Do you struggle to understand the concepts of project management? Project management is not an easy topic to master. You have to understand tools and methodologies, communication strategies and stakeholder management, not to mention budgeting and resource allocation.
What’s more, you often need to grasp these concepts in the middle of some very tight deadlines. Your senior management is probably breathing down your neck for deliveries as you read this!
What you need is a quick guide book to project management concepts. Not dry, textbook style books that bore you to death, but a sort of “Project Management 101” guide that gives you all the essentials and allows you to apply them in a very practical way.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at a book that gives you exactly that – The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh. This book gives you the basics of project management in an easy, digestable format. Believe me, I’ve used this book for most of my career – I still hang on to an older edition but most of the content is still relevant.
Let’s now take a look at the salient features of The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management.
In a nutshell, The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management is a beginner’s guide book to project management. It’s one of those books which gives you the low-down on the breadth of topics across project management, so you can really dig deeper into specific topics if you wish.
There are a couple of points I’d like to highlight about the book. First, it gives you some really good step-by-step instructions to succeed as a PM, e.g. find the right sponsor, clarify objectives, and set realistic schedules and budget projections.
Next, the book also gives you a good overview of the tools and techniques of project management. In particular, it has some good guidance on Microsoft Project which is the basic toolkit all PMs use.
Finallly, Eric has also updated the book to incorporate some important new topics like agile software development and project selection (or portfolio management).
Let’s now move on to the pros and cons of the book.
2. What’s Good About It?
So here’s what I like about the Fast Forward MBA in Project Management.
It covers both hard and soft PM skills. Firstly, it strikes a good balance between hard and soft PM skills.
That’s really important because too many project management books focus on the hard skills only – how to use tools, project processes, etc. However, project management is also about the soft side – communication skills, stakeholder engagement. Those skills are also covered well in Eric’s book.
It provides great downloadable PM templates.. The next good thing about the book is that it provides great downloadable templates of project management documents to use.
I think that’s very useful because as a project manager, I often waste a lot of time looking for a “starter document” to kick start things like my Project Charter, workplan, training plan, etc. Those templates have saved me a lot of time over the years.
It covers agile techniques and IT projects. Last but not least, I like that the book covers agile techniques and IT project implementation.
As you know, agile techniques are getting increasingly used in corporations and it’s a good thing that every PM at least has an appreciation on what its about. As for IT projects, these are some of the most common type of projects PMs may do – so it’s good that there’s coverage of that too.
3. What’s Bad About It?
Ok, now let’s look at what I don’t like about the Fast Forward MBA in Project Management.
It doesn’t cover domain knowledge. Firstly, I think it misses an important aspect of project management which I always advocate as critical – domain knowledge.
To me, that’s not ideal because a project manager needs to be more than just a “generic” PM. Customers and the market are asking for PMs who understand the domain (e.g. industry knowledge like banking, insurance or healthcare, or solution knowledge like core banking systems, data analytics or operating model design). I consider these areas now critical for PM success. I wish the book had mentioned this somewhere.
It doesn’t cover cultural aspects of project management. The other bit about the book is that it doesn’t cover cultural aspects of project management. What I mean here is that it doesn’t mention whether project management in say, Europe of US differs from Asia. There’s a cultural element missing.
Well,I can tell you that project management is different here in Asia. For example, Asians, whether you’re from China, Japan, India, or a Southeast Asian country like Singapore, where I’m from – usually want projects delivered on a “fixed price basis” – meaning that the buyer pays the services provider a fixed fee of US$X and the project gets delivered for that price – no matter what. All the risk is with the services provider.
In Europe or the US, it’s a bit different. There, buyers may be more comfortable with “time and material” projects – meaning that service providers provide resources like PMs and analysts, chargable on a “time spent” basis. This shares out the risk between the buyer and services provider.
Case Study:Here’s a little personal example I’d like to share with you. When I was starting out as a junior project manager, I was leading a small team of Business Analysts to deliver a set of use case specifications for a large insurance company in Singapore.
I can recall two distinct struggles I had at that time. One was the lack of structure in the way I ran the team. I simply zipped around in an adhoc manner and get status updates from different team members. There was no central project status tracking, etc. and I had big problems reporting into my senior project manager at the time.
The other issue I remember was my inability to motivate the team. We had a LOT of system requirement documents to produce in the space of a few weeks and I remember seeing many team members grumble about the amount of work they had to do. I didn’t know how to lift their spirits and use “soft skills” to get them more motivated.
We did finally deliver what we needed to deliver, but I felt things could have been done better from my project management side of things.
Looking back, if I’d known about and applied the stuff I read in The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management, things would have turned out a lot better.
4. Closing Thoughts
In summary, let’s do a re-cap of The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management. I’d say that the book is great for beginner project managers who want to understand the broad array of topics applicable to project managers. And, like I said, it focuses on not just the hard skills, but the soft skills like communication and stakeholder management as well.
The other point is that the book is chokful of downloadable templates, which will be tremendously useful if you’re struggling with documentation – how to get your Project Charter, Communication Plan and Cutover Plan started, etc.
On the other hand, I didn’t really like the fact that the book does not provide much information on domain knowledge, and neither does it cover cultural differences in project management approaches.
That said, all in all, the Fast Forward MBA in Project Management is a great resource that should be on every project manager’s shelf.
If you keep applying the concepts you learn from the book, I guarantee that you’ll be a more effective project manager, regardless of what initiative you’re trying to deliver.
You can purchase the Fast Forward MBA in Project Management at a very cheap price over at Amazon.com.