Making Things Happen [Book review]

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When I’m reviewing books, I usually take lots of notes. When I was reading Scott Berkun’s Making Things Happen: Mastering project management, I took a lot of notes. It got to the point that I was writing down amazing bits of pages and I gave up. It’s all amazing.
Making Things Happen is the new edition of The Art of Project Management. O’Reilly and Berkun removed some unnecessary material, added over 120 exercises, and spruced the book up to make it a best-seller.
Making Things Happen is divided into three sections and not the entire project management lifecycle. This is something I see more often in project management books. I like to think that I started a trend! It works well.
The book flows in a logical way. Section 1 covers plans. It also discusses how to plan, creative thinking elements to generate ideas, and how to map those ideas into a project vision.
This element of brainstorming is not usually part of the traditional project manager role. However, it is more common in software projects where engineers have free rein to come up with new ideas, and then must see them through.
Berkun’s Microsoft experience means that a lot of the book is targeted at software development projects. However, that’s not a bad thing. If you don’t work in software projects, ignore the 10% that is specific to it, such as how to plan a code revision.
Section 2 focuses on skills. It begins with some technical guidance about writing deliverable specifications. Then it moves on to managing stakeholder relationships. Berkun also covers meeting etiquette, email, and a section called “How to run a non-annoying meeting”.
Meetings that are not aligned with the goals and the organization of the group are often the most disastrous. It’s difficult to have a deep or interactive discussion if there are more than 10 people present. It is impossible for everyone to take part. This will lead to a small group with dominant personalities taking up most of the time. Most committees will choose this form and get mediocre to poor results.
Section Three focuses on management and the tricky topic trust-based leadership. The book’s final section is about maintaining momentum and tidying up after you are done. It also includes a chapter on managing office politics. He writes, “Politics are not a dirty word.” “Politics can be a form of problem solving.”
Project managers must be able to manage office politics and the power shifts that go with it. This is a concise explanation of what it means.
The book does not cover certain topics, such as the discussion on working with sub-contractors and other third parties. This is not surprising considering Berkun’s Microsoft background.
He often mentions visiting someone’s office to see a colleague. Virtual teams are becoming a commonplace.
Projects are increasingly being viewed from across continents. Even if you’re based in the same office with them all, chances are that at least one stakeholder is not in the same time zone as you.
Making Things Happen is method-agnostic. There is no need to refer to the PMBOK(r), Guide, or PRINCE2(r), handbooks. This is a good thing. Because the techniques are about the doing’ and not the process’, it makes them easier to use. This makes this book practical, easy to read, and easy-to implement.
It is essential that you have this book on hand if you are involved in projects. It’s the book that I wish I had written. Ten stars for Berkun.
The publisher sent me a copy of the book to review. This review was first published on the blog in 2009.