Review of Making Things Happen

Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand project management on a practical level. The author, Scott Berkun, was a project manager at Microsoft, working on Internet Explorer, and draws on this experience in presenting his ideas on managing projects. One thing I like is that he shows his own growth and how he learned lessons in the course of his work, instead of just handing down pronouncements from on high. And the book is definitely full of experience and practical advice. What it is not is another PMBOK, which is OK because we already have one of those.

The book is divided into three parts. Part One focuses on the planning process, and discusses the usual planning and scheduling, but also adds some very valuable material on why you need a vision, what constitutes a good vision, Where good ideas come from, and how to use them. This gets into some very specific application, such as putting prototypes together and getting in front of people, which I think will seem natural to anyone in an Agile environment.

In Part Two he dives into Skills, with topics like “How to make good decisions”, communications, meetings, and how to not annoy people. This is very useful because sometimes we do things that do annoy people, and that is not helpful when we need their assistance to make the project move forward.

The last section is called Management, but a lot of it is based on an analysis of what constitutes leadership, how to get power, and how to use power. He is very practical, and I liked his discussion of the pluses and minuses of an office near the boss. The minus happens if your boss is a micro-manager who interferes with you, but being in a position to hear everyone else’s interactions with the boss can be priceless.

All-in-all, I think any project manager will find a lot of valuable advice in this book. The other good thing is that Berkun is a good writer, so I found I was drawn to keep reading, unlike some books that you slog through for a few nuggets.

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