There are several shelves of books about many topics in our house. Project Management and related topics are in the Office. The list of books below have specific attributes. They have not only been read, they have been marked up, reread, and used in practice. I have many books that are read, but not marked up. Other books that have been read, marked up, but not put into practice. And a hand full of books that have all three attributes plus one more. The contents of the book has changes how I do my job.
There are other books that I've read, marked up, and concluded the content was either not applicable to the problems I work on, or in a few cases complete nonsense. By this I mean the content is not only not appropriate to the problems I work, but if applied will result in disappointment.
So here's my must have list. This list is not populist in nature. By populist I mean a book or paper in which you CANNOT calculate some outcome. A populist book is something to read if you are just coming to the topic and want to discover the lay of the land.The books listed here are nit populist books
This list is in no particular order, other than they were taken off the shelf in this order. One other attribute is if I know or met the author.
General Project Management
These books are about the general concepts of managing projects, including agile projects. They are from authors who are or have recently benn project and program managers. This is important for the simple reason that who wants to read about something from someone that actually doesn't practice what is in the book. By the way, project management techniques that do not address agile approaches are not that useful anymore. As well, authors with 1996 style credentials have likely been passed by the current approaches as well.
- Making the Impossible Possible: Leading Extraordinary Performance, Kim Cameron and Marc Lavine - this is a case study about the management processes at Rocky Flats. Here's a quick summary of the concept of Positive Deviance and Heliotropic Abundance.
- Strategic Performance Management: Leveraging and Measuring your Intangible Value Drivers - Bernard Marr speaks to managing the business value from projects. There is lots of discussion around this, with lots of soft terms. This is a book that turns that populist view into a balance sheet view.
- The Handbook of Program Management, James T. Brown - I have met Dr. Brown. He is a former Program Manager at NASA. This is a book about program management. Program Management is about managing collections of projects. It is a hands on instructional advice type of book.
- The Radical Elements of Radical Success, Dan Ward - this is a book from a person practicing Program Management. Dan is an Air Force procurement officer, just back from theater. It's one of those books that causes me to think. Dan and I have had long discussions about the issues in government procurement. Here's a pre-defined search for Dan's work
- Project Management the Agile Way, John C, Goodpasture - I know John professionally, but have never been face to face. John and I share many common principles. This book is published by Management Concepts, which I do work for. MC publishes books, provides courses, and services for the Federal Government. John's book shows you how to deploy agile processes in the presence of the governance based environment. One where you are spending other peoples money and are accountable for success to external parties, like the Federal Government, a Board of Directors, and share holders.
- Flawless Execution, James D. Murphy - I cam across the After Burners at a PMI conference. The speakers are all ex-fighter pilots. There approach is logical, concise, and clear. The perfect paradigm for managing projects. This approach is not for everyone. It holds all members accountable for their actions, builds teams in ways not found in any other approach and is not one of those touchy feely styles.
- Catastrophe Disentanglement: Getting Software Projects Back on Track, E. M. Bennatan - there are many books about recovering projects. I'm reading another and writing a review. But this book is a check list book, with a step-by-step process of recovering projects.
- Beyond the Hype, Robert G. Eccles and Nitin Nohria - this is one of those must read for anyone interested in processes. Many if not most of the new ideas are actually old ideas in new cloths. Or worse, poor copies of old ideas promoted by self aggrandizing authors who know how to market. This book speaks to the problem of not knowing the past, so you
- Reinventing Project Management, Aaron J. Shenhar and Dav Dvir - this is a good starting point for PM in the IT environment. With field proven approaches, the books provides the step-by-step activities needed to manage projects in the Enterprise business domains.
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey - this is one of my populist books that has direct applicability to project management. Our method - Performance Based Management - contains most of the content of Covey's book is for Project Manager, including the Performance Based Management process we use on our programs.
- The Seven Secrets if How to Think Like A Rocket Scientist -Jim Longuski describes the processes needed to manage complex projects. It's a check list of items rarely thought about in the normal project management paradigm. This is done, because the domain Jim works in has projects that blow up and kill people of not properly managed.
- A Bee in a Cathedral - Joel Levy's book is here because using analogies in the project management world is very common. And most often the analogies are bogus. read this to see how to use analogies properly, since they are powerful tools to get points across, reveal understanding.
There are so many books on leadership in the project management space. I'm simply burned out listening to all the voices on leadership from folks who speak and write about the topic, but who have not actually lead people under circumstances that require real leadership. Here's the books that you need from those people who have.
- How NASA Builds Teams - Pellerin led the Hubble Space Telescope program and speaks to how that worked and didn't work.
- Augustine's Laws - Norman was the leader of Martin Marietta here in Denver. These Laws are general business processes but for high tech firms.
- 8 Basic Habits if Exceptionally Powerful Lieutenants - this book and the next come from the Air University Press, many in downloadable PDF.
- Commanding an Air Force Squadron in the Twenty-First Century - this is another survey books about how leaders learn to lead.
In the aerospace and defense business Program Management is a Systems Engineering paradigm. This is because the technical architecture of the program has to be matched with the programmatic architecture. The product that is being designed must also be built and shipped. This means the value stream flow of work needs an architecture as well. This is the purpose of the Integrated Master Plan (IMP) and the Systems Engineering Management Plan (SEMP)
These books are the basis for being a good project manager. Here's a list of specific topics, meaning more technical, needed for project success.
- System Engineering: Coping with Complexity, Richard Stevens - this is another handbook for designing, developing, and deploying systems.
- The Art of Systems Architecting, Second Editon, Mark W. Maier and Eberhardt Rechtin - everything is a system. No those silly descriptions of those populist systems where you can't design or calculate anything. But system we encounter in the real world. The air traffic control system, the banking system, the internet, the enterprise IT systems, manned space flight, building the 787. Systems like that. Rechtin is the father of the approaches used to build real systems. Yes, people are in these systems. And people are an important part, but in these types of systems, the components of the system are the basis of success.
There are lots of risk management books, articles, websites, and Bloggers out there. Here are the two you should own and read.
- Risk Happens!: Managing Risk and Avoiding Failure in Business Projects, Mike Clayton - I've corresponded with Mike for several years. This is a great book for starting the process of risk management. It follows the steps defined in many locations - the best is the SEI Continuous Risk Management (CRM) model. There are simialr guides from DOD and DOE. PMI has a Risk Management Practice Guide, but like most things PMI they have their own way of doing things and rearrange the work processes.
As an aside determining risk drivers is a critical success factor for any Risk Management process. Typically risk management means making lists of risks, ranking them, and doing some kind of handling. This is not only naive, but it is wrong. You must determine which risks drive which undesirable outcomes of your project. Start with A Framework for Categorizing Key Drivers of Risk and Taxonomy-Based Risk Identification. I worked with one of the authors.
- Effective Risk Management: Some Keys to Success, Edmund Conrow - I've worked with Ed on a proposal and he turned me on to several concepts that I use daily. The first is the serious error in the PMBOK about multiplying the probability of occurrence with the ranked outcome to produce a risk score. This is not mathematically possible, since both are probability distirbution functions. The Method of Moments can help if you don't have a Monte Carlo Simulator. But if you don't buy Ed's book and read how to do Risk Management the right way.
- Effective Opportunity Management for Projects: Exploiting Positive Risk, David Hillson - I have met David, and spoken with him over the web. This is good book for addressing the opportunity concept. You should read Conrow's advice for mixing opportunity and risk before doing so yourself.
Earned Value Management
There aren't really a lot of books about Earned Value Management. But there is a ton of misinformation about how EV is used, no used, applied, and misapplied. So these books and sources should be the starting point
- Performance Based Earned Value - Paul's book came out a few years ago, and the ideas have been with me ever since. The notion that Technical Performance Measures are part of Earned Value was present in the C/SCSC days, but was lost in 748-B and needs to come back. See Paul web site of the same name for good background.
- Earned Value Management Intent Guide - is the National Defense Industry Association's offical document for US Government Earned Value Management. This guide tells you how to comply with the 32 Guidelines of Earned Value Management. For most projects outside the government this is not applicable. But you should read this anyway, just to have an understanding of what the largest implementations look like.
- Earned Value Management Maturity Maturity Model - Ray's book provides a framework for assessing the processes needed to improve the maturity of your Earned Value Management implementation
- Earned Value Management site at the Office of Secretary of Defense, Performance Assessments and Root Cause Analysis.
- Earned Value Management at the NASA site has lots of background as well.
There are other sources of Earned Value, even in the agile world. But care is needed. To properly use Earned Value you must be able to do several things:
- Maintain a baseline of the capabilties at least - the end outcomes of the project should not be changing
- Know the total budget - the end budget and some notion of how this is spread over time.
- Have some measure of physical percent complete and know how much physical percent complete you should be at when you measure it.
If you can't do these, you shoulded be considering Earned Value for your project
Statistics and Math
Project managers need to know somethings about probability and statistics. All the numbers in project management, cost, durations, head count, technical performance are random numbers. In the absence of knowing how to use statistics and probability, you're going to be late and over budget before you start.
- How to Lie With Statistics - every PM must have this book, must have read it, and must put it to use. When you have a conversation with anyone on the project, have this conversation in the context of this book.
- Then get Advanced Statistics Demystified or Statistics for Dummies and learn about sampling, variances, inferences, and other models of how your project is going to be working even if you don't know that is working that way.