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Customer Review

148 of 175 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Over praised, way too much, May 11, 2009
This review is from: Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management (Theory in Practice) (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 4, 2010, 8:54:45 PM PDT
I. Lopez says:
What book would you recommend instead of this one?

Posted on Jan 27, 2011, 3:48:00 AM PST
Would you have an alternative book, tape, etc. that you can recommend that is better than this one?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2011, 5:49:11 AM PST
Qiulang says:
For agile books I would also like to see others' recommendation; for "traditional" project management book (by "traditional" I mean it talks a lot about estimation, schedule, resource, etc.) I would recommend "Applied Software Project Management" and "Rapid development"

Posted on Feb 16, 2011, 8:28:52 PM PST
Nyghtingale says:
I think that your purpose in writing this review was merely to introduce what you perceive to be balance into the picture. This book is not really meant for those who engage in theoretical discussion; it is a handbook for those who take action, review the outcome, and take action as they advance toward their goal.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2011, 7:53:48 AM PDT
Qiulang says:
Well, like I said even for handbook it did not cover the important topic like risk management and spend too much time talking about how to deal with ideas, which is not so important from project management and getting thing done.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 24, 2011, 12:20:52 PM PDT
MissyM says:
I disagree - I think it depends what you are project managing. In my field (digital producer), dealing with ideas is THE most important thing we do!

Posted on Jan 18, 2012, 7:49:31 AM PST
I would disagree with this review in general. This book is a good handbook introducing several key concepts and bringing a perspective on Project and Program management. This is a start point, not an endpoint. You do need to continue to learn. Agile/LEAN/etc., Risk Management (SEI's CRM and its massive book are worth your time), finance and budgeting (I'd recommend a course or training), and so forth. As to reenforcing or introducing different thinking, this book does a fine job in ~350 pages.

Posted on Jan 5, 2013, 9:06:52 PM PST
John says:
Funny I think YOU are the target audience here. "Calm down" etc. etc... you sound like the type to stomp around in his office and shout at the messenger a bit, go scare your team, then expect them to fix it. Which is really just about everyone. These are lessons that are obvious in hindsight when told--not obvious to power-wielding idiots who think they know how to do a task and just wish the people beneath them would understand that they're mindless tools.

And what's wrong with considering a space alien attack? Are you telling me your shop never goes into a slump? Developers never get flimsy or suddenly need a vacation--all at once?

You want to get better at Project Management? Play the game of Go. Research Go and philosophy. You might learn something.

Posted on Jul 26, 2013, 6:20:51 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 26, 2013, 6:21:35 AM PDT
ZP says:
Hi Qiulang!

I'm writing to you because I'm doing one research for the writer Scott Berkum himself.
Was wondering if I could get your private email address?

Other people who read these books:
"Making Things Happen", "The Art of Project Management", and "The Myths of Innovation"
feel free to contact me as well.

Email me at: petroviczarko AT gmail DOT com

I'm trying to connect all the reviewers with Scott himself, as he will contact you regarding the launch of his next book! :)

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