Best PMO Books
What’s on your shelves? If you’re anything like us, your home office shelves are bulging with business and PMO books you thought you’d get round to reading… one day.
Here’s our pick of the best PMO books (and project management) at the moment. If you’ve found yourself with some time to catch up on professional development activities, why not have a read? Oh, and you can get many business books as audio downloads, so you can learn more about the latest theories while getting on with other things – exercise, filing, even preparing food!
1. The Practitioner’s Handbook of Project Performance
Edited by Mark Phillips (Routledge, 2020)
This is a well-researched and in some places academic look at agile, waterfall and beyond. As a curated collection of essays, it covers individuals and interactions, processes, tools and techniques, the lived experience of delivery, and responding to change.
Many of the essays are easy to digest (although some lean towards the theoretical) and they all bring a contemporary perspective to what it means to be working as a project delivery professional today. There’s even a short section on mindfulness.
2. Thriving on the Edge of Chaos
Jonathan Sapir (Routledge, 2019)
This book’s subtitle is Managing Projects as Complex Adaptive Systems. While the author acknowledges that not all projects can use the tips and techniques he describes, if you do a lot of projects with similar characteristics, you’ll get a load of benefit from this book. We think it’s particularly relevant for department leaders who have a lot of small-ish repetitive projects within their domain.
However, the first two thirds of the book is an interesting read for everyone, especially people working in complex socio-political environments on projects with a high degree of change.
From a PMO perspective, the ideas in this book will really prompt you to think about what processes you require from project teams and how much reporting is really necessary. One point that stuck with our reviewer was about project schedules. Given how often the schedule changes in a complex, adaptive project, why bother spending so much time creating it in the first place?
3. Agile: The Insights You Need from Harvard Business Review
Harvard Business Review (2019)
If you’re considering moving some of your projects to agile approaches, this is a must read. It’s a short collection of essays from HBR covering the practicalities of making Agile work.
It includes case studies and anecdotes showing how businesses adopted agile approaches – not always successfully.
The big takeaway for our reviewer was that collaboration is never evenly distributed. You’ll have some people in the business who contribute more to projects than others – perhaps because of their skill, experience, interest or the job they have. These are the people to nurture and support, because when their workload expands, the quality of collaboration goes down and projects don’t get the input they need. The essay on informal networks and how teams work together to get things done is applicable to both adaptive and predictive methods of working.
4. Strategic Project Portfolio Management
Simon Moore (Wiley, 2010)
An oldie but a goodie! This is an easy-to-read primer on how to enable a productive organization. It approaches portfolio management from a strategic perspective but is highly practical and filled with expert tips.
As you’d expect, it starts with making sure the strategy is clear, before going on to guiding readers on how to create a portfolio management structure to build powerful and efficient processes. It talks about how to select the most impactful projects that align to strategy and then goes on to discuss improving cost performance – an essential focus for all PMO leaders!
5. Collaboration Tools for Project Managers
Elizabeth Harrin (PMI, 2016)
This book talks about how to choose, set up and use collaboration tools with your team. It doesn’t talk about individual specific software tools but instead lays out the principles for being able to make appropriate choices for your business, pilot software with relevant projects and onboard users for a streamlined implementation.
We should say that we work with the author from time to time, so we might be a bit biased, but as this book is a PMI bestseller and now in its second edition, it’s clear that it’s a good reference guide for teams looking to move some (or all) of their work into a virtual environment.
If you are a PMO leader considering your first enterprise collaboration tool for the team, or looking to change what you currently use to suit your needs, this book will help.
The thing that all of these PMO books have in common is that they focus on what it really means to work on projects in the real world. The theory is good to know, but projects aren’t completed just because you have a beautiful Primavera schedule. Projects deliver because you’ve engaged the team, you’re acting on what was uncovered in the risk workshops and taking steps every day to focus on the finish.
What’s on your reading (or listening) list at the moment? Drop us an email and share your recommendations!