I am often contacted by people who are new to project management (PM) and who would like the names of textbooks or other references that can help them learn about PM. These people aren’t ready to commit to a formal PM class, but would like to do some intelligent investigation of the PM field on their own. Because I’m a trainer at heart and I know that it’s not enough to simply read about something to learn about it, I recommend the following mixture of reading and self-guided activities. I hope you find these to be helpful.
Now, you can always take one of my eduFire classes for a free introduction to project management: Check here to see when my next class is scheduled: http://edufire.com/search?q=Michael+Greer&commit=Go!
However, in the meantime, you can follow these instructions below to teach yourself a TON about PM:
1. Obtain a couple of good, basic PM references that you can revisit frequently. You don’t need to read these documents entirely, simply have them at hand to examine as questions arise. I recommend the following free documents:
a. The Project Management Institute’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) – This document, put together by PMI’s Standards Committee, identifies and provides basic descriptions of nearly every proven and generally accepted PM practice. You will probably revisit it regularly to provide you with either PM fundamentals or broader PM context as you consider a particular PM author’s recommendations. I keep mine on my desk beside my dictionary and use it all the time. You can download this from this web site at http://www.unipi.gr/akad_tmhm/biom_dioik_tech/files/pmbok.pdf
b. American Society for the Advancement of Project Management’s (asapm) Competency Model provides “The Competency Framework: A structured list of the minimum competencies that Project Managers and key stakeholders must demonstrate—with the target competency levels for each.” While PMI’s PMBOK (see item a., above) defines essential PM Knowledge areas, asapm’s Competency Model focuses on what those involved in PM must be able to do to get the job done. It identifies “… roles of Project Manager 1 (Team Leaders or managers of small projects), Project Manager 2 (medium or large, but less-complex projects) and Project Manager 3 (Managers of large, complex Projects and Programs)” as well as the roles of other stakeholders, including sponsor, resource manager, Project Office staff, and project team members.
c. The Project Management Forum’s PM Glossary by Max Wideman – This amazing, frequently-updated on-line reference tool provides definitions of nearly any PM term or concept you are likely to encounter, along with a specific citation of the source from which the definition is drawn. Frequently, there several different definitions of the same term, depending on the reference cited. You should bookmark this powerful source and visit it whenever you are learning a new PM term or concept.
2. Do some broad reading to get an overview of PM. I recommend the following free resources:
a. Part I: The Project Management Framework in PMI’s A Guide to PMBOK. The three chapters contained in this section of the Guide will provide a broad overview of the larger management context in which PM takes place and will provide an overview of PM processes.
b. Summary of Key Project Manager Actions & Results. This free handout, available from my website, will help you see in specific performance terms what results project managers should be achieving and the specific actions which they should take to achieve those results.
c. 14 Key Principles for PM Success. This free handout, also available from my website, will help you get a sense of some of the more important underlying principles or values which successful project managers share.
… and the following low-cost resources:
d. Part 1: Project Management Power in Sunny and Kim Baker’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Project Management [Alpha Books, 1998, ISBN 002-861745-2] provides a friendly and practical overview of PM. – Retail price: $16.95.
e. Part I: Your Deliverables, Phases, and Project Life Cycle and Part II: Your Essential Project Actions from my own The Manager’s Pocket Guide to Project Management [HRD Press, 1999] provides a condensed and performance-oriented overview of PM, interweaving basic definitions of terms and concepts. – Retail price: $10.95.
3. Informally evaluate your own or your organization’s current PM practices. After you’ve completed steps 1 & 2 above, you might want to see how well some of these PM fundamentals are being practiced in your organization. Below are a couple of free handouts that you can use to organize your thoughts and guide your analysis. Depending on your local management context, you could simply use these tools yourself and reflect on your findings or you could seek broader input from stakeholders, project team members, customers, or senior managers. Either way, applying one of these tools will help you figure out what PM concepts and practices you need to learn more about.
a. Project “Post Mortem” Review Questions – This set of questions can help you reflect on what went wrong, what went right, and what needs improving in your PM efforts.
b. Critical Attributes of ID Project Success – If you develop training or documentation, you can compare your PM practices to those identified in this list. The more of these practices your team employs, the greater your chance of project success.
4. Find some examples of well organized project plans and figure out what you can learn (or borrow) from them. Contact people in your organization or your industry who have created successful project plans and ask them to share these plans with you. Better yet, if their project plans are on disk, ask them to give you the files so you can use them as templates for planning your own projects. Typically, project plans are in Word, Excel, or MS Project file formats, so you can easily open them with your own software and edit them. Look for examples of project charters, project schedules, work breakdown structures (WBS), lists of deliverables, lists of phases or activities, resource lists, and so on. As you examine each of them, ask yourself, “How could I adapt this approach to improve my next project plan? … to improve my next PM tracking effort?” Here are some general sources of detailed project plans or templates which you might be able to adapt to your own needs:
a. Chatfield, Carl S. and Johnson, Timothy D., Microsoft Project 2000 Step by Step. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Press, 2000, ISBN#: 0-7356-0920-9 [includes a disk with lessons] – This well-designed tutorial will not only help you use MS Project, it also includes many project sample files.
b. Microsoft Project 2000, including sample project files – When you buy this top-rated PM software, you will also get a bunch of sample files from several different industries which you can use as springboards for your own projects. [Fully functional 60-day trial version is available for free.]
c. PM-Talk discussion group: Join this online discussion group for free and download a WBS sample, sample project life cycle, and other goodies posted by other list members. Or try posting a question to the group about your specific PM tool needs.
d. Software Survival Guide Website – This website, put together by Steve McConnell (author of Software Project Survival Guide) has a bunch of sample tools and planning artifacts you can examine.
5. Now go plan and manage your own project. At this point, you’re ready for some real-world practice. So gather up all the tools, guidelines, checklists, and so forth that you’ve acquired in the preceding steps and put them to work. For more specific, in-depth help along the way, including worksheets, guidelines, etc., you might want to revisit the texts I mentioned in Step 2, above. Also, the second edition of my book The Project Manager’s Partner contains a total of 57 tools, worksheets, and so on to help you plan and manage projects.
6. For further research… To learn more about particular aspects of PM that interest you or to dig more deeply into PM for specific industries, etc. check out these resources:
a. Greer’s Bibliography of PM, ID, and ID/PM References – My online bibliography, frequently updated, contains lots of articles (sometimes hotlinked to online sources) and texts related to PM.
b. PMI’s Online Bookstore – The project management institute’s online bookstore is worth checking out. It claims to have the largest collection of PM books anywhere.
c. My “Links” pages– These frequently-updated pages contain links to PM-oriented web sites, special interest groups, and other PM resources that can help you become your own local PM expert.
d. My online article “What’s Project Portfolio Management (PPM) & Why Should Project Managers Care About It?” – This article is an overview of PPM: a management process designed to help an organization acquire and view information about all of its projects, then sort and prioritize each project according to certain criteria, such as strategic value, impact on resources, cost, and so on. If your organization is doing too many projects with too few resources, then you might want to check out PPM and how it could help.
P.S. — Of course, after you’ve tried all of the above, if you decide that you’d still like to attend a PM workshop, I’d be more than happy to discuss how I might put together a custom on-site session for you and your organization. Simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(C) Copyright 2009 from Michael Greer’s Project Management Resources web site. The URL is http://www.michaelgreer.com. For more information, send e-mail to email@example.com. — Feel free to copy and distribute for informational (not-for-profit) purposes.
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