Sunday, June 28, 2009

Relax, have a seat in your comfy chair, and enjoy 'The Lazy Project Manager'

Now, here is a book that is in harmony with the postings on this page and also written in a style that accommodates my sense of humor and philosophy of project management.

The Lazy Project Manager, a brand-new book by Peter Taylor, is, by his own admission, not a methodology nor a replacement for a PM book, nor a preparation for the PMP Exam. It is, however, written by a gentleman who is a PMP and who has a great deal of real-world PM experience. So you should pay attention regardless of what the book isn't.

What the book is, instead, is a collection of wisdom and coaching about how to manage projects in such a way that you are active and assertive as a PM when you need to be and only when you need to be. The author, a fan (like me) of Monty Python (see the Comfy Chair sketch by clicking here), and silliness in general, adapts one of Python's gimmicks as the common thread throughout the book: "a project is thick at one end, much, much thinner in the middle and then thick again at the far end". This is the opposite of a dinosaur, as theorized by Anne Elk (brackets, Miss, brackets) who stated, in her very own theory, which was hers, "all brontosauruses are thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end".

Brontosauruses aside, the concept is that projects have the most need for attention and assertiveness by the PM at the starting and ending stages and in the middle need communication and management, yes, but in a much 'lazier', more monitoring and controlling fashion.

In his coaching and advice, the author tackles the usual suspects, feature and scope creep, the evils of email, reporting not being the same as communicating, dealing with a wide variety of project sponsors, and all cleverly illustrated not only with illustrations (the author is fond of two-by-two grids) but also illustrated with stories from his own experience and with jokes or brain teasers thrown in here and there.

Taylor does something that I have done on my blog and in my own writing - he gives you a chance to cheat. By cheating, I mean that he levels with you, the reader, the busy reader, the lazy reader, and says something like, "look, if you want to get to the bottom line, skip over to the last chapter now. You will miss some stuff but ... you'll get the idea". In fact, he even uses this principle of cheating itself to help explain the Pareto principle - a tactic I thought was particularly ingenious.

Another interesting thing about this book is the author's use of footnotes. Where many authors rely on footnotes only to reference their sources, Taylor instead takes the opportunity to provide a variety of other things in the footnotes. Don't skip them - or you will find yourself missing a recipe for a virgin bloody Mary.

So don't be lazy - get a hold of this book and read it, perhaps on a lazy summer afternoon.

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