A good project manager is always learning. Every project is different and the work environment is always changing, so it’s important to keep on top of the latest tools and concepts. One great way to learn new strategies and skills is by reading books. The following list includes some of the best project management books to help you with team collaboration, different methodologies and habits. Everyone, from beginners to the most experienced project managers, will find something useful between these pages.
In this post, you’ll find the must-have books that every project manager (or non-project manager!) should be checking out and reading.
The word “agile” gets thrown around quite a bit and it can leave project managers and team members confused about the “right” way to do Agile. Or perhaps you know what it is and want to adopt it for your own projects. Either way, this book is for you. The tools and processes Franklin outlines are useful no matter your stage.
Good For: Learning to implement Agile management
In every field, from sports to science, there are those people who perform at a level far above the rest. This is also true of project management. Crowe’s extensively researched book offers insight into what makes those top project managers stand out from the rest of us and how we can close the gap on them.
Good For: Insights on what makes a successful project manager.
Barker delivers a concise and accessible general overview of project management practices which works just as well for those completely new to project management as it does for experienced managers wanting to brush up on their fundamentals.
Good For: Project management basics.
It seems like every day there new tools for project managers to help organize our increasingly complex work environments. And yet however many new technologies we adopt, we never seem to be efficient enough. New Yorker writer, Atul Gawande strips management right back to the simple checklist and shows how much can be achieved by just using one simple tool the right way.
Good For: Re-evaluating how you organize projects.
No matter how much we talk about new technology and more efficient processes, when it comes down to it our job as project managers is to deal with people, which is not always an easy task. Barrett shows how to form, evaluate, strengthen and get the most out of the relationships we have with teams and colleagues.
Good For: Developing strong relationships that yield results.
The average adult makes around 35,000 decisions a day. Just think how many the average project manager must make. Imagine if you could cut the time you spend on making decisions in half. Well, you don’t have to imagine because Steve McClatchy is an expert of decision making and he wrote a whole book on it.
Good For: Making quicker decisions with better results.
Delivering Bad News in Good Ways: Turn Difficult Conversations into Purposeful Dialogue, Positive Outcomes, & Focused Results in 3 Easy Steps
Everyone is trying tirelessly to meet deadlines and produce the best product possible but big part of project management is figuring out what to do when it all goes wrong.
Sigmon explains not only the best ways to break bad news to clients and upper management, but also how these conversations can help led to stronger, more efficient and reliable, practices in the future.
Good For: Facts and in the field tips on communicating about failures.
Kenneth S. Rubin
This book includes everything you need to know about Scrum. Whether you’re new to the process or have been using it for years, these comprehensive pages by Kenneth Rubin contain a treasure trove of resources and examples to keep you coming back whenever you have a problem or need a new idea.
Good For: Learning or deepening your understanding of Scrum.
How often do you think everyone leaves a meeting having gotten exactly what they wanted from it? When was the last time you were in a meeting where every issue that was raised had been solved by the end? Why are you reading these questions I’m writing instead of Sam Kaner’s book which answers them and more?
Good For: Running productive and generative meetings.
David Allen’s seminal book on productivity doesn’t just suggest workplace strategies, it offers an entire lifestyle philosophy.
Everyone wants to get as much done as quickly as they can, Allen takes it a step further: he wants you to get it done without stress. After all, stressing out is definitely not productive.
Good For: Increasing productivity and decreasing stress.
Everyone thinks that their plan will work, but the truth is that most of them won’t. As a rule, project managers don’t spend enough time learning what makes a good strategy. That’s where this book comes in. It gives you the tools you need to develop and implement an action-based strategy that makes sense for your situation.
Good For: Learning how to strategize successfully.
The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices: The Reality of Managing Complex Problems in Organizations Paul Culmsee and Kailash Awati
So it turns out that our best practices aren’t always the best practices. Scientific research has found that many widely used managerial practices are doing more harm than good. Paul Culmsee and Kailash Awati take that research and translate it into language that managers can understand and implement in their work.
Good For: Re-organizing and evaluating best practices.
Victor Prince and Mike Figliuolo
A lot of the time these days we’re not working in the same office as the rest of our team. For some companies, they’re not even working in the same country as the rest of the team. It’s no surprise that we sometimes forget that those team members are actually people, with their own individual wants and needs.
Lead Inside The Box outlines how managers can actually save time and effort by getting to know their team members as individuals, so they’ll no longer be wasting energy by trying to fit everyone inside the same box.
Good For: Tailoring leadership to individual team members.
Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams Mickey W. Mantle and Ron Lichty
Filled with illuminating personal anecdotes from the authors and written in an accessible style, Managing the Unmanageable works on the principle that management doesn’t begin at the start of a project. It begins way before that with hiring, mentoring, and motivating your staff. If you’re having trouble managing your team, Mantle and Lichty have the strategy you need to overhaul your approach.
Good For: Team building strategy.
The New Rules of Management: How to Revolutionise Productivity, Innovation and Engagement by Implementing Projects The Matter
Peter Cook’s approach to management lasers in on one thing: implementation. It makes sense, no one outside of your team will care about your project unless it’s completed successfully. And that is the goal right? So why focus on anything else? His way of achieving this is through building engagement and innovation throughout your organization.
Good For: Building an implementation culture in your team or organization.
When you think about leadership, who comes to mind? CEOs and managers may pop up, but leadership to most people means politicians and athletes. And they’re right. As Alison Levine shows, us project managers can learn a lot from examples outside our field.
Good For: Leadership tips and strategies.
Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister
When you’re designing software, most of the problems you’re faced with won’t be technology based, instead they’ll involve people. Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister offer up the tools the mindset you’ll need to be successful in this industry. It’s waiting for you on a silver platter, hurry up and dig in!
Good For: Changing your approach to software design.
Terri L. Griffith
Terri Griffith advocates for balance. A lot of project management books offer either a basic overview or focus in on a single specific aspect of the job. Griffith’s message is that the most effective and efficient project managers strike a balance between people, technology, and organizational processes. If you focus to much on any one, the others will suffer, but if you use them all correctly they will boost each other to new heights.
Good For: Balancing focus on the different aspects of project management.
Habits affect us in every aspect of our lives, from when we hit the snooze button in the morning to when we stay up too late scrolling through social media at night. The problem with habits is that we keep doing them, even if they’ve been proven again and again to be problematic. Charles Duhigg’s book can tell you how to analyze your habits and change them for the better.
Good For: Changing habits to become more efficient and productive in the workplace.
More and more often, non-project managers are being thrust without warning into management roles. If that’s you, then you need this book by Jack Ferraro. Packed full of advice, case studies, guidelines and illustrations, get help with your new role as well as the responsibilities and jargon that come along with it.
Good For: Learning the basics of project management.
Project Management for You: How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality, Deliver On Your Promises, and Get Things Done
Yes, a lot of us manage projects as a full-time job, but really, project management is a part of every aspect of your life. Cesar Abeid uses clear language to talk about project management in terms of everyday activities. Not only can this help you become more efficient around the house, it provides great insight and practice for when you return to the office.
Good For: Applying project management principles to unexpected situations.
Everyone wants to have a job they enjoy and find fulfilling. The research shows that we’re more productive when we’re having fun. So why do we almost never talk about enjoyment when we talk about project management? Peter Taylor writes an entire book about it. He gives reader tips, tricks, anecdotes, quotes and jokes to make their workplace happier and more productive.
Good For: Tips on making your work environment more enjoyable.
Are your software projects always running behind schedule? Are you always trying to catch up but just falling further and further behind? Then this is the book for you. Don’t let the size of it intimidate you, the 680 pages don’t need to be read from cover to cover. You can dip in and out, just looking up the information you need at this particular moment. And yes, there’s something to help you in every particular moment.
Good For: Time management strategies and advice.
Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure
Todd C. Williams
There’s no way to avoid it: some projects fail. But what do you do when you’re in charge of a project that’s on the brink? You take Todd Williams’ advice. Not only does this book provide a step by step plan to getting your project back on the right track, it includes a treasure trove of real world examples to back up it’s strategies.
Good For: Rescuing failing projects.
One of the most intimidating things for a beginning project manager is all the complex tools that are a part of the job. In this easy-to-read book, Elizabeth Harrin covers not only social media but also the other tools of the trade, such as document management programs, online workspaces and webinars.
Good For: Learning the basics of modern project management software.
From one of the leaders of Google Ventures, this book helps teams walk through the specifics of quickly iterating and developing products to test their viability. They give step-by-step instructions on how to break down big problems and quickly formulate new work and products that can make a difference.
Great title that explains everything. The book also thinks about fun ideas over just technical or managerial ones, and will help your communication stay sharp and relevant. Ideas covered include: getting your point across, minding the details, shaping your success, leading with a new perspective and more.
Which project management books are you interested in?
This is just a small selection of all the books out there that can help you become a better project manager. I’m sure at least one of them has caught your attention. So what are you waiting for? Fire up Amazon or get to your local library and start learning. There’s no time to waste, because once you’ve finished that book there will be a ton more waiting to be read.