Book review: "97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know"

In the last batch of books I ordered from The Book Depository I had “97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know”. It was a thin book and one of the first to arrive, so I figured it was a good one to start. The book is a collection of 2-page articles about project management. It has 198 pages, but I just read until around page 70, then “speed-read” the rest because I was so disappointed that I just wanted to get it over with. This has been the most disappointing book I’ve read in many years, and I rarely stop reading books even if I don’t like them that much (especially if they are as short as this one).

But I hate not trying to be constructive, and just saying that it was disappointing for me won’t tell you much about the possibility of it being disappointing for you, so here we go:

  • The choice of articles seemed “random”: clearly some of the authors had very good things to share, but many others didn’t sound that experienced or having so much interesting to say. I could imagine myself writing some of those articles.

  • Many articles read like they want to give “general” advice, but extrapolating from circumstances that I may never have (like making a rule out of a “this happened to me once” kind of experience).

  • I didn’t find it “inspiring” at all, if I wasn’t a project manager already I would not want to become one. The idea of working as a project manager felt dry, boring, and too focused on processes.

  • Many articles feel written for someone that doesn’t have any project management experience whatsoever. That’s cool, but it’s useless for me and should have been clearer in the book I think.

  • Many other articles seem written for project managers from other industries (or even simply “managers”) that are going to start managing a software project. That is not only plain useless to me, it also bores me to death. Seriously, WTF is with the definitions of super basic concepts? If you don’t know what an “iteration” or a “hack” is and you won’t check yourself out of curiosity you shouldn’t be allowed to manage a software project. Period.

  • Many articles felt too “corporate” to me, there was too much jargon and too many references to job titles, methodologies and contractors instead of really essential stuff based on experience.

  • Reading some of the more or less interesting stuff, I couldn’t help thinking that those things would be obvious for someone who has been working as a software developer for years and wants to become a project manager because she finds it interesting.

  • Other articles were interesting, but lacked depth to make them really useful.

Don’t get me wrong, there are useful articles, but the book as a whole doesn’t feel that useful. Certainly not worth the time reading the whole thing.

And finally, something that kept popping in my head, even if the comparison is unfair (it’s a different kind of book), is that this book is in many respects the opposite of the things I loved about Making Things Happen (an excellent book that you should read if you have any interest in project management). Oh well.