Last month I eagerly ordered my copy of Brett Harned’s first book on the topic of Digital Project Management (DPM). I’ve seen Brett speak a number of times at the DPM:UK conference ( now Deliver), so I knew i’d come away with some valuable notes on how to further my PM craft.

In the interest of sharing with the community i’ve written up a review with the hope of driving more conversation and of course book sales for Brett ( No commission here promise).  There’s an initial Q&A with Brett and the review’s further along.

Q&A with Brett Harned

Before we launch into my review I even managed to get a short Q&A with Brett, please see his answers below. Scroll straight to the review section if that’s what you’re after.

What made you decide to write the book?

Brett – “I stumbled into project management. In fact, my background is in writing and editorial. I’ve always loved writing. Before starting my blog (brettharned.com/blog), I was writing personal stories on another platform. It was an outlet to tell stories, be myself, and express my creativity. But when I started my professional blog, I really dedicated my professional life to sharing my thoughts, ideas, and experiences to advance digital project management. And I enjoyed it.

In many ways, creating my own website helped to build my confidence to write a book. With over six years of content built up and published in various places, it felt like writing a book was a good next step.”

Why did you call it project management for humans?

Brett – “My book focuses in on how we are all project managers. While I’m obviously an advocate of project managers, I’m also an advocate of project management skills. I believe that the skills that PMs dedicate their careers to honing should actually be learned by most professionals. By having a basic understanding of scoping, estimating, process, and communications, we can be better, more productive team members–and project managers.

The only way to draw non-project managers into a book like this is by showing how the practice of project management isn’t rigid, and it’s certainly not just a tool. It’s human-based, and we all can do it. My way of relating PM to everyone is through my own personal experiences. At the beginning of each chapter, I dive in with a personal, mostly non-work stories to illustrate how basic project management concepts come up in everyday life. I wrote stories that I think are relatable not only to readers, but to the content of each chapter.

These stories, combined with instructional content, templates, and resources, make this book a little different from the rest. And I’m excited about that.”

What do you think is the single most important skill or trait a PM needs?

Empathy

 

Book review.

Overall Brett has managed to strike a real balanced perspective on PM. He’s kept true to the title of the book and made it people focussed. If you’re looking for a book all about the nitty gritty of process, templates and tech, then you’ll be disappointed. ( There’s a point about expectations there). Brett’s featured a great selection of stories from project practitioners and ensured there’s different perspectives from roles outside of PM, including content and development. There’s  a genuine relatability to the topics he’s chosen, as at the start of each chapter he’s included a personal story which for anyone who’s not in PM will understand how the skills needed really are all around us, but often not easily identified. In particular his real life example on difficult conversations really takes it back to humanity.

While I’m sure the majority of people who read this will be PMs, I genuinely think a lot of clients would benefit from this, as well as stakeholders to help them understand the challenges of keeping projects to time and budget. I’m going to ask Brett if he’d mind it if I internally circulate my digital copy to colleagues as part of any initial on-boarding process for large projects.

Key takeaways

For me the key takeaways are communication, communication and more communication!

He’s captured some really helpful advice around comms, from both an external and internal perspective for example:

  • Remember the value of stakeholder interviews as a way to understand goals, challenges and requirements
  • Try out innovative internal project comms, for example using video at launch so everyone understands what’s been done and why
  • The art of conversation, not everything can be solved with one quick chat and that conversation is talking and listening in equal measure ( so many people forget this)
  • Agree the project comms approach, a simple plan can help save a lot of confusion and ensure everyone is aware of key project changes in a timely manner

In summary

For me there’s some really valuable lessons and reminders in this book.

For the PMs out there, it can seem like we know it all and on a first read you can think “ah I’m doing all of this already”, though on reflection I know this book will be one of those i’ll refer back to when I have an issue with a project and can get a dose of Brett’s excellent advice. In keeping with my current work in First aid education i’d say this is my first aid manual for Project Management.

Thanks Brett and the PM community !