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on 21 September 2005
I'm afraid I'm going to have to go against the flow here. I really wanted to like this book. There is most certainly a place for a different angle on project management, other than the usual "how to use Microsoft Project" or other dry-as-dust doorstops, and Scott Berkun enthusiastically tries to fill it. However, the informal, rambling and slightly egocentric style that he deploys to very good effect on his website writings gets irritating and doesn't scale to a book. I kept finding myself quietly screaming "Get To The Point - if you have one". "The art of project management" really boils down to a thinly disguised autobiography of Scott's time with Microsoft. From other articles it seems that either his heart wasn't really in it at Microsoft, or he has resolutely moved on, realizing that to deny his creative side was getting him nowhere (and apart from the paycheck, what satisfaction could anyone derive from managing a piece of such insipid bloatware as Microsoft Internet Explorer ?). I fully empathise with him on this, but not to the extent that I'm going to read his book with blinkers on. The main problem is that there are far too many glib, superficial observations on the dynamics of software development teams dressed up as profundity (actually, this reminds me of a far better book, also from a Microsoft staffer: Jim McCarthy's classic "Dynamics of Software Development", which should be required reading for anybody in any software company anywhere).
There are just too many "so what" moments in Scott's book, things which he seems to think are great insights, but which are just plain everyday life in most companies. There is very little real creative thinking, very few ideas or solutions on offer.
I could take specific issue with a number of points - just one example would be that the "basic" functional requirement he uses to illustrate a point, "There will be a barn and it must be green", it just wrong. It describes an implementation, not a user need. It would be better expressed as a series of statements "there shall be a covered space", "the covered space shall not be heated", etc, which would then lead to the solution space he talks about. But in any case, this is in the domain of requirements management, not project management, and it is hardly the only substantive digression.
The text itself is full of minor digressions and little jokes, which start off ok, but get a little old very quickly. It is also illustrated with sketchy type diagrams, which look cute but convey nothing, and random photographs, a bit like Phil Greenspun's timeless "Phil and Alex's Guide to Web Publishing", but nowhere near as good - or indeed upfront (Greenspun declares openly that the photos are totally irrelevant). Actually, I get the feeling that Scott is a bit of a Phil Greenspun wannabe - well so was I once, and there are plenty of others out there.
Clearly Scott wanted to write, and the most marketable topic was going to be something like this that he could flog to O'Reilly. And clearly, there is a subject here to be written about in a new way. But to be honest, whilst I find his website very useful, and inspirational in places, and I'm sure I'd like him personally, I'm afraid the book is a total dud. With firmer editing and mentoring from a stronger publisher, he might have turned out a classic, but then again, since one gets the impression that despite what he says he couldn't wait to escape from Microsoft, I have my doubts. Perhaps he'll write the Great American Novel one day, but he'll have to tidy up his prose first
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VINE VOICEon 24 June 2005
As someone relatively new to project management from the managing side, but having considerable experience of being managed, I picked up this book to see if I could pick up any tips. I'm glad I did. Scott has managed to distill a huge amount of information and guidance into a very readable work, avoiding the pitfall of so many other books where they end up being dry and dull.
Scott's style is lively and witty, with a mix of the technical jargon, followed up with excellent advice and guidance. The book is split into three sections: Plans, skills and Management. Each section is further broken down in to the core skills and approaches needed to get your project up and running.
I've put a lot of what I've read into practice, and have noticed immediate results - I can now back up my 'gut feel' for how to do stuff with concrete examples of 'why' that approach is best.
It doesn't matter what size of team or organisation you manage, this book *will* help. Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy. If you're being managed rather than managing, buy a copy and give it to *your* manager, then sit back and enjoy the results.
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on 11 December 2013
Project management is much more than sum of project manager activities; it involves all the actions performed by team members in project planning, managing or closing phases. It is fair to say that it takes more than successful project manager to have successful project, that everyone in project team contribute to its success.

"The Art of Project Management" written by Scott Berkun is a book every project manager should read, presenting all important project aspects and not focusing on any specific project management methodology. It is packed with author's personal project management experience providing insight into all the aspects which make project management the art. For someone as me who have more than 10 years in PM, it was great to read book about this topic that is not tiresome like most on the market.

Divided into three parts (Plans, Skill and Management), the book's organization provides a logical flow although the chapters can be randomly accessed which is also author's recommendation. In book's first part, "Plans", author started with short history of project management and discussion about projects' common elements in order to help avoiding common errors from the past. Afterwards planning, project requirements and creation of project vision are discussed. Author presented three planning perspectives - the business perspective, the technology perspective and the customer perspective. Lot of space is dedicated for discussions about creativity, for author examination of all ideas, good or bad, is essential to creativity. It is great, though uncommon to see such amount of design-related topics in a project management book.

In the second part, "Skills", author provided many practical topics, even for experienced PM as I like to think about myself. The advices can be found about writing proper project specifications, ways of decision making and even about efficient e-mail communication.

The final part of the book, "Management" is more about some general issues of project management. Author manages to touch the softer side of project management, speaking about importance of trust and ever-present political games in many projects.

What sets this book different from all other project management books is personal tone which is in other books often replaced by fully technical and impersonal theory. As it can be expected for book about project management it it's thick, nearly 500 pages long, book but due to writing style it can be read very quickly.

The book great add-on is the excellent annotated bibliography providing reader an additional source for other helpful project management titles.

Scott Berkun's "The Art of Project Management" is different book about project management. This comprehensive guide, written with heart and lot of experience, succeeded in presentation of all aspects of this interesting profession, picturing best practices as well as those that should be avoided. It is recommended read for project managers but also to those who are trying to become or understand one.
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on 30 November 2005
I've read a lot of books on project management, and Scott's book really stands out. Scott really captures the "heart and soul" of project management. A good project manager will read this book and become a better project manager, and a novice will learn a great deal about how to run a good project. I especially like the "lessons learned" aspect of this book -- I really got the sense that he's seen his share of projects, and he shares the ups and downs from his past in a way that's really informative. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
(Disclosure: I was a technical reviewer for this book.)
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on 24 December 2007
I picked this book because I was tempted by the use of the word `art' in the title. After nearly 20 years of working in projects (mostly within government bureaucracy) I was intrigued by anyone who had the courage to use that particular word. When I first read the book I was naturally a bit put off by the Microsoft emphasis but I enjoyed the read and put the book away. But then after a few months I picked the book up again and started reading beyond the Microsoft stuff and then I realised how much insight and experience Scott has managed to get into this one book. When I got fed up or frustrated I started to read the book to see if Scott had any insights or common experiences...and he frequently does. After a while the book got to be like an old friend. Scott seems to have experienced many if not all of the typical frustrations of PMs and it feels great to dip in and see what he did or how he felt. What Scott has included may not necessarily be new or provide all the answers but it does provide a friendly sounding board and a sympathetic ear and frequently leads me to remember something or some way I cracked a problem years back. In effect it helps you to recycle knowledge and I can relate closely to his experiences. The stuff on scheduling/planning and leadership is superb and I haven't seen it discussed better anywhere else. I don't know if it will help newcomers to projects but if you've been around a while and want to reflect on your experiences and maybe recalibrate your approach for a new project or job then this book is first class.
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on 31 August 2011
The author is clear and open-minded in his presentation. Most of his advice is common sense, but then again, most of life is common sense.
The book would be very useful to beginning project managers who are looking for a place to start.
Programmers would also benefit a lot. I have worked with too many fellow programmers who, in spite of their intelligence, were quite useless because of their unclear communication and lack of pragmatism.
People who tend to make cynical remarks during team meetings would also be well-served by this book: maybe this way they will finally understand that, unless they have something practical to say, they would be most useful to the project if they just keep their cynicism to themselves and be quiet.
The book isn't perfect and is at times too wordy, but the author doesn't claim to have created a masterpiece of writing. He shares his own experience of project management and resources/approaches he found useful, and the result is a useful little handbook.
Personally, I'd quite enjoy being a programmer on Berkun's team.
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