Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management – A Book Review
Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management is part of the O’Reilly Theory in Practice Series of books. It is an update of an earlier best seller titled The Art of Project Management released in 2005. Aside from the title change, the second edition offers revised text with better clarity and concision. Also, hundreds of thought-provoking exercises have been added at the end of every chapter as well as new material to help in forming groups. It is an updated collection of essays to help project professionals lead, define and manage projects successfully.
The book comes in paperback edition. It is about 6.8” wide, 9.2” tall, and 1” thick. It has 410 pages and was published by O’Reilly Media on April 1, 2008. The front cover shows the title in the upper part and a background of a close-up photo of five matches with the right-most one just beginning to light up. The back cover prints some reviews from company executives, a synopsis, and some information about the author. ISBN-10: 0596517717; ISBN-13: 978-0596517717
Making Things Happen is for experienced as well as new team leaders and managers, programmers, testers, project team members, and students. However, both technical and non-technical readers can find great value in reading this book. It was written broadly and inclusive of references and techniques even outside the technology and engineering domain.
What Customers Say
Robert (Goodreads) said he is re-reading the book again, hoping to better remember the advices and insights. He described it as not a how-to book or a reference but one that gives a good view into what needs to happen in a project.
Dan McKinnon (Amazon) stated that it is an essential buy for project managers and gave it the highest possible recommendation. He found everything in it helpful for project managers and group leaders, from gathering ideas to managing teams and schedules.
Sylvie Trudel (Amazon) found the use of humor to emphasize a point helped readers understand easily the various project management concepts. The many advices in the book about people issues not usually found in other PM books made it an enjoyable read for her.
Content, Approach, Style
Making Things Happen is divided into an introduction, a first part about Plans, a second part about Skills, and a third part about Management. Each part has five chapters. The introductory Chapter One is about the history of project management and why it is important. The first part Plans has chapters about schedules, vision, and ideas. For example, Chapter Two is titled The truth about schedules. According to the author, schedules serve three purposes. First, to make commitments about when things will be done; second, to encourage everyone to see one’s effort is part of a whole, and therefore should invest in making one’s part work with others; and third, to provide a tool to track progress and break work into manageable chunks.
The second part Skills included discussions on writing good specifications, making good decisions, and avoiding annoying people. The third part Management talked about leadership based on trust, making things happen, and a guide to discussion groups, among others.
The book has been written so that a project manager with a specific problem can go directly to the right chapter and be helped. However, reading from start to end is also advisable as later concepts build on previous ones. It presents situations in a narrative way. It includes witty and funny statements making it an entertaining read for many.
Why Buy the Book
Making Things Happen is a book about practicality and diversity, not about theory or a particular philosophy. It is for people with a leadership role in a project, which can mean everyone. The presentation focuses on a core situation and then provides advice on how to handle it well. It helps anyone to identify and apply the right combination of people, skills, attitudes, and tactics to overcome challenges. Interestingly, it is in Amazon’s top 40 best sellers of books related to PMP Exams.
Books that Complement
A great companion to this book is the PMI’s PMBOK Guide, which can provide the full and official set of principles, processes, and practice of PM.
Another recommended reading partner to this book is Strategic Project Management Made Simple by Terry Schmidt, PMP. The book aims to help clarify the strategy of project teams, so they will know exactly what to do and why.
Scott Berkun left a successful career at Microsoft to fulfill his dream of writing a shelf-full of books. He has since produced four best-selling books, with a fifth book recently published this month. He has been invited to speak about his books and about other topics in conferences such as The Hive Blog Conference and TEDx. He has appeared in radio and TV shows and interviewed by media personalities. Scott Berkun is a computer science, design, and philosophy graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. He taught at the University of Washington and continues to teach in seminars about creative thinking, leading teams and managing projects, in addition to being a full-time author, blogger and keynote speaker.