I ignored this for a long time, based on its title alone. It must be, I thought, only of interest to anyone working with Prince2. Then I flicked throu...moreI ignored this for a long time, based on its title alone. It must be, I thought, only of interest to anyone working with Prince2. Then I flicked through a copy at a conference and realised I was completely wrong.
The best description is actually the first paragraph on the back cover:
Too many projects. Not enough time. There's an avalanche of requests and requirements coming your way, and you need help.
This is a book for people stuck in scheduling hell, where fighting fires takes up so much time that there's not much left to improve the way the organisation works. In fact, a good chunk of the first half is much like a project-centric version of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity: collect your projects, evaluate and filter them, prioritise them, and finally, do them. A key part of this is to use the plan to avoid the multi-tasking that cripples so many teams. There's a wealth of tips for making the whole process effective, with some unexpected ones thrown in. The sections How to Kill a Project and Keep it Dead and Discover Barriers to Collaboration are little gems. The ideas pair well with Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency (which may actually be a more compelling argument for getting away from scheduling hell).
The real purpose of this book, is to get lean principles - eg those described in The Toyota Way - into software project management (development). There's a brief summary on p14, and only one more notable reference, until chapter 9, when the book completely turns around. The first half is Johanna Rothman's way of creating visible, rational, project management. Chapter 9 is her way of evolving into a fully lean (and by necessity, agile) organisation. In this sense, Rothman's "project portfolio" is a tool to highlight problems and put a team on a course. And in this sense, it's a set of training wheels, much like Scrum (same endpoint, different route). But the reason I'm infinitely more excited about this than Scrum is that it targets the economic and political issues directly, upfront. User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development is the best book I know on specifying work in a suitable form for this style of development.
The final main aspect of the book is leadership and collaboration. The penultimate chapter is about defining the mission of your organisation. This defines the principles that let you commit to projects effectively. Both The Toyota Way and The Goal are good explanations about why this matters. Teamwork-related ideas permeate the book, though. Pretty much every chapter has advice on navigating political waters.
It's also amazing that all this has been fitted into just 170 pages. You could read it in a day.
Essential reading for software managers, and extremely valuable to anyone in working software who is committed to helping their team deliver customer value while staying sane in the process.(less)