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7 Books Every Project Manager Should Read

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson
October 5, 2020
6 min read
7 Books Every Project Manager Should Read
What makes a good project manager? Effective PM possess a unique blend of essential qualities, encompassing leadership and negotiation skills, the ability to effortlessly handle multiple tasks, efficient team coordination and time management prowess, coupled with keen analytical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Today, there are dozens of various books to help project managers learn or hone the skills they need to achieve better management results. But as the more books are being introduced every year on the market, the harder it gets to pick the right one.

We’ve searched through reviews and asked for recommendations from our colleagues to put together the list of 7 must-read books. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re new to project management, or a pro, there’s always something to learn from an eloquent and gripping book. Enjoy!

#1: The Deadline: A Novel about Project Management by Tom DeMarco

Tom DeMarco is a well-known author and experienced project manager for software development. His engaging novel vividly illustrates various PM aspects such as managing people and teams, motivation and productivity. The plot is centered around a manager who is given tasks to carry out six comprehensive projects with a huge development team and significant deadline pressure.

During this experience, he tests the project management principles he has gathered over a lifetime. At the end of each chapter, the protagonist summarizes his thoughts and observations in journal entries which lots of managers will find painfully true. This book is written in an entertaining way, the author provides easily understandable insights into project management.

#2: Everything is Negotiable by Gavin Kennedy

In day-to-day work, a project manager often faces numerous kinds of disagreements that might impact project outcomes. Therefore, strong negotiation skills are essential to ensure the success of any project. In Everything is Negotiable, expert negotiator Gavin Kennedy provides real-life cases and navigates you through all the techniques, tips and tricks you need to know to achieve the best possible result in any situation.

The author discusses psychological traps and errors in setting priorities and provides examples of critical situations that can still be improved. The book challenges common stereotypes and assumptions, showing the wrong concepts and principles of the negotiation process. Gavin Kennedy explains how to avoid missing opportunities to make better deals for yourself and your company. This is a great and insightful book for anyone who wants to improve their negotiation skills.

#3: Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

This book, written by the founder of the Scrum method, is mandatory reading for any manager. It gives you the background and context of Scrum and serves as a starting point on learning this framework. The book shows you how to deliver projects in less time and more efficiently. The core idea of Scrum methodology is an iterative approach to project planning and implementation.

Unlike the classic approach, when the project is initially planned from start to finish, and the result is somewhere “at the end of the way”, this method allows you to get the project outcome more speedily with fewer costs. This approach helps you easily address constant changes in customer requirements and bring maximum value to your clients.

#4: Start With No: The Negotiating Tools That the Pros Don’t Want You to Know by Jim Camp

Jim Camp is a negotiation coach with customers all over the world. In his book, he demonstrates how to relieve the emotional pressure that’s part of any negotiation by utilizing his system of decision-based negotiation. This enables you to meet all your goals without needless compromises. You’ll learn how to stop depending on the outcome of negotiations that you can’t control and concentrate on what you can control — on your own behavior.

Start with No is filled with dozens of business and personal stories exemplifying each point of the system. This book covers what and how to talk during negotiation, how to guide your opponent with the right questions; how to confront a strong opponent using pressure and manipulation. If you are looking to improve your negotiation skills, this book is the one for you.

#5: Making Things Happen by Scott Berkun

Making Things Happen is a classic and insightful bestseller on managing and leading project teams. In his book, Berkun explains to the readers how to manage critical projects from beginning to end but he does it in a very comfortable style and easy tone. Unlike many books devoted to the project and team management, this book does not teach you any new methods or praise any great theories.

Scott Berkun considers real-life experience, practical tools and a variety of approaches as the key to success. The book describes the main difficulties and tricky situations the PM often encounters and provides recommendations on how to overcome these situations.

#6: Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt

In Critical Chain, a business management guru Eliyahu Goldratt provides powerful yet easy techniques to solve project management’s hardest problems. Written in 1997, this book is still timely and will benefit managers that develop highly innovative new products. In his book, Goldratt introduces his concept of project management called Critical Chain.

One of the main ideas this approach suggests is that managers should focus only on the deadlines of completing the whole project and not on each task. He also suggests reducing the planned time for each task twice and putting half of the remaining time into the total project buffer. Besides, the author presents the negative aspects of multitasking as well as techniques on how to remain focused on the few key areas.

The years that have passed since the book was published have proved the effectiveness of the Critical Chain method and it is still widely used in high-tech industries.

#7: The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard

Written by Ken Blanchard, this book introduces three practical techniques of an effective manager: one-minute goals, one-minute praisings and one-minute reprimands. Each of these techniques takes only a minute but has lasting benefit.

For more than twenty years, millions of managers worldwide have followed The One Minute Manager’s methods which helped them to increase their productivity, job satisfaction, and personal prosperity. In this easy-to-read story, you will discover several studies in medicine and the behavioral sciences which help you to understand why these apparently simple methods work so well with so many people.

See the most answers to the most frequently asked questions. You can find even more information in the knowledge base.
Knowledge base

A good project manager needs:

  • strong leadership and negotiation skills;
  • the ability to multitask;
  • effective team and time management;
  • critical thinking;
  • problem-solving abilities.

Tom DeMarco's novel provides insights into managing people and teams, motivation, productivity, and the application of project management principles through the engaging story of a manager handling six projects under deadline pressure, with summaries of his observations at the end of each chapter.

Jeff Sutherland's book introduces the Scrum methodology, an iterative approach to project planning and implementation that aims to deliver projects more efficiently and with less cost, adapting easily to changing customer requirements.

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