Top positive review
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Lazy is a GOOD thing!
on November 19, 2009
As a practicing Project Manager (PM), I am always looking for ways to do my job better and for best practices that I can adopt. So, when the opportunity came my way to read this book, I jumped on it and am not sorry I did so. The Lazy in the title refers to doing things better so you do not have to do as much and the subtitle of this book is "How to be twice as productive and still leave the office early" which is a very worthy goal for anyone in any position and a skill that I would dearly love to learn!
The book itself is a very quick read. There are essentially only 100 pages of real text and the book's format is relatively small and there is lots of white space. I was able to read through it in a few hours time. The questions then becomes, is the time investment worth it? And, are you learning enough from reading this book to bother with it?
My answers are unqualified "yes"es!
While the book is short and snappy it does cover the main things that PMs should focus on and spend their time on. The author divides any project into three phases: Startup, execution, and conclusion. Most of the book is spent on the Startup phase as that is the time when you need to really work hard at the project to make it succeed. The author wisely focuses on the two most critical ingredients that will make or break any project: The planning work for how the project should be executed; and the communications process to make sure everyone involved with the project knows what the plans are and what to do about them. Everyone involved with the project includes the project sponsor and any outside influencers that may not be a formal part of the team, but are critical to the project's success. This phase also has the critical planning for how to combat the inevitable attempts at project scope creep.
For the execution part, the author's recommendation is to simply relax and let the team do its work according to the plans prepared. If you spent the time to plan properly, then in this stage all you need to do is monitor that the project is progressing as it should and delegate the real hard work to your team members. In the final stage, a strong recommendation is made to perform a "post-mortem" to learn valuable lessons that can be applied to other projects. Of course, battling project scope creep continues in these phases as well.
The writing style is breezy and light. This is not a negative thing! I liked the introduction of stories, quotes, and anecdotes that illustrated various points by either making fun of the author himself or complete tangents! (what does it say about me, that I got the point of the woman who buries her mother at first glance???) Many professional books tend to give anecdotes from the author's past in which the author is highlighted as always making the right choice and being the consistent hero. One of the strongest points of this book is that most of the anecdotes represent situations where the author was making missteps! Even an anecdote that has the project ultimately succeed is described as one where the author - the PM! - went off to a bar to drown his sorrows and consequently caused his team to do the right things and save the day! All by happenstance. I loved it!
The author talks initially of the Pareto principal where 20% of the work is responsible for 80% of the effects and he applies this at the end of the book by summarizing his teachings in two rounds. In the first round he summarizes his previous 100 pages into 13 bullets spanning six pages; and then he reiterates this to go down to 10 points spread across a page and a half! This works quite well as a reminder of what the book was about and represents well the kind of humorous approach that is evident throughout the book.
As someone who has been managing projects for over 20 years, the quality of his advice was also important to me. On the one hand, I did not learn anything that I did not know. On the other hand, it was nice for me to learn that I am indeed a `lazy' project manager!!! (his definition of lazy is someone who has intelligently planned the work and is diligent in smartly executing the work so you do not need to become a hero that spends many hundreds of extra hours in resolving unnecessary or avoidable crises). In short he advocates planning projects well in the beginning; allowing the team to resolve most of the problems that come up during the project reserving your efforts for those things that cannot be resolved by anyone else; conducting a post-mortem at the end of the project; and communicate, communicate, communicate non-stop. From my own personal experience I know that this is absolutely the right advice.
Should everyone who is in Project Management get a copy of this book? Almost. If you are new to it or are contemplating entering the field, then I would NOT recommend this book as you will probably get more value from reading one of the more extensive discussions of the nuts and bolts of how to run a project. This book will come into its own for you, and provide much value, only after you have a few projects under your belt and are ready to try and figure out how to be better at it. Nonetheless, given the quality of the advice, the great writing style, and the nice way in which these important concepts are stated, I give this book 5 stars.