Must-reads for a project manager: my six recommended books

One of the participants of a tailor-made project management training course I’m conducting these weeks, a combination of project management competencies in preparation for the IPMA exam and the PRINCE2 methodology, asked me whether I have a list of must-reads for (aspiring) project managers. I didn’t have one at hand. I took up this challenge to compile one in Dutch, which was published on 18 May 2021, and one in English today. If you have recommendations beyond these ten, use the comments to share yours.

John Hermarij – Better Practices of Project Management Based on IPMA competences – 4th revised edition

John Hermarij was one of the IPMA assessors when he collaborated on a Dutch book (2002) based on IPMA’s National Competence Baseline. In the years that followed, Hermary conducted project management training worldwide as part of his consultancy firm. That led to the need for an intercultural view on project management. The starting point for Better Practices of Project Management Based on IPMA competences is the IPMA Competence Baseline, currently in its fourth edition. Nowhere in the world, a more complete description of the necessary project management knowledge and skills was available. Better Practices really filled that gap and was updated up to a fourth revised edition (2016).

Robert E. Quinn et al – Becoming a Master Manager: A Competing Values Approach 7th Edition

Although I still rely on the second edition of the Dutch translation of Becoming a Master Manager: A Competing Values Approach (2000), this classic has been updated to the current seventh edition (2020). Students and aspiring managers are helped to master the dynamics and intricacies of the modern business environment. Quinn’s competing values framework is at the core of the explanation of the different roles needed in any type of organization to provide a holistic view of managerial skills. Throughout the text, classroom-tested exercises enable students to assess, analyze, practice and apply the material while gaining insight into the paradoxes and contradictions that make the practice of management so complex.

Peter Taylor – The Lazy Project Manager

UK-based project management professional Peter Taylor commercializes his ideas about fellows and their practices as The Lazy Project Manager. Any project manager can apply the simple techniques of lazy project management to their own activities in order to get work done more effectively and efficiently, and so improve work-life balance. What really matters should get your attention. The rest is to be off-loaded, bypassed, or delegated. Famous and very useful is Peter’s imagery of a project as a dinosaur.

Erin Meyer – The Culture Map

Understand how people think, lead others, and get work done in various cultures. Probably you’re familiar with the groundbreaking research in the 1980s by the Dutch Geert Hofstede resulting in five, later six cultural dimensions. Erin Meyer takes this further in The Culture Map and updates her findings regularly. In the context of working with international teams, you should know your place as a blunt, direct, open, typical Dutch project manager. Encountering, dealing, or collaborating with people from other cultures require insights without getting trapped in archetypes. For every rule there’s an exception, right? And that’s exactly the nuance Erin Meyer has embedded in her message.

Eliyahu M. Goldratt & Jeff Cox – The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

The goal has changed management thinking in the Western world. Eliyahu M. Goldratt was named ‘industry guru’ by Fortune magazine and ‘genius’ by Business Week.

In a thrilling detective story, the lead character Alex Rogo fights to keep his business (and his marriage). With the help of Jonah, an old friend from his college days, he manages to put conventional thinking aside and act in an original way. Every process appears to have limitations that hinder real growth and development. The story explains the basic principles of constraint theory, the Theory of Constraints, which was developed by Eliyahu Goldratt.

‘The goal’ is a book full of eye-openers for every manager who wants to gain more insight into processes in his company.

Jurgen Appelo – #workout – Games, Tools & Practices to Engage People, Improve Work, and Delight Clients

With over 400 pages, the inspiration every manager could get from #workout – Games, Tools & Practices to Engage People, Improve Work, and Delight Clients in the Management 3.0 series is impressive. Jurgen Appelo overcame his frustrations on bad management and found creative ways to describe better management practices. Tens of ways of working, ideas, games in a colorful book will lead to happy employees and customers. This 2014 book is out of print since its successor Managing for Happiness: Games, Tools, and Practices to Motivate Any Team was published in 2016.