REVIEW: "Making Things Happen", Scott Berkun
- BKMATHHA.RVW 20081124
"Making Things Happen", Scott Berkun, 2008, 978-0-596-51771-7,
%A Scott Berkun www.scottberkun.com
%C 103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA 95472
%G 978-0-596-51771-7 0-596-51771-8
%I O'Reilly & Associates, Inc.
%O U$39.99/C$39.99 800-998-9938 707-829-0515 fax: 707-829-0104
%O Audience n- Tech 1 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 392 p.
%T "Making Things Happen"
This is actually the second edition of "The Art of Project
Management," with a few additions.
The preface states that the audience for the book consists of new or
experienced managers or team leaders, programmers working on large
projects, or students of business management, product design, or
software engineering. Chapter one is titularly a history of project
management, but contains vague and pedestrian advice with little
historical background of any substance. There is a mention that
Microsoft's program management incorporates both technical and
marketing input, but the text does not say much about management as
such. (Berkun does state that Microsoft's system is an example of
"matrix organization," but although this term is used a number of
times and is obviously significant to the author, the concept is not
well defined in the book.) A list of conflicting behaviours and
characteristics of managers could possibly be useful as a reminder to
examine one's own preferences and conduct. New to this edition are
exercises at the end of each chapter. The examples and wording are
silly, but they still provide decent ideas for getting people thinking
about project management concepts. It is an improvement on the
Part one outlines the planning phase and activities involved in a
project. Chapter two takes a rather pessimistic look at schedules.
There are good points on the purpose and psychological benefits of
timetables, as well as practical advice on rough estimates and how to
make them more accurate, but the material is also bloated with
verbiage. The look at planning, in chapter three, concentrates on
arguments and communications, but is not organized very well. "The
vision thing" is often undefined in business, and chapter four doesn't
stray far from the vague model, but it does cover overall objectives
and offers some tips on how to write vision documents. Chapter five,
while it is supposed to deal with how to generate ideas, focuses on
requirements, specifications, and the elicitation of those details.
Working with, and developing those ideas is the topic of chapter six,
which also minimally analyses scope creep, an ever present danger in
Part two turns to specific project management skills. Chapter seven
examines the writing of specifications, and is mostly a warning
against the over-engineered "one-size-fits-all" templates suggested
for that purpose. Berkun gives us the standard advice on making
decisions, in chapter eight. The usual admonitions are also given in
chapter nine, this time about communication and relationships. It is
rather ironic that chapter ten, in giving a list of ways to annoy
people (and conversely, how not to), states right off the top that the
best way to make people turn you off is to assume that they are
ignorant. The text then goes on to provide generic and banal counsel
on process (mostly administrative controls). The recommendations on
using email repeat tips given previously on communications, and miss
the fact that email really is a very specialized form and subject to
generating misunderstandings. The tips for planning meetings are
decent, but limited. Chapter eleven has vague guidance on what to do
when things go wrong.
Part three is entitled management, but concentrates on leadership.
Some good messages on trust are given in chapter twelve, but the
content is more verbose than necessary, and the basic tips get lost in
the stories. Chapter thirteen is supposed to be about "making things
happen," but ends up being a grab bag of project operation topics and
tips. Scheduling is revisited in chapter fourteen, with more low-
level detail. Pinning down a topic for chapter fifteen is difficult,
but much of the content deals with changes to requirements, and
setting priorities for handling bugs. Chapter sixteen finishes off
the book with a melange of politics and psychology.
It is hard to find specific instances of new additions or changes to
this work, but it definitely has improved. The addition of the
exercises was a plus, giving the reader more to think about than just
Berkun's pronouncements. Experienced managers might find this amusing
and potentially useful bedtime reading: there won't be anything new,
but there may have been some things you've forgotten. Those who are
new to the management task will probably find this to be a helpful
guide: there are pieces missing, but most of the important stuff is
here, and it gives you enough to get going.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2006, 2008 BKMATHHA.RVW 20081124
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I don't yet have a solution, but I have a new name for the
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