Top critical review
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Over praised, way too much
on May 11, 2009
For those who gave this book a 5 star rating, I really suggest you think it again. To me, this book is over praised, way too much!! And there are several reasons why I am saying that.
First of all, the majority of the content has been expressed long before; I don't see anything new or groundbreaking. For example the author talked a lot about the importance of communication, trust, relationship, etc. in project management. But isn't that just common sense? Whoever does the project management job should know that pretty well. Not to mention that Agile/Scrum/XP guys have been saying these things for many years and in a much better and enlightened way.
Second, the book is flawed in the topics the authors chose to address. For example risk management is a big topic in project management, while there is only a chapter called "what to do when things go wrong" (which is not risk management exactly) and look at what he said, "calm down ... take responsibility ... do damage control ..." Again, common sense. And let's look at what the author said about the topic of execution, which makes things happen (Or "Getting things done") -- "Priorities Make Things Happen ... Things Happen When You Say No ... ". Well, I don't see any breakthrough ideas. And what I don't get is that, while the author spent so little time in talking about big topics like risk management and execution, he spent several chapters talking about how to deal with ideas, especially the ideas in design phase -- Chapter 5 "Where ideas come from" , Chapter 6 "What to do with ideas once you have them", Chapter 7 "Writing good specifications (i.e. writing the idea down)" and Chapter 8 "How to make good decisions (when facing several ideas)". For the book addressing the whole life cycle of project management, I just don't get the author's logic.
Third, it is very hard for you to read the book from cover to cover because there seems to be a tendency to go off at a tangent from time to time. The information the author represented in each chapter actually prevents you from concentrating on the central topics of that chapter.
The exercises introduced in second edition are artificial. The most obvious change introduced in the second edition is the exercises introduced in each chapters. They were said to be "thought-provoking". So let's just check some of them. This is an exercise in the chapter "what to do when things go wrong" -- "One week into development, space aliens attack your office and your entire programming staff is hit with an alien space ray that makes them 50% less talented. You are the only witness to the event, as the ray erased the staff's memory of the event. ... " Seriously, you really believe figuring this question out will help you improve your ability for managing crisis ? Okay let's check another exercise in chapter "writing the good vision", "Research visionaries. Select any two: Gandhi, Malcolm X, Thoreau, Buddha, Socrates, Jesus Christ, or Confucius. What were their visions? How did they develop their ideas? ..." We are not doing philosophy, are we? BTW I actually like the author changing the book title from "the art of project management" to "making things happen". The term "the art of" has been overused, but in its original meaning, I really think it should be only referred to the great books like "the art of computer programming"
I don't mean to be harsh here and I am not saying this book is not good at all. Just seeing there are so many praises like "beg to be read cover to cover" or "great/classic..." makes me believe someone should stand up and raise a different, supposedly objective voice.