While there is nothing like learning from experience, taking the hard-won advice from experts in the field will save you from making countless avoidable errors. But with so many project management books out there, it's hard to know which are actually useful.
I've searched the internet, read through Amazon reviews, and asked other project managers to find the best project management books on the market.
Based on the research, here are the 6 essential reads for project managers.
1. Alpha Project Manager by Andy Crowe
Based on his survey of 860 project managers, Andy Crowe breaks down all the key traits that make the best project managers achieve more. His research debunks common knowledge about what it takes to succeed as a project manager. For example, his survey found that the best project managers send fewer emails per day and spend less time in meetings than their less-successful counterparts.
What makes this analysis stand out is that fact that they also surveyed 4,398 clients, team members, and senior management that worked with these project managers. As a result, the findings reflect a comprehensive view of the project manager's performance, and not subject to biases of many self-reported surveys.
If you are ambitious and looking for strategies to propel you up the corporate ladder, this book has a lot of great insights.
2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Good project management isn't just about what strategies and tools you use. It's also about the people. That's the focus of Patrick Lecnioni's compelling book.
Through an engaging fable about a troubled Silicon Valley company, he uses the power of storytelling to highlight five common areas where teams fail. This book is a quick read filled with helpful insights that you can take and implement on your team right away. If you want to get better at improving team dynamics, this one will be a great asset.
3. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute
This book (known as PMBOK) is considered absolutely essential for anyone studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam, an important industry-recognized certification. Project Management Institute (PMI), who is responsible for setting industry standards, write each edition of this text.
Yes, this book is academic and dense (over 600 pages!), but it is one of the most comprehensive guides out there. Definitely recommend it for anyone who wants to take the PMP exam or deepen their project management knowledge.
4. Getting Things Done by David Allen
This is one of the most influential business and personal productivity books ever written. The Getting Things Done (GTD) method emphasizes the importance of getting your tasks out of your head and breaking them down into an organized system. When you do this, it frees up your mind to think creatively and make better decisions. The book is filled with practical guidance on how to set up task lists and structures that help you feel less stressed and more organized.
For all project managers overwhelmed by stress, the book has the answers you need.
5. Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams by Terry Schmidt
This book is a practical guide to turning ideas and goals into coherent, actionable plans. The author suggests that there are 4 critical questions that a project manager must answer to build a strong project plan:
- What are we trying to accomplish and why?
- How will we measure success?
- What other conditions must exist?
- How do we get there?
This mental framework ensures that you have considered all important aspects of a project before you get started. If you are looking for a more strategic approach to project management, check this book out!
6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
This is a classic business book that should be on anyone's bookshelf. Jim Collins and his team did an in-depth analysis of 28 companies and discovered what were the key determinants that led to significant improvements in performance. Although not specific to project management, this substantive analysis into how companies made real improvements in performance has lessons you can apply in any context.
If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, this book is the one for you.
While they didn't make our top 6, here are some other great books you may want to explore:
- Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure by Todd Williams
- Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogan
- When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel K Pink
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg