will be wrong, then but the book to find out why, and what this means.

There are some British phrases in the book which may confuse US readers, primarily the use of the phrase "bespoke software" in place of "custom software", and where he talks about the task list I'd like to see him refer to it as the Work Breakdown Structure, but these are minor inconveniences in what is an excellent treatise on the tricky subject of estimating software development projects.


Solution Selling
Creating buyers in difficult selling markets
by Michael Bosworth, 1995, review by Mike Cooper

Learn about the psychology of buyers, and an effective sales process
I love this book!
  So why do project managers need to know about selling?  Selling is needed in many different situations, not just when a "sales" person is trying to get you to buy something.  Maybe as a project manager you are involved in helping the organization decide whether a project should be done or not.  This can involve persuading people to agree to go ahead with the project - you may need to get them to see the benefits.  If so, this book may help you.  If you are a project manager working for a vendor, then you may be directly involved in a sales process, helping your company win the business.  Even if you have not been directly involved, you are representing your company and are often the front person for winning additional follow-on business. In this case, the book may be much more directly relevant to you.

Michael Bosworth has developed a model for selling which he explains in this book.  It focuses on how to sell intangibles - solutions, rather than how to sell a widget type product.  His writing style is excellent, and the book is packed full of real life examples.  These examples make for wonderful reading - he says how he has seen sales staff squirm when facing tough buyers, and indicates how he helped them in the situation.  These examples make for great bedtime reading!

When I worked for a solution oriented vendor, Logica, we implemented the Solution Selling process in our company.  This was done via a multi-day training class, with supporting tools.  I have continued to use (and therefore remember!) some of the basic principles of this sales approach.  There are a few other formal sales process, but this one seems naturally easy to understand, powerful in its implementation, and was very well aligned with what we were selling.  As a delivery oriented person, I found it exciting to see that selling could be broken down into an understandable process.  I could almost treat a sale as a project!

A paper that my colleague Frank Winters and I wrote about coordinating sales and project management utilizes and references Solution Selling.  The business capture toolset available on our website also provides templates aligned with some aspects of Solution Selling - note that this is NOT a full set of Solution Selling templates.

I highly recommend this book to a wide variety of people, not just sales staff.  As a project manager and line manager I have found it very helpful, and I have seen business analysts at internal IT departments requesting Solution Selling training because they knew that their interactions with their internal business clients would benefit from this.


Visionary Business
An Entrepreneur's Guide to Success
by Marc Allen, 1997, review by Mike Cooper

For those starting or looking to improve a small business
Written as a fictionalized account of a true story, this book illustrates how to overcome some of the struggles a small business and the people intimately involved with it encounter as the business grows.  A light read yet one which fosters the understanding of great insights.  Compelling, and I am sure I will be referring to this book again on many occasions.

The Consultant's Calling
Bringing who you are to what you do
by Geoffrey M. Bellman, 1990, review by Mike Cooper

Understand more about being a consultant
An excellent book on what it takes to be a consultant at heart.  Discusses how to think and behave - this is now one of my personal favorites, aligning perfectly with what we have chosen to do as consultants.  There are numerous notes we make made from this book, one example being the potentially provocative statement that "if it is important, you cannot measure it".  Read the book to find out more about this!

Real Change Leaders
How you can create growth and high performance at your company
by Jon R. Katzenbach and the RCL Team, 1996, review by Mike Cooper

New ways change is really happening in many organizations
This book describes how mid-level managers are changing organizations in novel ways, and are fast becoming the real innovators of change - hence the title.  Provides many in depth real world stories, together with a handbook for action for those who want to pursue this more in their organization.

The New Pioneers
The Men and Women Who Are Transforming the Workplace and Marketplace
by Thomas Petzinger, Jr., 1999, review by Mike Cooper

Inspiring examples of new ways of working
I was a fan of Thomas Petzinger's weekly articles in the Wall Street Journal "The Front Lines" column (he has stopped writing these, feeling the time was right to move onto other things).  He provided wonderful stories about people taking a novel position in today's changing economy.  These have been collected in this book, coming together to illustrate an ongoing revolution happening in the marketplace. One of those books you can dip into any part of it and find gems.

Jack Welch and the GE Way
Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO
by Robert Slater, 1999, review by Mike Cooper

Big themes that make common sense for many organizations, not just large ones
I found this to contain plenty of simple messages and themes that extolled the virtues of keeping things simple.  Jack's phrase "People always overestimate how complex business is. This isn't rocket science." is something I always try and keep in mind as I do my own consulting - and this comes from the CEO of one of the largest companies in the world, who states that "...simplification is the next goal in making our revolution work".  There was a valiant attempt to connect Jack's initial thinking and decision about a key theme to how it is actually rolled out into a company as big as GE's, but this is an area I would like to see explored some more, perhaps in a follow-up book.  The only downside I felt reading this was the author's occasional over the top congratulating of Jack - but stick with his messages, how he portrayed them, and the actions and results that were accomplished, to get the most learning out of what I believe is a great management book.

The Dilbert Principle
A Cubicle's-Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions
by Scott Adams, 1996, review by Mike Cooper

Classic Humor, you've probably read this one
While most companies will be striving to make sure they act the opposite way to how Dilbert's company does, I am fascinated by Scott Adams OA5 (Out At 5) company model.  Has anyone tried to implement this? I often find that I am most productive when I have to do a zillion things and have a deadline to catch a plane.  That helps focus the mind on what is important, and actually getting appropriate stuff done instead of just being busy.

Managers as Mentors
Building Partnerships for Learning
by Chip R. Bell, 1998, review by Mike Cooper

Outstanding book on what mentoring should really be about
I have had the pleasure of meeting Chip, which has only reinforced my belief in the value of this book.  I think I have scribbled down notes and marked more pages on this book than any other I have read. I have mentored people over the years, but reading this made me see where I was missing out on opportunities to take the mentorship to new levels, primarily by making it much more of a two way rather than one way relationship.

The Employee Handbook of New Work Habits For A Radically Changing World
13 ground rules for job success in the information age
by Price Pritchett, 1994, review by Mike Cooper

Makes you think about fitting into the changing world
A CEO of a previous employer of mine gave a copy of this book to everyone in the company, in part I believe to help people understand why change is the only constant in our company.  This is a small booklet which illustrates what is changing and why, and how you as an individual need to get on board the change train. 

Stewardship
Choosing Service Over Self-Interest
by Peter Block, 1996, review by Mike Cooper

Changing how managers behave
This book really makes you think about why organizations are run the way they are, and if there is not a better way.  There is, and Peter explains it beautifully.  The concepts of stewardship over power and control can be applied equally to how you work at an individual one-on-one level as it does at the management level.  This is no accidental coincidence, since the heart of the message is changing your individual perception. I only want to work for people that are thinking this way, or want to move in this direction.

The Power of Purpose
Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work
by Richard J. Leider, 1997, review by Mike Cooper

Many of you know you are in the wrong job, yet you don't move. Why?
This book was given to me by a dear friend during a time when I was wondering what I should be doing with my career.  A book will not provide all the answers, or maybe even any of them, but it might help you think through the right questions.  It's easy to read, and if you are struggling with the question of why you are staying in a role that you really don't like, then maybe this will help.

In doing research for the book, the author interviewed many older people.  When asked the question "If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?", a consistent answer was:

- Be more reflective.
- Be more courageous.
- Be clear earlier about purpose.

I have captured some of my own struggles in articles on my personal website, www.westfordconsulting.com.

 

 

                         

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