Based on his nine years of experience as a program manager for Microsoft’s biggest projects, Berkun explains to technical and non-technical readers alike what it takes to lead critical projects from start to finish. Here are 16 chapters on the critical and common challenges of leading projects and managing teams, diagrams, photography, and war stories of success and failure. Berkun offers practical tools and methods to make sure your projects succeed.What To Do When Things Go Wrong
From Making Things Happen, Chapter 11
2. Evaluate the problem in relation to the project. Just because someone else thinks the sky has fallen doesn’t mean that it has. Is this really a problem at all? Whose problem is it? How much of the project (or its goals) is at risk or may need to change because of this situation: 5%? 20%? 90%? Put things in perspective. Will anyone die because of this mistake (you’re not a brain surgeon, are you?)? Will any cities be leveled? Plagues delivered on the innocent? Help everyone frame the problem to the right emotional and intellectual scale. Ask tons of questions and get people thinking rather than reacting. Work to eliminate assumptions. Make sure you have a tangible understanding of the problem and its true impact. Then, prioritize: emergency (now!), big concern (today), minor concern (this or next week), bogus (never). Know how long your fuse is to respond and prioritize this new issue against all existing work. If it’s a bogus issue, make sure whoever cried wolf learns some new questions to ask before raising the red flag again.
3. Calm down again. Now that you know something about the problem, you might really get upset (“How could those idiots let
4. Get the right people in the room Any major problem won’t impact you alone. Identify who else is most responsible, knowledgeable, and useful and get them in together straight away. Pull them out of other meetings and tasks: if it’s urgent, act with urgency, and interrupt anything that stands in your way. Sit them down, close the door, and run through what you learned in step 2. Keep this group small; the more complex the issue, the smaller the group should be. Also, consider that (often) you might not be part of this group: get the people in the room, communicate the problem, and then delegate. Offer your support, but get out of their way (seriously—leave the room if you’re not needed). Clearly identify who is in charge for driving this issue to resolution, whether it’s you or someone else.
5. Explore alternatives. After answering any questions and clarifying the situation, figure out what your options are. Sometimes this might take some research: delegate it out. Make sure it’s flagged as urgent if necessary; don’t ever assume people understand how urgent something is. Be as specific as possible in your expectation for when answers are needed.
6. Make the simplest plan. Weigh the options, pick the best choice, and make a simple plan. The best available choice is the best available choice, no matter how much it sucks (a crisis is not the time for idealism). The more urgent the issue, the simpler your plan. The bigger the hole you’re in, the more direct your path out of it should be. Break the plan into simple steps to make sure no one gets confused. Identify two lists of people: those whose approval you need for the plan, and those who need to be informed of the plan before it is executed. Go to the first group, present the plan, consider their feedback, and get their support. Then communicate that information to the second group.
7. Execute. Make it happen. Ensure whoever is doing the work was involved in the process and has an intimate understanding of why he’s doing it. There is no room for assumption or ambiguity. Have specific checkpoints (hourly, daily, weekly) to make sure the plan has the desired effect and to force you and others in power to consider any additional effort that needs to be spent on this issue. If new problems do arise, start over at step 1.
8. Debrief. After the fire is out, get the right people in the room and generate a list of lessons learned. (This group may be different from the right people in step 4 because you want to include people impacted by, but not involved in, the decision process.) Ask the question: “What can we do next time to avoid this?” The bigger the issue, the more answers you’ll have to this question. Prioritize the list. Consider who should be responsible for making sure each of the first few items happens.
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
If you haven't read the first edition, you're in for a great time! This isn't a reference book, nor is it a cheat-sheet for passing your PMP. Scott writes as friends chat over coffee. To really "get it" you need that same head game. Find your personal motivation for making things happen, either at work or in your life, and slowly reflect on a single chapter over a hot cup of joe. Even better, find a couple friends who are just as success driven as you and work through the exercises together.
My introversion is so strong that last sentence was almost painful to write, but a deeply reflective level of mental processing is what you need for this book. When you have a chapter in your head you can go over the events of the past week and generally find ways you could have handled something better. Write them down, go implement the ideas, and keep doing that as your success rate grows. Use the exercies as dry-run scenarios and really put some thought into them. Build your experience and expertise in the shadows; when the spotlight is on you'll be ready to make things happen in a big way.
- Note that it is the new edition of The Art of Project Management.
- You will gain personal motivation to make things happen either at work or in life.
- The book covers how to be a great project manager, from gathering ideas to managing teams and schedules.
- It may not be all new news, but it's all the best management practices in one well-designed book.
- He introduces several key concepts and brings perspective to areas that may seem like common sense, but as the wise saying goes: "We need not be so much instructed but reminded."
- This book is more than just an overview, but you do need to continue to learn. For more in-depth looks into project management, one can read up on the Agile Manifesto, Lean Kanban principles; SEI's CRM for risk management; and The Practice of Creativity: A Manual for Dynamic Group Problem-Solving
- Scott Berkun's style of writing is really wonderful. His voice is both practical and vivid, engaging and clear. His level of expertise in communicating what it means to be a great project manager has transcended from author to teacher, which means you know he's good!
I hope you find this review helpful. Now, go make things happen!
01. History of Project Management
I - PLANS
03. What To Do
05. Ideas and how they come about
06. What do to with your great idea
II - SKILLS
07. Writing good specifications
08. Good decision-making
09. Communication and relationships
10. Process, Email, Meetings - Don't waste people's time
11. When things go wrong
III - MANAGEMENT
12. Leadership & Trust
13. Making things happen
14. Middle-game strategy
15. End-game strategy
16. Power and Politics
I was originally going to Highly Recommend this book but I think it's so fantastic I'm going to up it to HPR. If you are any way related to making progress at your job or possibly even life this can be useful, this book is a must read... NOW.
***** HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION
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)".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
On time as promised. Excellent Amazon seller. Does not discuss how to make the 1,000,000 matches in a barrel thing, just something about management stuff.Published 14 days ago by Jolene Nash
The book is easy to read and funny as I have experienced similar situations in my professional life.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
I enjoyed this book when it first came out as "The Art of Project Management", and I like it more now. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Dave in Denver
Too wordy, he could have summarized a lot and still deliver the ideaPublished 6 months ago by abraham
Awesome and practical. Recommended for green and seasoned project managers alike! Not just academic but great practical tips that get beyond the bureaucracy and help you get things... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Project reader
Maybe it is because I'm a techie who also has a social life, but since Scott learned through his experiences at Microsoft I feel like I'm sitting with him as he tells me these... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Jagger Coffey
This is one of those books that should be read in chunks. It was surprising that the author tried to be economical with his words yet the book seemed to go on and on. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Robert Kirk