How to be the best project manager: Mike’s five favourite books
Iconic Project Manager Mike recommends his five favourite books that will help you manage your projects effectively, efficiently, and without sacrificing your sanity
One of Iconic’s most experienced project managers, Mike Weeks, makes juggling multiple construction projects look easy. He always seems in control and never looks flustered. We wondered if he had supernatural powers of organisation but, apparently, he loves a good book!
Here Mike tells us about his five favourite books on project management. They help him to be the kind of project manager who delivers on time, on budget, on brief, without losing his mind.
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, Kevin DeYoung
The first thing that attracted me to this book was its length. Being short of time and looking for tips on how to find more time, a short, quick read was exactly what I needed (and a book that I frequently go back to).
The book is full of clear and logical tips on how to prioritise and focus on the things that are important to you. The lessons can be applied in work, to projects, at home or anywhere you choose. All of which aim to reduce ‘craziness’ in your life, and in doing so reduce fatigue, organise the chaos (in your life or your project) and minimise negative feelings of being overwhelmed.
A big takeaway for me was that’s it’s OK to say no – you can’t do it all!
The Lazy Project Manager: How To Be Twice As Productive And Still Leave The Office Early, Peter Taylor
The Lazy Project Manager is a similarly concise book with clear, practical tips on how to better manage projects (and still leave the office early!)
The book highlights points, actions and stakeholders in a project that you should focus your time and energy on and encourages delegation. The outcome of which is that you spend your time being productive (rather than just busy).
To quote the book, “Projects should be thick, then thin, then thick again”. i.e. work hard at the start, enjoy the benefits of the early effort throughout the project and then work hard again at the end to ensure lessons are learned and integrated into future projects.
A great takeaway from this book is simply to focus on breathing normally (count to ten) at times of challenge and panic. Allowing time to calmly assess the situation and respond.
Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life, Dr Spencer Johnson
Who Moved My Cheese is a classic, that (like all of my favourite Project Management Books) can be applied across all walks of life.
As the name suggests, the book uses a fairly simple analogy to illustrate that;
it should be monitored and anticipated,
you should adapt quickly and move with the change,
change should not be feared, but embraced and enjoyed,
and once you’ve adapted to a change, be ready to adapt again!
Once again, it’s a clear and concise presentation of an important topic.
Parkinson’s Law: On the Pursuit of Progress, C Northcote Parkinson
Parkinson’s Law is another classic, and I urge you to get your hands on a copy. First published in 1957, the 10 ‘laws’ in the book are still very much applicable to today’s workplace and business environment.
From a project management perspective, the laws help you understand the dynamics of the company (or project board), allow you to identify and manage certain types of stakeholders and help to explain how and why certain decisions are made (or not made).
The book works through each of the laws in a light-hearted way, with pearls of wisdom jumping out of each of the short stories.
The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance, Adharanand Finn
It’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to include this book on my list of favourite Project Management books, and my enjoyment of the book is definitely skewed by a genuine interest in the subject (and the fact that I read the book by the pool on a recent holiday!).
However, whilst meeting professional (super-human) ultramarathon runners, and describing the author’s inspiring efforts in taking on some of the world toughest ultra-marathons, the book explores the boundaries of human endeavour and possibility.
How can this be applied to projects… for me it’s a case of challenging accepted norms. Can a project be delivered more cost effectively, earlier, to a higher standard? Can tasks be completed more safely, more efficiently, with greater satisfaction? Maybe the impossible is in fact possible!
More resources and tips
We hope Mike has inspired you to go off and read some of these great books. Then you, too, will be better able to manage your projects effectively, efficiently, and with minimal stress.
If you think you could do with a few more pointers, check out our resources and tips page.
Mike has over 15 years experience in the construction industry, with experience across multiple sectors on both single site projects and multi-site programmes of work.
Mike has led and delivered construction projects for major blue chip clients in both the UK and abroad.