Thursday, February 09, 2006

Reading :: The Art of Project Management

Originally posted: Thu, 09 Feb 2006 22:14:23

The Art of Project Management

by Scott Berkun

I'm looking at's listing for Berkun's The Art of Project Management right now, and the page recommends that I buy the book along with David Allen's Getting Things Done. It's hardly a coincidence. Project management and time management both deal with work fragmentation, an increasingly pervasive phenomenon. Both are vital skills for knowledge economy jobs, especially software development. And although they deal with different levels -- collaborative vs. personal -- they share many similarities.

Not coincidentally, they both represent skills that I need to develop as well as scholarly interests that I am pursuing. So I've been reading several project management and time management texts (and studies) lately. Berkun's book interested me because it had gotten a very positive mention from Slashdot.

Berkun was a project manager at Microsoft for several years before striking out on his own. Not surprisingly, his book trades on this fact, offering scads of anecdotes and illustrations from his Microsoft years. These stories really are illustrations: They illustrate specific, well grounded principles under the headings of plans, skills, and management. Berkun is methodical in exploring these different headings, and his writing style is clear (although he sometimes tries too much to be clever).

The projects that Berkun is talking about managing tend to be software development projects, and much of his advice is specific to that industry. But much more of it is easily translated to other sorts of projects. In particular, I was interested in the last chapter, "Power and Politics." Berkun tends to oversimplify things a bit here, but he discusses several concrete techniques for negotiating, persuading, and influencing decisions.

The book is a quick read, but it's also solid (392 pages) and a bit intimidating. Fortunately, it's written so that you can skim it and/or focus on specific chapters. If you're interested in complex project management, take a look.

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