Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects (Pragmatic Programmers) Paperback – 29 Aug 2009
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""[This book is] a strong pick for any business interested in organizing and prioritizing projects. It shows how to tie work to an organization's mission, get a better view of workflow options and priority scheduling, and make decisions based on better portfolio management. Any business library needs this.""- Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Johanna Rothman helps leaders solve problems and seize opportunities. She consults, speaks, and writes on managing high-technology product development. She enables managers, teams, and organizations to become more effective by applying her pragmatic approaches to the issues of project management, risk management, and people management. Johanna publishes The Pragmatic Manager, a monthly email newsletter and podcast, and writes two blogs: Managing Product Development and Hiring Technical People. She is the author of several books: - Manage It! Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management - Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management (with Esther Derby) - Hiring the Best Knowledge Workers, Techies & Nerds: The Secrets and Science of Hiring Technical People - Corrective Action for the Software Industry (with Denise Robitaille).
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Top Customer Reviews
If there are several projects, these could potentially have demands on the same (limited) resources. Johanna Rothman has an aversion to context switching, and rightly so, as this produces unproductive time as a change between what was current and what is now current occurs. She makes a forceful argument in favour of allocating resources (machine, people, budget, etc.) to the highest priority item that is to be worked on without distraction, working down a list. It is therefore necessary to rank projects. It is only when ranking has been undertaken that it is known which is the highest priority item. The aim has to be to create release-able running tested features.
Of course, any ranking is not permanent. Rankings change over time, and a high priority item that is not completed may subsequently take a very low priority as the reason for its (early) completion has now disappeared. Rankings have to be reviewed, and Rothman uses the three-fold categorisation of projects, to decide what should be worked on. For each item under consideration, a decision needs to be made; commit, kill or transfer. She strongly advises against any other decision; never say maybe to a portfolio request. When you say maybe, your manager hears `yes'. Your peers and staff hear `no'. You are then placed in a no-win situation.
Part of the commit, kill transform decision can involve recognising projects that can and will not succeed - doomed projects. Killing your own (doomed) project is very different from killing a senior manager's pet project.Read more ›
I like the concept in chapter 6: funding projects incrementally. Very interesting point!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects" is Johanna Rothman's third book. Her first two, "Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management" and "Manage It: Your Guide to Modern, Pragmatic Project Management" are real gems and won prices for their quality and usefulness. I do not hesitate to say that "Manage It" is one of the best books around for giving practical advice to project managers. Her last book, as her two others, is full of real life examples and little case studies that supports the principles, concepts and techniques offered. "Manage Your Project Portfolio" is really a very complete "How-to" book on how to set up and manage your project portfolio. This book addresses human aspects very well, including a very nice chapter dedicated to collaboration work in a portfolio management context (chapter 6). The chapter on metrics and measurement is also straight to the point (Chapter 10). Ms Rothman's top-notch practical advices and examples are found all over the place up to the last page, with a great last chapter titled "Start Somewhere...But Start", one of the best things to do when it is time to go forward with taking charge of your portfolio of projects.
I do believe this book gives a more complete view of what is at stake when dealing with project portfolio management and will really help organisations to move forward faster with implementing and improving this key business issue of the 21st century, the Project Age. A very inspiring book!
Managing multiple projects is hard.
Yet this is the state most companies find them in. They've had success with agile at the individual project level, and now they are looking guidance on how to manage and track multiple agile projects in one complete portfolio.
Fortunately for us, Johanna Rothman gives us some valuable advice on exactly how to do that in Manage Your Project Portfolio - Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects.
Chalked full of great war stories and advice, Manage Your Project Portfolio shows you how to:
* Create a portfolio for your projects.
* How to rank, prioritize, and evaluate which ones you should be doing.
* How to socialize and collaborate on what you are delivering.
* As well has how to iterate and make decisions at the portfolio level (instead of always down at the project level).
I really like some of the sidebars and stories Johanna has collected. Johanna reminds us that:
Two part time people do not make one full-time equivalent.
Sometimes killing a project is the best thing you can do.
And my personal favorite - fund projects incrementally instead of all at once.
If you are looking for advice around what to measure when tracking your projects, how to come up with an actionable mission statement, or just how to effectively communicate the state of your portfolio ask Santa for a copy of Manage Your Project Portfolio. It could be exactly what your company is looking for going into the New Year.
The main topic of this book is agile project management--how to collect, sort, rank, and execute lots of projects given limited time, scope, and manpower. While the ideas (like all agile ideas) are inherently simple and straightforward, agile project management is far from the norm in most organizations. This book analyzes project management from the ground up, starting off with the basics, and working up to the most intricate details and scenarios--all practical and useful.
**If you're trying to decide whether or not to purchase this book:** Buy. It. Now. This book is extremely well written, and packed with useful information that will help you (no matter what level of organization you're at) manage your projects more effectively, and greatly increase your overall project completion rate. As a technical lead myself, I found this information incredibly valuable. Don't wait! Get it :)
On to my full review! Below is the layout of the book, hopefully this gives you some idea of the content inside:
- Meet Your Project Portfolio
- See Your Future
- Create the First Draft of Your Portfolio
- Evaluate Your Projects
- Rank the Portfolio
- Collaborate on the Portfolio
- Iterate on the Portfolio
- Make Portfolio Decisions
- Evolve Your Portfolio
- Measure the Essentials
- Define Your Mission
- Start Somewhere ... But Start
The book goes at a pretty even pace throughout, gradually explaining more and more details and process involved in project management. It's meant to be read through from start to finish (and should be, it's relatively short, only ~250 pages).
Overall, I really liked this book. I learned a lot about project management. Here are some of the gems:
- Multitasking is evil. Have people work on a single project at a time. This greatly improves performance and allows you to be agile in your management approach. You can calculate expected project completion times better, you'll get better feedback from your customers, you'll keep others happy with your transparency, etc.
- Collect *all* projects in the portfolio. Every single one should be collected. This way you have a single list of on-going projects, and can reference it without worrying about missing stuff.
- Each project needs to be reviewed at the end of each iteration (typically 1 -> 4 weeks). This lets you remain agile in your project approach. Should we continue with this project? Should we make adjustments to its goals? Should we kill it? Should we consider it at a later time?
- Any projects that aren't in progress, in the backlog, or killed should be in the parking lot. This is a special location that you'll go to periodically to revisit old ideas, and consider starting them.
- Wait till the last minute to commit to things (project funding, staffing, emergency requests, etc.). This will allow you to remain agile with your management.
Again--this was an awesome book. I highly recommend it.
The author points out that "if everyone in your organization (senior managers, middle managers, technical leads, functional managers, and project managers) is wedded to a serial life cycle and no one is willing to consider finishing valuable chunks of work frequently, you can't use a pragmatic approach to managing the project portfolio". In addition, "when your organization's management refuses to make a project portfolio, that lack of decision making is guaranteeing at least one or more schedule games. Or, people will decide which project to work on first, and that decision may not agree with yours. Without project portfolio management, you have more projects competing for the same - and limited - number of people. You find you can't commit to which people work on projects when, you're awash in emergency projects, and you and your staff are running yourselves ragged multitasking" which research has consistently shown to be unproductive. While "Manage Your Project Portfolio" is not a technical text by any means and is expected to be an easy read for most audiences, the author did decide to include a couple of very effective diagrams in the second chapter that if understood by the reader will help navigate the rest of the text by understanding what a project portfolio does for the organization, and what happens when no one manages the project portfolio.
In addition to providing new material, Rothman effectively ties in the insights of a number of other authors in this space, and this reviewer especially enjoyed seeing multiple references to Frederick P. Brooks and Gerald M. Weinberg. The manner in which the author incorporates agile philosophies is especially well done. Her discussion on velocity, both individual and team, for example, is quite effective. "Since I've been working in the field, my managers and clients have been trying to measure productivity. What a waste. Individual productivity means nothing. What does mean something is a team's throughput." While many readers might have already come to the same conclusion, Rothman really drives home this point. "If you try to measure individual productivity, you will get some data. And, the people whom you are measuring will game the data, have no fear. If you measure code, they'll write a ton. If you measure tests, they'll write a bazillion. If you measure files, they will have many more than the project needs. No matter what you measure, if it's not running, tested features, then they will game the system. Don't do it. But you say, I have several single-person projects. Surely I can measure that person's productivity. Um, no, you can't. First, I doubt that those people resist talking to each other. Second, how will you compare productivity? If Davey gets the easy projects and Sally gets the hard ones, who is more productive? I can't tell, and neither can you. Stop trying."
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