The Lazy Project Manager – Book review and summary
Here we review “The Lazy Project Manager”, from Peter Taylor. Spoiler Alert: Reading this book will not enable the PM to kick back the whole project while his overpaid, under-worked minions happily deliver the project on time, on spec and sufficiently under budget to finance the replacement of his burdened Chesterfield chair.
In the early stages of the book Peter clearly defines what he intends of this book and potential purchasers should also be aware of this. First off, the book is titled “The lazy project manager”. An alluring title for sure, no doubt to tempt prospective buyers with the scene described in my pre-amble. Alas, it is not to be for in the case of the book, the objective is to focus efforts to where they are of benefit and really matter. So folks, work is still needed. The intention therefore is a work smarter approach and as also indicated by Peter, this work smarter approach is also intended to build upon a foundation of solid Project Management training. Now that we have outlined the scope of the book, let’s consider the content.
Overall I would condense the key content of the book down into several areas,
- Background to the productive lazy approach
- Focusing of effort at beginning/end of project
- Advice on key aspects of PM, communication, dealing with sponsors, and the mandatory crisis
- Condensed summary of the book
In addition to the serious stuff of doling out advice, Peter takes a bit of time to tell a few anecdotes and tales of his previous project management experiences. In a moment, I will go through each of the above topics, but there is one thing to immediately point out. At the beginning of the book, Peter mentions that if you want to avoid all the waffle and just want the key points of the book then skip to the end where a condensed summary is provided. This is a breath of fresh air and for those with limited time on their hands – a bit of a time saver. This approach won’t work for all books, fast forwarding through Hercule Poirot’s meticulous investigations come to mind, but can be applied to this vein of self-development. Right, back to the content,
Background to Lazy Productive
The key aspect here is application of the Pareto principle of 80/20 rule. This states that 20% of the effort yields 80% of the result. I am always in two minds about this approach as it is usually the last 20% that takes the result from mediocre to excellent. Another key point is the potent alchemies of laziness with intelligence. Seeming, this is the key combination of organization leadership as the lazy individuals always find the easiest solution to difficult problems.
Focusing of effort
Peter advocates the focussing of effort to the beginning and end of the projects. It is in the middle where the Chesterfield chair gets a pounding. The thinking behind this I think aligns with the standard mantra of failing to plan is preparing to fail. So, with diligent work done at the start of the project, the execution of the project should hopefully be trouble free and clearly with more resource than the initial efforts of the PM. Another good piece of advice is to add a retrospective at the end of the project. The point of this is to review what went wrong and identify what can be done better in future to avoid the same issues.
Aspects of Project Management
A lot of time in the book is dedicated to the topic of communication. An interesting factoid, 70% of Project Management is spent on communication. The topics covered in this book on this topic of communication include,
- Understand how people want to be communicated
- Explain how you want to be communicated with
- Priority communication targets
- Confirm with recipient that communication is effective
- Delegate by plan, and don’t get involved unless needed
- Tips on email
Another couple of nice points are made on the topic of communication that I will convey. First on the topic of reporting, Cohn’s law is cited. This states “The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your time doing nothing but reporting on the nothing you are doing”. Secondly, on the role of a project manager and the denial of visionary concepts – The role of a project manager is simply delivering projects on time, at cost to the agreed level of quality. Perhaps not a rallying call to creative types to the PM profession!
Peter also deals with the topics of teamwork and how to get the best from that. A key aspect of that is putting together the best team possible with the right blend of skills. Applying the Tuckman stages of group development,
To ease the norming stage, Peter give a few tips on forming of team bonds, having a feel good factor within the team and having a good PM to team member relationship. Part of this involved dressing up as a carrot – a giant killer carrot of death to be exact. If you want the details on that you will have to read the book. I can’t be reciting another man’s stories.
Crisis Management is also touched upon with the following advice.
- Stay calm
- Plan for crisis
- Filter those things that need your attention
- Prioritize urgent items
Yes, you read that correctly, Breathe, lest one forget! Nah, this is to allow one to calm down and avoid the impending doom with the one, vital key decision to save the day.
“The Lazy Project Manager”, is not a heavyweight project management tome, so if you want to really get into the fundamental aspects of project management, this is not really the book for you.
Rather, it is a light hearted take on the various aspects of the profession. The content is more about where effort can be focused and advice on the various issues that one confronts in that role such as communication, teamwork and crisis management. But titles based on those won’t shift as many books off the book shop shelf. Personally, I felt the book could have spent a bit more time on working smart as this is probably the reason people would purchase it.