“The Deadline” written by Tom DeMarco is characterized by fiction but it teaches a great amount of project management and team building concepts.
It is a novel that implies drama, social values, political regimes but, most important, project management lessons. The management principles are outlined in the least dry way possible through the story of Webster Tompkins, a ReSOE ( Released to Seek Opportunity Elsewhere) kidnapped by a beautiful woman working as a spy for Morovia, a third-world country near Italy, bought by an American. The country was meant to become a successful software business by producing copies of Quicken, PhotoShop, Quark XPress, PageMill, Painter, and Lotus Notes, and selling them away afterwards.
In the setting, Tompkins takes the role of manager of this development as he is considered the most suitable one for the job. He has some principles, the “four essentials of good management” like “Get the right people” because they will get you out of the trouble when needed, “Match them to the right jobs”, “Keep them motivated” and “Help their team to jell and stay jelled (All the rest is administrivia.)”, principles that make Webster right for the job.
He is not alone in this adventure. Belinda Binda, the world’s greatest project manager, burnt out and now a bag lady, ex-General Markov, Aristotle Keneros, Moravia’s first programmer are some of the people that help Tompkins reach the deadline. The 6 products are made by 18 teams, 3 projects per product. The Project Management Laboratory set for Tompkins by Lahksa, the beautiful spy is terrorized by Belok, the replacement of Moravia’s leader as he leaves to the States for business. Besides facing Belok’s constraints, Webster must face arbitrarily shortened schedules, merging of his parallel projects, and forced overtime.
Along with these adventures, lessons and principles of management are being taught to us. Some key concepts of the book are the fact that management is about people, there is no such thing as short-term productivity, conflict is inevitable, one must manage projects by managing risk, people cannot embrace change unless they feel safe and many others, embedded in the book at the end of each chapter as notes from Tompkins’s journal.
The book is educational, entertaining and most important of all, valuable for our knowledge as it makes the reader think and feel how would he react when put in that kind of situations. It is quite technical at times but the concepts are understandable or at least explained in the easiest way possible. It ties many concepts critical to project management like people, time, productivity, conflict, risk and by this, the book offers an insight on how these concepts work past the theoretical line, which is why it is an appropriate instrument for students but also for the ones that have an interest in this subject as it teaches that project managers are the key to each project’s successes and failures.
97 Things Every Project Manager Should Know edited in 2009 by Barbee Davis as a collection of practical suggestions offered by experienced project managers to practitioners at an international level.
Project managers from the USA and 12 other countries combined as authors to provide written contributions to the book edited by Barbee Davis (herself being one of the authors). As stated in the Preface, the works have been aimed at taming the chaos and guiding the project to a successful completion due to the belief that shared knowledge is power. Moreover, what is quite distinct in this book is the two page format allowed to every piece of advice and the accessible writing style. While the authors refer to activities within a project’s lifecycle, assuming a certain level of training for their audience, the language does not become exceedingly technical.
For approachability reasons, the 97 texts have been grouped according to the topic they cover, in the subsequent order: Agile Methods, Software Development, Managing People and Teams, International Issues or Distributed Teams, Managing Projects, Communications, Managing Stakeholders, Project Processes, Project Requirements, End-Users, Purchasing Issues, Self-Management and Web Development.
In order to provide a concise summation of the type of advice given in the texts, I have chosen three examples assigned to an equal number of topics. According to You Aren’t Special (that can be found under Managing People and Teams), the project manager should encourage his/her team to avoid reinventing the wheel and instead resort to specific tools created by other teams for past projects. Project Management Is Problem Management (in the Managing Projects topic) refers to dealing with problems as the core part of the job, in an attempt to change the work into a smoother, calmer and more tranquil activity. Finally, A Word Can Make You Miss Your Deadline (in the Software Development topic) draws special attention to modifications applied to the original language in the case of a project’s outcome being internationally oriented.
Even though the title aims very precisely at a target audience, it is my belief that it may prove useful to both project managers and other professional departments that have to deal with projects and the challenges they inevitably bring.
Project Management student