Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review- The Lazy Project Manager

The Time: 7:15PM, The Location: My office


My gorilla looked over the top of the Wall Street Journal. He was leaned back in my chair, his size twenties on my desk. "Yes?"

"What are you doing?"

"I'm reading the paper and being lazy, you should try it."

I stalked into my office, waving a stack of papers in front of me. "I don't have time to be lazy! There's a dozen things that need to get done, right now. I have to have this report posted tonight and I'm three days late updating the matrix of gear ratio changes. I'll be here until at least ten. Now for Pete's sake get out of my chair!"

Hogarth carefully folded his newspaper. Placing it in his lap, he slide his feet off my desk. Fixing me with his big, black eyes he said "Let me ask you something. No matter how hard you've worked, have you ever been able to get everything you are supposed to do done?"

"Well no, but…"

Hogarth held up a big paw-hand, "Atch, atch, atch, no buts. This report, say you get it out. Will anyone read it between now and tomorrow afternoon when they come to the program team meeting?"

"Wel no…"

"And the updated matrix of gear ratio changes, how many people have downloaded the last version from the SharePoint."

I reached past him and brought up the SharePoint metrics screen on my computer, "Umm two!"

Hogarth nodded, "One would be you, when you downloaded it to update it. And the other one was me, I needed something to put me to sleep last night." Hogarth leaned back, tossing his feet back up onto my desk. Flipping open the paper he said, "No matter how hard you work, there will always be more. Are you working on the right things?"

It was then I noticed his prehensile toes were holding something. It was a book, I could just make out the title, if I turned my head just right…

The Lazy Project Manager - by Peter Taylor

I first learned of the Lazy PM through Cornelius Fitchner's podcast series. If the father of PM Podcasts thinks it's worth bringing a writer on his cast, then it usually is worth learning more about that author. 
So when Peter Taylor had a special sale, I snapped up an autographed copy.

The cover shows the silhouette of a suited man, casually seated in a large comfy chair. The author recommends just this approach for reading the book, and for how a project manager should approach his job. I was flying coach, so the chair wasn't all that comfy but I was able to finish his book in one cross country flight.  Regular readers will recall my words from my Potato, Pahtato blog and how I described studying for the PMP has learning a common language for what I already knew. Reading Taylor's book was much the same experience.

As I flew through the pages I found myself nodding along and making the logic jumps with him. Peter's book is all about being Effective with your time, making sure you focus on what is critical and not the things no one is going to care about. And he's not just spouting platitudes and personal bias. He starts the book with the powerful Pareto Principle (using a wonderful Monty Python dinosaur reference to do so). Anyone who's studied for the PMP certification, has had to commit this principle to memory and you can't help but quickly realize Taylor is a smart veteran who's seen enough of the project management wars to know the science of project management and the art of how to apply it.

Taylor's book isn't going to give you the secrets of the perfect status report, or the keys to unlock the mastery of the Gant chart. He even goes to great lengths to make it very clear this book is NOT a PM training book. You won't be able to pass the PMP by reading the Lazy PM. But like the kindly old Sergeant, who teaches the wet behind the ears Lieutenant about leading men, Taylor's book is like a virtual coach (his own words) on how to be good at one of the most important parts of being a good project manager. The people part.

Using a combination of real world stories, great two by two charts, a Monty Python-grade dry wit and practical explanations, Peter Taylor walks you through the stages of a project lifecycle and what you, the project manager, need to focus for each stage of your project.

Where does it go on my "Book Shelf Index"? Right now the Lazy PM is one of the half dozen books on my office quick reference book shelf. Not so much because I reach for it often, like I do with Elements of Scrum or the PMBOK, but more so because the picture on the cover reminds me to stick to my own Gorilla PM philosophies, focusing on what's important and not burning out trying to do everything.

Buy the Lazy PM and let Taylor prove to you that working until midnight isn't effective, it's plain silly.

Joel BC
Veteran, the project management wars
Want me to talk to your gorilla? Send me an email
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