Kimberly Wiefling's Scrappy Project Management isn't just a text with a list of must-dos for project methodology; it's a blueprint for high-end corporate capital-L Leadership. I don't know if it's her knowledge of the scientific method (Wiefling is a trained physicist), her unflinching honesty, or her sense of humor, but she combines relevant and powerful insights about fearless project leadership that even a seasoned--or world weary--project manager needs.
Unlike most project management books, Scrappy Project Management is immensely readable. It's funny and edgy; more than one analogy made me literally laugh aloud. It's concise and easy to read, but not fluffy. More importantly, though, Wiefling's methods are supported by numerous concrete examples, not just vague buzzwords or motivational clichés like we've all heard before. There's solid irrefutable documentation of her assertions about marketing, product development, science, engineering, and organizational psychology.
You certainly don't need an MBA to understand or glean important concepts from Scrappy Project Management, but it's easy to see how formal business training would be acutely enhanced by certain chapters, specifically the ones on risk management, shareholder expectations, and project changes.
Wiefling's unabashed honesty doesn't sugarcoat perhaps the most important fact that I've never seen in any other book: "the role of a project leader cannot be successfully filled by anyone who can't put his or her job on the line in pursuit of doing the right thing." Notice that she doesn't say "in pursuit of getting the product shipped". Wiefling is focusing on the quality and effectiveness of project work, a complete and unrepentant "obsession" with the customer, and creating a motivational framework for both the organization and the consumer--practices that are both essential and profitable. This type of determined focus can apply to any type of organization or product, and in the age of mass global competition, is absolutely necessary for survival.
From a subjective, occasionally more social-science perspective, Scrappy Project Management addresses self-imposed limitations, assumptions, and employee appreciation. Wiefling's chapter "Lessons Not Learned" where she says "Learn from experience...make new and more exciting mistakes each time" turns what appears to be a tongue-in-cheek suggestion into an unflinching and blunt observation about project calamity: "Whatever the cause, allowing your team to fail for entirely predictable reasons is inexcusable."
Happily surprising and informative was the chapter on communication. On the second page, I immediately identified a problem I've had as a PM with organizations ranging from small non-profits to the world's largest software company--sending a critical project document as an email attachment (or putting it on a network share) to solicit feedback and receiving none. Wiefling accurately pinpoints our over-reliance on certain forms of electronic communication and offers up several creative and (empirically proven) successful alternatives for attention-grabbing communication, even with co-located teams. Specific examples for clever communication emphasize principles of viral marketing from the restroom to your computer's screensaver. It's bold, it's innovative, it's guerrilla--and people pay attention.
If I were to change anything about Wiefling's work, I'd ask for more information about ensuring project success as an individual contributor; the book appears aimed at senior managers and decision makers. Though the principles of customer devotion and "doing the right thing" can be adapted for all team members, a lower-level employee or team member may feel hesitant about incorporating such bold actions into their work life. (I'd love to see this sort of Scrappy Guide aimed at fresh college grads.) Another interesting addition would be the inclusion of certain types of team dysfunctions that are especially hard to overcome like ageism, sexism, and broken management structures. Most of all, I wish the book had an index--the chapters have so much information that it would be nice to be able to look for a specific topic or cross-reference topics from multiple chapters.
It's apparent Wiefling is passionate about her work and she makes it abundantly clear that project management is not for the faint of heart or the apathetic team leader. She's unapologetic about expectations, leadership, and making tough decisions about priorities. She's inspiring and realistic; it'll be hard, but it's worth the price.
This is a book for professionals who want to achieve greatness and demonstrate fearless leadership: for their companies, for their customers, for their teams, and for themselves.