People often ask what project management books and tools I can recommend. There is always a feeling that just another application or service can make life easier. There is also a lot of talks that project management frameworks work better with JIRA, Trello or any other app.
The tools and apps are only a convenience boost or a visualization. They cannot substitute lack of knowledge and skills. So, do not put too much expectation on another costly PM thing.
Nevertheless, I have put together a list of recommended project management books, tools, and resources that I used in practice.
It is interesting to notice that there are just a few books specifically on Project Management.
The truth is that you need only that many tools, techniques, methodologies, etc. There is a set of basic ones that will cover the major part of your professional activities. So, my suggestion is to focus on these basic things. Master them. And only then, switch to more sophisticated ones.
As for the rest, these are the ones that give you an edge at work, change your mindset, help you to organize your efforts.
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)–Sixth Edition
I would like to warn you. PMBOK® Guide is not a standalone book. You need to treat it as an encyclopedia.
It is full of good practices, tools, and techniques. Nevertheless, it doesn’t teach you how to manage projects. I suggest you get it early. When you gain more and more experience, you will start systemizing your knowledge. PMBOK® Guide will help you to structure them. The sooner you will learn to use it, the more benefits you will reap. If you are not a PMI member, you can buy it here.
By the way, if you want to learn what’s new in the sixth edition check my article on LinkedIn: PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition and All You Need to Know to Keep Small Talk
PMP Exam Prep, Eighth Edition – Updated: Rita’s Course in a Book for Passing the PMP Exam
On the contrary, PMP Exam Prep is full of examples and descriptions what a project management looks like. It is a scary big book.
However, half of it is questions and answers for PMP exam preparation. You can skip them unless you are going to take the exam soon.
Among many other books that explain PMBOK® Guide, this one is the most comprehensive. It has a good structure, and it explains project management in great details. It also explains why this or that process is important. I believe this one is a must-have for any project manager. Get it now
Warning: As the PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition is out. This book is outdated a bit. It is still valuable, but I would not recommend to use it for PMP exam preparation if you take it after first quarter 2018. But it is still a solid book on project management.
PRINCE2 Study Guide
This book is like the previous one but for PRINCE 2. It is much easier to read and comprehend than the official manual. If you are new to PRINCE 2, I suggest you start with this one. Get one here.
Scrum and XP from the Trenches – 2nd Edition
This book should be the first familiarization step to SCRUM. It is small, it is pure “How to,” and it is quite close to best practices. Moreover, the PDF version is free. So, I say, grab it now!
Kanban and Scrum – Making the Most of Both
This book is a brief comparison of Kanban and Scrum. It shows the differences, explains the pros and cons. It has a lot of informative illustrations. It is also free.
The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management
I suggest you read this book at least twice. First, when you just start your project management career. Just to feel the romance of our craft.
After you get two or three years of experience – reread it. You will find a lot of useful takeaways. I believe you will also see yourself in the novel as I did. Read it today
The Magic of Thinking Big
I can not overestimate the impact this book has on my life.
As project managers, we all start small. Small projects, little responsibilities, low salary.
But it depends only on your mindset whether you will grow fast and impetuous. Or you will just take what they give. This book forced me to go from a mid-level PM to PMI PMP, Senior PM, lecturer, public speaker, and to this blog. To say nothing of a better lifestyle. Start thinking big!
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
If you think big, you need to start getting things done. Have you ever dreamed of taking control of your Inbox, for example?
This book describes a methodology to organize your work and life. It can be implemented in various with different software and technologies. If you are serious about your productivity, it is a must. Read the book and start doing more.
Below, there are apps I recommend to use with GTD approach.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
It takes some courage to accept that among all the abundance of options, opportunities, and distractions there are just a few that get you closer to your goal. It takes discipline to filter out the non-essential tasks. But when you do, there will be much less stress and uncertainty.
I found that concepts of this book work equally well for daily life and project management. If you feel overwhelmed this book is for you. Do more by doing less.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
It is the basics. It is classical. If you are going to manage people, you must read this book.
I do not say that you need to behave as it describes but you do need to know how people think and feel. It is a foundation for any human resource management. It is a must-have! Buy it now
The 48 Laws of Power
If you dare to accept that you, as a project manager, manipulate people – get this book.
Carnegie assumes that all people are good. This book assumes that the world is not perfect.
There are a lot of lies and disguise. People are not good. But you need to manage them. You need to manipulate. It is just the same as How to Win Friends and Influence People but from a different perspective. Learn how to manipulate people for a good cause.
The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential
You already know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, McClelland’s Three Needs Theory and others. But how can you apply this knowledge?
I find this book as an excellent step by step guide to motivation and leadership. Little to no theory – just an action plan. Get it here
The Personal MBA
I believe that a project manager should understand business to some extent. This book provides a core set of knowledge. I found this book so value intensive that I read it three times. That says for it. Get MBA set of knowledge in one book.
Secret of Dynamic Communication
From time to time project managers need to make presentations. Small or big, daily or strategic you can do it efficiently. This book describes a simple but powerful framework how to make all your presentations and speeches exceptional. I do use it regularly. Make your next speech powerful.
2. Project Management Tools
Also, people regularly ask what free tools are there. The problem is that my experience shows that free tools usually do more harm than good.
I believe you must use the best tools available. They should help you, and they should save your time and efforts. Tools should easily integrate with your current processes and needs. Not vice versa. You need living products that are continuously developed and properly maintained.
Therefore, I do not suggest freeware here. Negotiate with your customers or management to get the best tools you can afford.
Merlin Project by Project Wizards is a professional Project Management software for Mac OS. Despite the lack of integration and collaboration options, it’s functionality is quite close to MS Project.
It includes Work Breakdown Structure, Net Diagram, PERT Analysis, budget planning, risk management, reports, milestone charts and much more. In general, it has everything you need to manage a large complex project.
In comparison with any SaaS solutions, this app will be a cost-efficient investment. Learn about Merlin Project
OmniPlan is one of the most popular project management tools for OS X. Its primary benefits are great user experience and simplicity. Nevertheless, it includes everything you need to manage small and medium projects. Personally, I find it difficult to use for large and complex projects.
Microsoft Project is still the King of project management tools. For years, it has been the number one professional tool. It still is.
JIRA became far more than just a bug tracker which in essence it was. Now it is a quite comprehensive set of project management tools. It is applicable for Scrum or Kanban. It has capabilities for portfolio planning, road-mapping, and planning. It is flexible and has a market of plugins.
Structure Plugin for JIRA Software
A plugin that gives you an ability to create multi-level hierarchy cross-project lists. A good way to organize tonnes of tickets in one place.
Confluence is document collaboration tool. When integrated with JIRA, it can be a heart of all your project management tools. Currently, I use Confluence as Wiki for the team. I keep project management plans there and all kinds of useful project documentation.
Trello is a digital whiteboard usually used by Scrum and Kanban teams. It is a good way to visualize and organize tasks and workflows.
Asana is a task tracker that is aimed at removing your communication from email. It has all aspects of Getting Things Done system. Assignments, due dates, comments plus file sharing and calendar. It can easily be a project management tool for small projects.
Evernote is my digital brain, personal planning, and productivity tool. I use it to store everything I found interesting. It has a web clipping feature that helps to save articles, bookmarks, files, and my thoughts. There are numerous ways you can use Evernote. Some use it as a project management tool as well.
For the last year, Nozbe was the most actively used application. It is a task tracker. It is aligned with the Getting Things Done methodology and has simple and intuitive UI.
I believe it is the number one reason for a productivity boost for me.
No matter how robust and integrated project management software that I use there is always a top-level executive who requests some kind of data in a spreadsheet.
I don’t like spreadsheets. I don’t like to have hundreds Word files. Still, there is no way to avoid usage of MS office.
I do all my presentation, lectures and illustration for blog posts in Apple’s Keynote. It is very easy to use and super powerful.
I write 7–10k words a week. While I’m not an English native speaker, I tend to check my writing. Grammarly does very comprehensive analysis and helps to correct mistakes as well as improve the text in general.
What are you favorite project management book, application or service? Share your findings in comments below.