There are very few project or program management books that interest me from the popular press. I read loads of DoD guides, technical books (Performance Based Earned Value, Paul Solomon), and really technical books (Effective Risk Management: Some Keys to Success, Dr. Edmund Conrow).
A new book arrived - The Handbook of Program Management, James T. Brown, McGraw Hill. The title is "nice" but it sat on the desk for a few weeks. I stuck it in my backpack for some reading while waiting at the airport. From the first pages on, this is a book written by a Professional Program Manager for Professional Program Managers. Many "how to" style books restate the obvious, assume you're a kid again, and provide really nice theory and not much practice. This is my pet peeve with many of the agile books, except Mike Cohn's.
Dr. Brown's book is not advice to the naive and uninformed. It is advice targeted to the knowledgeable Program Managers and some advice that is usable for everyone in the business of managing other peoples money. It's advice on the irreducible attributes of good program and project management. The core concept is quite simple:
Process trumps people and technology
This of course is anti-agile, but reading further it becomes crystal clear why process trumps people and technology. Process is the only thing that is "sticky" in most organization. People come and go. Technology changes every few quarters. All nontrivial projects and programs run on a consistent process.
Scrum is a consistent process. Scrum is a highly disciplined process. The notion that its "people over process" ignores the fact that one of the most effective agile software development methodologies is a highly disciplined, structured, process focused way of delivering on-time, on-budget, on-specification.
The core principles of the book are (from bottom to top):
- People Accountability
- Process Accountability
The critical concept is Achieving Discipline with Minimal Process. This is the basis of all good project management practices.
I'll write a full review when I finish the book. But for now, I'd recommend anyone interested in hearing how to manage Program's from a professional Program Manager, buy a copy.