Category: My books shelf

“The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance and Happiness”, by James Altucher and Claudia Azula

The book is centered around stories told in turn by authors. These are personal stories and examples. I read the book in 2015. I find it continuously relevant in professional and personal environments.

Any project manager finds him/herself overwhelmed with demands and requests. The book offers tips on how to regain the control of your project. As they say, “it is you who manages the project, not the other way around”.

The-Power-of-No

Of the tips of interest, I collected for instance:

– how to say No to stress;

– how to get unstuck;

– what thoughts are useful or unuseful or how to separate yourself from your brain;

– burn the excuses (“I cannot change”, “I have too many responsibilities”, “what would they say”….);

– “no-complaints” diet.

I loved the concept of “Homo luminous” this book introduced. The book suggests quite a few practices/exercises to make it happen. Gratitude is one of them. This part inspired me to start sending hand-written Winter Holidays cards, to express my gratitude to anyone who has done me a favour or was of good service and/or made a difference in a project.

“The Lazy project manager” by Peter Taylor

I liked Taylor’s book “The Project manager who smiled”. I also liked “The Lazy project manager”.

I find the book’s lazy stuff very entertaining. Being on a train back from a mission and with two very serious gentlemen did not stop me from bursting into a loud laugh. You’ll read the story of Peter’s photograph taken in a giant bright orange and green carrot outfit, when he worked on the introduction of project management methodology in a company, and you’ll understand it. I could have used it when I worked in a project management office and had the same carrot or stick dilemma to incentivize the introduction of a similar methodology. Even only if to diffuse the tension around it.

The book spoke to me, as it seemed in parts dedicated to me: “You are on yet another flight, either to or from your latest project engagement, somewhere in the world.” Yes, that’s where I read it.

Taylor is honest. He does not present it as a project management book. Still, anyone on a learning path will find something useful. There were a number of things I learned. There were others I changed perspective on. Depending on your background and experience in project management, some of the lines of the book might resonate with you. Some may do so to a less extent. For example, for me the part on “complex project – senior project manager” in the context of risks raised other considerations. In addition to the number of years of experience, I would also consider the risk aversion. Some senior project managers might take on more risks, namely because of their experience. At the same time, some project managers at the start of their career might embrace a more cautious approach.

If you adhere to the productive laziness approach, you will find many useful tips in this book. Still, regardless of your productivity philosophy, I wish you to enjoy a pleasant project management ride wherever you are.

Books, external views and why they matter in projects

Last month I went to the presentation of the book entitled “Moldova at the crossroads between worlds“, written by the Honorary Senator, Honorary member of PACE, Josette Durrieu and Science Po Paris Professor, Researcher Associate HEC, Florent Permentier.

I will not go into the content of the book. That deserves a separate post. I have collected a number of take aways of a different nature valid for the project management practice:

1. It is always refreshing to look at things/places/processes you know (or you think you know) through external eyes. It is a good tip to remember when going trough projects’ assumptions. It is equally valuable valuable to peer review projects proposals, for an external view.

2. Bringing in testimonials of those who lived through the times described in the book enriches (would have, in this case) the discussion. It is what we call “inclusive stakeholders’ discussion” and respect for diversity in project management.

3. What is the motivation behind those external eyes is as important at the cover of the book/report. We know what they say about the cover of the book. Also, as Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winning psychologist, puts it “Motives are rarely straightforward”. In project’s design, assumptions about stakeholders’ motivation can make or break a project. Also, the legitimacy of sources of info is paramount.

4. The past is important. So, are lessons learned. Yet, these alone are not predictive of what the future holds in store. This is important to remember in development management in what we call “the era of disruption”.

This book presentation reminded me of the book I proudly contributed to in 2004 together with a group of co-national and international authors – “The EU and Moldova. On a fault-line of Europe” (London: Federal Trust for Education and Research, edited by Ann Lewis).

“On Leadership. Practical Wisdom from the People Who Know” by Allan Leighton with Teena Lyons

Yet another of my favorite books I often pick up from the shelf. We all know how important is the leadership in project management. We all struggle from time to time with the “How to” became and remain a leader. This book is like a treasure chest. Every time you need a gem, you open a chapter: Getting Started, Coping with Success, Dealing with Disaster, The Art of Communication, Getting the right team, The Customer is King, Talking to the Media, Business vs Politics, Looking to the Future. As project managers we find ourselves dealing with many if not all of the above. Hence the value of the book for project managers.

The book is written with wit and wisdom. Each chapter feels like going into the offices of the best executives Leighton talked to for this book. Each was generous with insights and advice you would get from very few academic or professional training programmes. It is also highly entertaining and will glue you to learning with fun and motivation to become the best at what you do.

“The new leaders. Transforming the art of leadership into the science of results ” by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Anne McKee

“The glue that holds people together in a team, and that commits people to an organisation, is the emotions they feel” is one of my favourite quotes from this book.

I long believed that all that matters in business and work environments is getting things done. Business and project management literature supported the belief. Recent research on Emotional Intelligence begs to differ and for good reasons. Emotions and moods have real consequences for getting those same things done in any project. To paraphrase the authors of the book, the project manager’s ability to survive everyday surprises depends to a large extent on whether he/she has first the ability to manage his/her own emotions in the face of the change and thus lead the team through unchartered waters.

This book was like a mirror to me. It made me ask myself some important questions. It also helped in navigating better through the repertoire of leadership styles I see around me from visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting to commanding and their impact on work climate.

The authors guide the ones who seek to change through the metamorphosis with practical tips and inspirational transformational real life stories, touching on self-management, team management as well as navigating the world of stakeholders we engage with for outcomes that matter most.

“What makes a leader” by Daniel Goleman

Is the project manager a leader? Does he/she need leadership skills? What kind of leadership skills?

Emotional intelligence (EI) is a concept that slowly but surely gets into the pragmatic business world, management quarters and project management. EI is defined by the author as the ability to read and understand emotions in ourselves and in others and to handle those feelings effectively.
It is a valuable book to me also for development management involving international teams spread over many countries.
The book explains why IQ is important to get a management job and why to keep it EI takes over.
I experienced the book the way a novice gets to know the taste of different coffees. Each chapter came with different strengths and flavours for many of a leader’s moments of the day. Simple language explains the affective and social neurosciences behind the EI.
Take away 1: Leaders needs many styles for the very best climate and business performance
The author explains the six styles of leadership he calls authoritative, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, coercive, each with benefits and drawbacks and advice on when to use them either singularly or in combination for best results.
Take away 2: The four competences of EI: a leader needs self-awarness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management to create resonant leadership i.e. match reaction to situation at hand.
Take away 3: Ready to make changes? The author offers a simple and effective five-part process for self-descovery amd reinvention, all based on brain science.
Take away 4: Tools for reflection to regain inspiration. There is quite a choice from reflecting on your past, defining your principles for life, expanding your horizon, envisioning the future to reconnect with your dreams, creating reflective structures to be with your own thoughts to working with a coach.
Take away 5: Followers mirror their leaders. Literally.
Take away 6: the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory, a behavioural assessment tool.
Take away 7: the key habit of good leaders is practicing genuine listening.
Take away 8: awareness of different types of focus that makes a person a leader. Inner focus in the 24/7 world, bottom-up relaxed and open attention for creativity and innovation, top-down focus on what is immediately at hand. Outer, Inner and Other focus concepts will get your attention.
Take away 9: to get attention and focus regularly practice meditation or mindfulness, a meditation method stripped of a religious belief system.
Take away 10: our times demand leaders that are not just smart but wise in targeting the greater good of our world beyond the boundaries of one group or organisation.
This book has one shortcoming: it is simply too short. Looking forward to reading more by Daniel Goleman.

“Research skills for policy and development. How to find out fast” edited by A. Thomas and G. Mohan

I come back from time to time to this book when projects touch upon policy and public action. The book “is aimed at development managers and others who are involved in policy investigation” states its Introduction. In project management, I found it a useful resource when we need to gather information in project design; or we need to learn about stakeholders and their agenda in policy making contexts.

The book is both very informative and an invitation to reflect. It offers tips and lessons learned for example in avoiding pitfalls in research. It covers “thinking with documents” and “thinking with people” for a participative approach. A number of tools such as structured surveys and semi-structured interviews as well as the importance of the subjective and personal are presented.

The book also covers how to bring in data and combine it with qualitative information. Personal integrity and effectiveness in research are brought in as topics of academic debate in the challenge of “trying not to get it wrong”.

In sum, if you are looking at how to inform the public policy-making process and how to communicate the results the book will serve you well both in an policy research and project context.