Regardless of your industry, the skills and expertise of competent and productive project managers are always in demand. Whatever your profession, if you can organise and oversee the timely completion of tasks, not only will you be an asset to your organisation, but you’ll be earmarked as potential senior management material, too.
Therefore, it’s beneficial to your career and your personal development to get to grips with project management. Before you start taking the courses and sitting the exams, though, you might want to expand your knowledge.
Based on the recommendations of key project management organisations such as Wrike, TeamGantt and the PMI, we’ve compiled a list of the best project management books currently on the market.
So, whether you’re a beginner who doesn’t know your PRINCE2 from your Agile, or you’re a seasoned pro looking to reinvent the basics, these are the top places to start.
1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
Author: Project Management Institute (PMI)
Widely regarded as the original project management bible, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (also known as the PMBOK Guide, and originally published in 1996) is an 800-page behemoth designed for those who are looking to earn the prestigious PMP qualification.
It’s more than a simple study textbook, though. It’s a reference point for project managers at all stages of their careers and, as an officially licensed and constantly revised guide, is the ultimate authority on the subject.
If you’re serious about a career in project management, then it’s pretty simple: this book is an absolute must.
2. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management
Author: Scott Berkun
As a highly experienced IT project manager at Microsoft, author Scott Berkun is well-placed to muse and advise on the best strategies and philosophies for effective project management. Indeed, written as a series of personal essays, Making Things Happen is the antithesis of the relatively dry and academically minded PMBOK Guide, but it is just as valuable in cultivating a broader perspective of what project management is.
Relating his concepts to his own experiences in developing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer software, Making Things Happen is an essential and highly recommended resource for any project manager.
3. Project Management: Absolute Beginner’s Guide
Author: Gregory M Horine
For those who are new to project management – either as a result personal interest or a force of circumstance – Gregory M Horine’s Project Management: Absolute Beginner’s Guide is (as the title suggests) a good place to start.
Whether used as a more accessible companion to the PMBOK Guide or as a series of introductory lessons in its own right, the book covers all the key basic areas of project management, as well as a special chapter on how to prepare for the PMP exam.
With 25 years’ experience in senior project management roles, Horine is well-placed to impart wisdom, too. All in all, for those who are brand new to the game, this is as trustworthy and comprehensive an introduction as you’re likely to find.
4. Strategic Project Management Made Simple
Author: Terry Schmidt
According to author Terry Schmidt, the biggest problem facing project managers isn’t in identifying and devising strategies, but rather in implementing them. This, he claims, is the sole biggest reason why even the soundest strategies often fail.
Schmidt – a renowned leadership and strategy consultant in his own right – therefore spends much of Strategic Project Management Made Simple explaining how to remedy the cause of these issues, restructuring the whole process around four fundamental questions that you should always be asking yourself. With an MBA from Harvard Business School and the likes of NASA on his CV, he’s certainly an authority worth listening to, too.
5. The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management
Author: Eric Verzuh
One of the most popular and widely read business tomes on the market, The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management is unashamedly instructional in its nature, offering direct step-by-step advice on every aspect of the project management process.
Given its bestseller status, this no-nonsense approach is clearly appealing, especially for those who are looking to get to grips with the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’. As a bonus, the latest edition features additional chapters on IT project management, Agile techniques and even project selection, making it a worthwhile investment.
6. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Author: David Allen
As a fully trademarked time management concept, Getting Things Done isn’t a book solely about project management per se, but rather an authority on how to get the most out of your time – a crucial skill in project management.
Therefore, it comes highly recommended to new and seasoned project managers alike, particularly those who want to approach tasks with a clearer and calmer mindset. As an experienced management consultant and a self-proclaimed ‘productivity expert’, author David Allen’s methods are definitely worth exploring, especially if you feel as though your projects are always fighting against the clock.
7. Project Management for Non-Project Managers
Author: Jack Ferraro
In a similar vein to Gregory M Horine’s Absolute Beginner’s Guide, Project Management for Non-Project Managers is aimed primarily at those who are either looking to break into project management or who have suddenly found themselves thrust into it at work.
It breaks down all the key topics and the jargon and encourages you to instead dive into the process headfirst, acting as a condensed, stripped-down guide to the fundamentals of project management. Often, it’s these basic tenets that are the most important, though, so it’s well worth getting to grips with them, just as author Jack Ferraro does here.
8. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling
Author: Harold Kerzner
Having written numerous academic papers on project management, Harold Kerzner is a respected authority on the subject. Who better, then, to take you through the complexities and concepts involved?
Given his background, it’s no surprise that Kerzner’s work is targeted mainly at students and newcomers. Conveniently, the latest edition of Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling is intended to be read in conjunction with the PMBOK Guide and includes various PMP practice questions and tips throughout.
9. Project Management Jumpstart
Author: Kim Heldman
Now on its fourth edition, Project Management Jumpstart is another introductory guide that is focused on the fundamentals of the profession, illuminating them through numerous real-life case studies and examples. Author Kim Heldman has written several PMP exam textbooks, too, and this ability to break down concepts and place them within a clear context shines through across its 360 odd pages.
If you’re considering whether or not you’d be suited to project management, Project Management Jumpstart offers a pretty reliable parameter.
10. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager
Authors: Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore and James Wood
As previously mentioned, many project managers find themselves thrust suddenly into the position out of necessity, often left with nothing more than a team, a budget and a deadline. If this sounds like you, then Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager will come in extremely handy.
Authors Kogon, Blakemore and Wood instruct you to take a deep breath, before explaining succinctly what you need to do, taking you through all the essentials and ensuring that you remain organised throughout. There are numerous real-life examples to relate to as well, making this a highly recommended choice for those who have been put in charge – willingly or otherwise.
11. The Lazy Project Manager
Author: Peter Taylor
If you’ve never heard of the Pareto principle (the idea that, essentially, only 20% of the work you do actually matters), then you’ll be an expert by the time you finish The Lazy Project Manager.
Written by renowned consultant and public speaker Peter Taylor, it encourages you to embrace the fact that being smart and lazy is always preferable to being busy but stupid. According to Taylor, by applying this truth to your projects and condensing your focus on the things that really matter, you’ll be far more productive in the long run.
What project management books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!