Thoughts

Three Books to Guide Agile Project Management

A summer reading series from our project manager complete with key takeaways and lessons learned.

by Ian DiBruno

One of my favorite things about working at Promptworks is the learning culture. In my role as a Project Manager, I have key responsibilities in team leadership and project execution. Being in the early-”ish” stage of my career, I am still figuring out the best ways to do both of these things and I’m always looking for tips and best practices to adopt. Luckily, I am not the first one to have these responsibilities, and I can benefit from the wealth of knowledge provided by PMs before me.

As I approach my 1 year anniversary at PW, I’ve used my “investment time” to read a few key books that have helped me bolster my project management skills. Here’s a little about what I’ve learned from my past 3 reads.

Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction while Embracing Uncertainty

Authors: C. Todd Lombardo, Bruce McCarthy, Evan Ryan, Michael Connors

What I learned

This book taught me how to establish a long term strategy for any digital product. The authors prescribe a general framework that will provide a roadmap for development that is meaningful to stakeholders and flexible enough for your teams to deliver every time. Having this framework has been invaluable to me when serving our clients, and I am continually referring back to my notes to make sure I stick to the script.

Another key learning that I took away from this book is a communication strategy called Shuttle Diplomacy. This is a tactic where you review your roadmap with key stakeholders prior to presenting to a large group to ensure buy-in and reduce confusion about your roadmap. If this method of developing roadmaps is new to your organization, this book would be especially helpful.

Who should read this book

I’d recommend this book to product managers who are new to product development or experienced PM’s who feel their roadmapping methods have gotten stale. Besides roadmapping, the book covers foundational concepts like establishing Product Vision, developing User Needs and identifying Business Objectives. It can never hurt to get a refresher on these pillars of product development.

Measure What Matters: OKRs - The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth

Author: Jon Doerr

What I learned

What I love most about this book is its focus on establishing a repeatable and measurable goal setting process over time. After reading, I realized that there is exhaustive documentation about “goal setting” out in the world, but the buck generally stops there without providing tools on how to measure and maintain goals across quarters and years. OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) are simple, and have 4 superpowers including Focus, Alignment, Tracking and Stretching.

I have taken a stab at creating personal OKRs this performance cycle and I am getting ready to close out, reflect and reset them for the next period. I’ve learned that you have to build up your OKRs muscles, and they get easier to write the more you use them. I’ve also learned that for OKRs to work, there must be buy-in at the top of the organization. If there’s no commitment to them, they will be much harder to implement.

Who should read this book

I’d recommend this book to all business people that want to drive focus and unified productivity at work. However, I think this book is especially important for business leaders, since OKRs are designed to move entire organizations forward.

Conscious Business: How to Build Value Through Values

Author: Fred Kaufman

What I learned

This book puts a human lens on general business practices by highlighting core values like responsibility, humility, integrity and communication. These principles make up our underlying character that we bring to work everyday and apply to decision making, management conversations and team meetings. The author did an amazing job in surfacing relatable stories, and I was able to pinpoint my own strengths and reflect on opportunities to improve my working style and leadership skills.

Who should read this book

This book is for the “culture” nerds like myself, who strive to build relationships with high trust and seamless collaboration. I recommend this book to anyone who leads a team or works in a team setting and wants to take a step back and level up their leadership mindset and communication skills.

Conclusion

These three books have given me different tools that I can put into play to level up my leadership and project execution skills at Promptworks and beyond. They provide both tactical and practical advice to help me serve my teams and operate more efficiently as a project manager. Stay tuned over the next few months and I’ll be publishing some follow up posts with more detailed and actionable takeaways from these books. Cheers to personal growth and development!

What are your favorite business or PM books? Let us know!

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