Summer 2017 Reading for Project Managers
If your weekend plans look anything like mine, you’ll be reading. A lot. My favorite thing to do on a warm Saturday afternoon is stretch out on the hammock with a good book in-hand.
These five books are heavy on the storytelling, light on the jargon, and full of lessons and research we can apply to our personal and work lives.
THE UNDOING PROJECT: A FRIENDSHIP THAT CHANGED OUR MINDS by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis, author of bestsellers “Moneyball”, “The Blind Side”, and “The Big Short”, explores the work and friendship of Nobel prize-winning psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Forty years ago, the pair conducted a series of studies that challenged assumptions about our decision-making process. Their research demonstrated the ways in which the human mind erred, systematically, when forced to make judgments in uncertain situations. While the story could have ended there, Lewis builds the narrative by delving into Kahneman’s childhood in Nazi-occupied France and, later, his experiences as student, tank commander, and psychologist; Israel-born Tversky’s time spent as a paratrooper and mathematical economist; and the pair’s unlikely friendship that fueled their collaboration.
Good for: Becoming more cognizant of you and your colleagues’ decision-making processes.
SHOE DOG: A MEMOIR BY THE CREATOR OF NIKE by Phil Knight
In this memoir, Nike founder Phil Knight shares the inside story of the company’s early days and how it evolved into the iconic brand that it is today. While it’s a story about Nike’s rise, Knight doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges that come with launching a new venture. The book is “a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like,” Bill Gates writes in his review. “It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. In fact, the only thing that seems inevitable in page after page of Knight’s story is that his company will end in failure.” Spoiler alert: Nike doesn’t end in failure. For an honest look into what it takes to be a successful leader, we recommend “Shoe Dog”.
Good for: Getting an honest behind-the-scenes view of what it takes to succeed in business.
CULTIVATE: THE POWER OF WINNING RELATIONSHIPS by Morag Barrett
Project managers know that great people skills are essential to getting things done. To be truly effective, you need to be able to build relationships and communicate effectively with stakeholders and team members. In “Cultivate”, Barrett shows readers the four relationship behaviors and their dynamics that are at work in companies–and in life. Rather than preaching lofty ideas, Barrett offers an actionable game plan for identifying key relationships and moving them forward.
Good for: Learning how to develop, optimize, and nurture every connection in your life.
DELIVERING BAD NEWS IN GOOD WAYS by Alison Sigmon
When bad things happen on projects, telling people is difficult. This tough job almost always falls on the project manager. Packed with anecdotal stories, research-supported facts, and “in the field” tips, this book is built around a core process that guides project managers through several stages: learning the bad news themselves, creating a message tailored to their team’s needs, delivering the news in a way recipients can process it, and working with the team to develop ways to move forward.
Good for: Building skills needed for quickly assessing and delivering difficult news, especially when it comes to project management.
ORIGINALS: HOW NON-CONFORMISTS MOVE THE WORLD by Adam Grant
If you’re the kind of project manager that’s always pushing your team, challenging the status quo, you’re going to want to read this book. Using surprising studies and stories spanning business, politics, sports, and entertainment, Grant explores how to recognize a good idea, speak up without getting silenced, build a coalition of allies, choose the right time to act, and manage fear and doubt; how parents and teachers can nurture originality in children; and how leaders can build cultures that welcome dissent.