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Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  964 ratings  ·  69 reviews
Great management is difficult to see as it occurs. It's possible to see the results of great management, but it's not easy to see how managers achieve those results. Great management happens in one-on-one meetings and with other managers---all in private. It's hard to learn management by example when you can't see it.

You can learn to be a better manager---even a great mana
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 26th 2005 by Pragmatic Bookshelf (first published September 19th 2005)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Oct 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Week 1
-Initiate weekly one-on-ones with each person in your group.
-Notice someone doing something well and comment on it.
-Leave your office! The key to MBWAL (managing by walking around and listening) is to notice changes. Become familiar with the normal noise level, decor, and mood. Don't limit yourself to the office area. Stop for coffee in the kitchen area. Eat lunch in the lunchroom.
-Make a list of all the work your group performs, including your own. Use the list to start a project portfoli
Sergey Teplyakov
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: management
"Behind Closed Doors" is a relatively small set of essays about project manager Sam and his team.

The idea is not new. Tom DeMarco in his remarkable "Deadline: A Novel about Project Management" already tried this idea: to tell a story about poor guy who is constantly facing some project management issues.

Unlike "Deadline", "Behind Closed Doors" is a mix of fictional stories with some explanations, "Try this" and "Check this" sections. And unlike "Deadline" this book tries to cover even smaller st
Anton Antonov
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Regarded by many as the best book about being an efficient manager and understanding your managers if you aren't one yourself.

Johanna follows the story of Sam Morgan who has just taken the new position of Director of Development in a high-tech organization. Sam is experienced and wants to help his new colleagues.

During the course of 'Behind Closed Doors' there are many scenarios where Sam interacts with his department's managers - Ginger, Kevin, Jason and Patty. Each of them have their pros and
Aug 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pretty darn good, considering the astronomical aspirations of the authors. The format is wisely chosen, swinging back and forth between a fictional narrative of a middle-manager and topic-oriented discourses.

The problem is that most managers don't start in the middle, and by the time they get there, they've honed their chops as a lower-level manager, managing contributors directly. Most of the people reading the book, I imagine, are like me new managers of direct contributors, and many of the te
Bodo Tasche
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: technology, managing
I would have loved to read that book two years ago. I could have prevented so many mistakes.
Elmo Ensio
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am not sure how much I can start using in my everyday job immediately as I am not in the similar position as examples used but this surely was informative and easy to read book. Highly recommended for new managers and everyone interested in knowing how management should be done.
Sebastian Gebski
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Another classic quick-read.

I've read it because some people (that I respect) have recommended it to me ("You didn't read Derby/Rothman book? Never?! Really?! How is that even possible?") ... and the first impression wasn't that good - this book feels quite 'stiff'. I know it sounds odd, especially keeping in mind the fact that book focuses on interpersonal aspects of management (so it's not another PMI-like PM-bookkeeping type of book), but due to fiction insertions that are very 'artificial' &
Dec 06, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a pretty good book for a new manager (note, that this definitely should not be the only one - it just doesn't cover enough). It gives a decent glimpse into the basic challenges of team/people management.

In that capacity and at that level, the book is great. The examples are fine at this level, but hopelessly simplistic if you try to get just a bit deeper. They also start showing their age: a strict hierarchy, where a Manager sits in his office and divines the decrees on their lieutenants
May 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pro
This book is a good summary of many diversified books (about management, meetings, retrospectives, ...). It's a good start for a technical person who will have a management role soon, but if you're serious about management you also really need to read more complete books, like "First break all the rules" and "The art of possibility". This book help you choose these other ones with a lot of references. ...more
Sergey Shishkin
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: leadership
I've experienced good and bad managers during my career. If I try to figure out patterns the good managers I worked with had followed, that would almost match the contents of this book.

The book goes even further though. It provides ultimate guidelines for being a great manager. Plus it introduces agile management principles very gently without labeling them so explicitly. Thus it is a must read for managers who are skeptical about agile or anybody willing to introduce agile guerrilla-way.

Jean Tessier
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: software
A really quick read. The agile bias of the authors shows when they limit planning to 3-4 weeks, or put emphasis on people rather than process.

More than two years later, the only thing that really stuck to my mind is that one-on-one meetings with managers should be more about career development than status reporting.
Aug 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Very good refresher book for a lot of common sense behaviors and best practices that we all should keep in mind as managers. It's one of those books that I'll pull out again in a year just to thumb back through and get back on track where needed. ...more
Mattia Battiston
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. This book has given me lots of practical ideas and techniques to try! I really recommend it to anyone looking for inspiration.
Also it's very well written, so it's quite quick and easy to read. Authors have done a great job.
Mark Mzyk
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's sad that this book isn't talked about as a top flight technical management book. It should be. I think the reason it isn't is that it came out just before social media and it never got the exposure it should have.

There are some issues with the book. It uses the style of a month in the life of Sam, the fictional manager in the book. This can come across as dry, but it's effective in getting the information across. Sam is the equivalent of a director level manager, so the book doesn't address
Aug 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Meh. I finished it, but didn't really take away anything useful, and not much of it stuck. However, the book managed to stay reasonably engaging by showing a fictional worked example of a mid-level manager's first few months on the job ... and that's not a career path I ever plan to take. I think the right thing to do would be to reference the book when struggling with a particular scenario that it discusses, rather than reading it straight through.

One of the most useful things I got was realizi
Evan Wondrasek
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: management
Overall, good advice. This review does a great job summarizing:

If I had to pick just one book on frontline management, I'd probably go with The Effective Manager by Mark Horstman instead. These books have some great overlap, but I prefer the approaches in Effective Manager (not to mention their data-driven approach to recommendations).
Andrea Rossi
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: learn
Good overview of what it takes to be a great manager. The story format is nice and makes for an easier read than just a list of rules, and it also provides some concrete examples on how to approach various challenges in the life of a manager. I gave it a medium score because, while interesting, it didn't give me anything I hadn't already read about elsewhere. If you're new to the topic though, you can consider the score one point higher ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Consistent with the best I've heard from great managers in my past, podcasts, and Manager Tools podcasts.

Read this.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good info

Good information. Timely. Very to the point. Reduces conducting about what management is. Will read again since there is a lot there.
Torben Rasmussen
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: wanted
Short and useful. A fictional narrative is used as backdrop to teach some basic management skills. Sound values and principles underpins the concrete advice and tools presented. Recommended.
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An excellent management book. It combines useful pieces of advice and practical examples how to apply them.
Maksym Schipka
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Easy read, basic and mostly good and great practices, definitely recommended for the middle management in larger and with some caveats smaller organisations.
Alaila Fernández
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Best guide to get your projects quickly on track
Zani Kauffman
May 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is the book that I needed in life.
Jan 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
A good book with clear ideas that are well presented.

The over all human-focus to the techniques is excellent and very relevant for managing in a collaborative workplace. There are techniques for coaching, delegating, prioritising and planning, giving feedback, facilitation and oodles of others. The descriptions of the techniques are short but the brevity of lessons does not reflect a lack of usefulness, rather a deep understanding and distillation of the essentials.

The book has a story as well
Vladimir Bushin
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
According to PMI PMBOK the area for "Communications management" is the most important one among all the knowledge areas. This book is an excellent communications management guide. This book is structured and targeted for beginners and intermediate skilled managers and serves its purpose completely offering paramount help in moving from a chaos and ad-hoc management to a structural and organized approach that builds a strong team of allies and creates a good rythm in the project. An easy reading ...more
Jayesh Naithani
Jun 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Good book with many observations about the habits of effective technical managers. If more of today's managers would apply some of the techniques mentioned in here, a lot more good could be accomplished far more quickly. Some of the advice does sound too good - don't know when was the last time many of the folks I work with just did a 40 - 45 hour work week - longer is more the norm for quite some time. But supposedly that is the number for optimum performance and general well being.. One-on-one ...more
Jul 06, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very solid advice but cheesy, somewhat unrelatable example narrative

All the advice in this book is spot on or close. I just found that the made-up, example story the authors used to describe management in action was pretty boring to read through. Also, I've been working at startups my whole career, and this book focuses on a world I thought no longer exists. It sounds like the 80s... Who has an office these days? Or has a phone line? And delivers software on a multi month cadence?
Dec 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: kast, techie, mgmt
Nice and entertaining read.
Contains tips and checklists on various topics, supported by a feel-good narrative, which actually turns this book into a page-turner.

I found the first chapters - on holding one-on-ones and team meetings, and on introducing and using a project portfolio - the most helpful. Later chapters covered topics such as coaching, delegating and developing career paths, which are better covered elsewhere.

Mike Klein
Oct 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
The best part of this book is the practical sections in the back. Full of good templates for doing important things. The beginning of the book attempts to use a narrative style to explain why and when to use the practical sections. The trouble with the narrative style used is that the boss is perfect. Not just really good--perfect. The result being so artificial that it is hard to take the lessons seriously. Still worth the read, just wish it had been presented a little differently.
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I provide frank advice for your tough problems in my non-fiction. I write about tough, smart women in my fiction. My heroines have more guts than I do...

Here's the more formal bio:
I consult, speak, and write on managing high-technology product development. I've helped managers, teams, and organizations to become more effective by applying my pragmatic approaches to their issues of hiring, project

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