Best Non-Technical Books For Project Management
Become A Better Professional
In a project world, you have countless courses, certificates and technical books. However, in this post, I would like to look into five non-technical books I found to be very insightful, and I could apply them to my project management role. What do I mean by non-technical? Well, these have not been written for project or product management professionals, but they have unique practical ideas worth sharing and applying.
|1.||How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie||Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Management, Teamwork, Influence||How to Win Friends and Influence People|
|2.||The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss||Time Management, Delegation||The 4-Hour Work Week|
|3.||The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries||Lean & Agile Methods, Innovation & Innovating||The Lean Startup|
|4.||Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Ph.D.||Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Motivation||Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities|
|5.||The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Prof Steve Peters||Leadership, Management, Emotional Intelligence, Teamwork||The Chimp Paradox|
We start our list with non-other than one of the best-selling books of all times, published in 1936 and sold over 30 million copies. In 2011, Time Magazine listed the book as 19th in the 100 most influential books. I have listened to the book three times just to get everything from it.
Dale Carnegie started as a teacher of public speaking at a YMCA. And, yes, he has a book about that as well. Because Carnegie was excellent at helping people to move from their shells, the class was hugely popular.
In one of his books, he talked about how his classes were commission-based, and his pay would depend on the amount of student’s retention. Thus, he was always incentivised to do his best. Maybe, this is why he became so good at it. Plus, one of the most famous students even to this day is Warren Buffet.
What Are The Main Points Of How to Win Friends and Influence People?
The book has four main sections and several pieces of advice around subjects of:
- Handling people/Stakeholder management
- Getting along with people
The book’s key idea was that you want to always look from another person’s perspective if you’re going to lead, encourage or influence.
What Is The Project Profession Application Of How to Win Friends and Influence People?
Emotional Intelligence is something that is highlighted as one of the most critical soft skills in project management. We work with people, and we need to get the best results. The whole book is one big application on the subject. Let me give you a few examples.
Don’t criticise, condemn, or complain.
Show me a person who loves to be criticised! Though things do not always go well in projects. Sometimes there might be a team member who seems to be slacking. First, though, you should not assume and should find out more. Maybe there are things outside work.
However, even if you know a person to be slacking off, you should not criticise him/her; it will probably end up being worse. You would like to explain broader business goals and describe how their work is affecting the overall team and business objectives.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Listening is one of the top 3 skills in any project management. You listen for requirements, complaints, reports, etc. Take a scenario where a business representative complains about the issue they have in daily work. You would love to jump with a solution, but it would be too early as an individual would think that you do not care what he has to say and maybe even dismiss your potentially good idea. You want to listen to ensure that the problem is diagnosed accurately, and a potential solution would solve the whole issue.
A Final Word On How to Win Friends and Influence People
I have read multiple, more recent books about people’s management or listened to similar ideas in the book. But it seems like Carnegie was one of the first to come with these insights. So, why not to learn from the source. The book is as relevant today as it was in 1936. I would say it is a must-read for all project professionals.
I have also read How to Stop Worrying and Start Living: Time-Tested Methods for Conquering Worry and Public Speaking for Success by Carnegie. These are great books as well, and if you loved “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, you will appreciate these two books as well.
I might not even need to introduce this book, however, if you have not heard about the book. Here it goes.
The book is one of the most popular self-help books out there, sold over 2.1 million copies and was part of The New York Times Best Seller List for more than four years. Thus, it definitely hit the cord with the overworked professionals’ population.
What Are The Main Points Of The 4-Hour Work Week?
The books main point is that you can earn in relative terms more than somebody working in a highly paid professional career if you can live in a lower-income country or place. There are a lot of assumptions in that logic, but it is achievable.
However, I would like to concentrate on a slightly different aspect of the book. The author gives several terrific pieces of advice on how he became more productive. I want to focus on the productivity aspect and use businesses in the book as a fun business case.
What Is The Project Profession Application Of The 4-Hour Work Week?
We could split the book into two parts when considering productivity ideas, which are elimination and outsourcing.
There is so much happening in a modern organisation, including emails, approvals, confirmations, chasing, etc. Some people are better than others when creating work for themselves. They are even proud that they hit 70 hours in a week or a similar number, and they may be even doing the job effectively.
The problem is that not all that work gives you the best result or, for that matter, any results. There is even a principal around the idea called the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule; the idea is that only 20% of work gives 80% of the benefit and vice versa. Thus, there are a lot of people who are bussy about the wrong thing.
Now, as project professional, we are fortunate. Our work often is measure by the results, deliverables and not actually how many hours we worked. Usually, a business wants to get things done quickly and does not want to hear how long it took. Therefore, we are already on the right side of the fence. Yet, I would still encourage you to occasionally review if a lot of running, chasing and approving is vital, or you could direct your energy somewhere else.
If you are interested in having more of these examples, check The E-Myth Real Estate Agent: Why Most Real Estate Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It By Michael E. Gerber and Brad Korn. They cover it nicely, plus, as a bonus, you will learn about tasks automation and stop fighting with fires all the time.
Now, even if you eliminate multiple tasks, you may be still not being effective. You might be attempting to do all 20% at the same time. Unfortunately, there have been proven that nobody is good at multitasking. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook have multiple companies, and the way he is managing those is by only concentrating on one per week as much as possible. Hence, the recommendation is always to have a hit list for the day no more than two tasks.
One book I have read goes all the way to say that one task in the day is all you need. Within the week, you have just completed five critical tasks. The book is The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan. Yes, you would still have some smaller tasks, but when your goals are so clear, you will definitely complete that one task a day.
Again project professionals are fortunate that we often deal with prioritisation, which allows us to see what is highly essential for projects. You have your backlog of tasks; hence, you can start ticking off.
The 4-hour week goas a lot into outsourcing subject. Like getting support from companies like Fiverr or Upwork.
Typically, this would not work in projects as you would be dealing with confidential company’s information. Still, what this reminded me is that you can delegate some tasks. You can even create an outlook folder to store all the tasks, which can be given to somebody else to complete. It might not be exactly how you would do it, but maybe these are not the tasks you give the most value if somebody else can do it.
A Final Word On The 4-Hour Work Week
The book is easy to read or, in my case, easy to listen to. Gives excellent practical examples of reducing multitasking, increasing outsourcing/delegating and eliminating tasks. I think all project professionals could benefit from these productivity skills, and as a result, businesses would benefit as well.
The book is looking into how to apply lean startup’s strategies, and the subject seems to on-demand as authors sold over 1 million copies of the book.
What Are The Main Points Of The Lean Startup?
The main idea of the book is that entrepreneurs need to test ideas and learn from mistakes. Then build a solution and measure success.
What Is The Project Profession application Of The Lean Startup?
If your company is applying lean or agile methodologies, you will recognise these approaches in the book. In my view, the book is excellent to explore multiple real-life examples of using lean and agile methods.
The book will not make you an agile expert, but you will learn about the benefit of applying principals. Concepts like MVP or testing ideas will make more sense. Also, you will see the benefits of improving product or solution through sprints or iterations.
A Final Word On The Lean Startup
It is a great book if you like to learn about companies that have succeeded in using lean or agile methods. If you look at your project as a little venture, then the book makes even more sense. Great to see methodology application not just in your company and ventures but around the world.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi PhD has written several books around the same positive psychology idea, “Flow”, with different applications. You can pick any and will understand the concept. Therefore, I will not single out one book in the introduction. Instead, I will jump straight into the book I have listened to and explain how you can use Flow idea as project professionals.
What Are The Main Points Of Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities?
Every single person is in control of their feelings and emotions. For example, if somebody shouts at you, you have a choice to become angry and shout back, ignore or even laugh. Therefore, you can make yourself happy or miserable by just changing the content of your consciousness.
People often associate increased happiness with more material things like a bigger house or an expensive car. But if you have ever bought anything new, you know that the joy is short-lived. Immediately, you might start looking for something new to buy to achieve more happiness. You can see how this is not sustainable. What will happen if you lose your house?
It is also true when it comes to salary because if the wage increases after a certain threshold (~£50K), the feeling of the next incremental increase will wear off quickly.
So, how do you achieve more sustainable happiness and change consciousness? The way to do it is to reach the optimal experience or flow. You might have even experienced such a state. I recognise it when the time passes very quickly while doing a particular task, and I have no worries or thoughts that are not linked with the task at hand.
The idea is to make sure that the task is not too challenging; else, you would feel anxiety. Still, not too easy, or you will feel boredom. Anything between the two scenarios is the experience you are after, which is called a flow channel, and it is the point where you should feel happy.
What Is The Project Profession Application Of Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities?
It does not matter if you are a project manager, business analyst, or other project professional principals in the book will guide you to flow experience. You can make a tedious task more interesting or turn a stressful project into just challenging enough to make it engaging.
As mentioned already in the post, multitasking does not give you great long term results. Focus is also a theme in the book. Therefore, as a project manager or a team member, you need to make sure that you can concentrate on the specific task to experience the benefits of achievement and zone out from other issues.
While doing creative work, say in a workshop, thinking about a new solution. It would help if you allowed participants freedom not to criticise their ideas or especially them. Allow the participant to present any ideas during the agreed period, say 20 min. Only then start exploring viable once.
To feel the achievement, you need to know what is your goal and how you are doing. It works both at an individual level and as a leader. If you are a project manager, you would be setting tasks, acceptance criteria and milestones. If you are part of the team, you could have created timelines for your assignments—e.g. to complete a single critical task per day. Furthermore, when you know your goals, you need feedback to see how you measure against goals. The project manager could provide honest feedback at regular intervals. In an individual’s example, you can see how you are doing against created personal timelines.
Finally, you need to fine-tune the challenge of the task. If you feel bored, then crank up the heat and reduce deadlines or increase the complexity given to align with overall project objectives. If you feel anxious, then take a step back. One responsibility of a project manager is to protect a team from overwork, which happens to make them less anxious and enjoy work more.
A Final Word On Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities
It might be evident that I love this book. For somebody like me, who likes measures or specifics, it gives a framework to adjust any task to get optimal experience and literally have a happier life from every job I do.
The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Prof Steve Peters
The book is a fun way to look into complex human psychological behaviour in all life situations. Making it simple and straightforward helps to remember and apply it more quickly to real-life situations.
What Are The Main Points Of The Chimp Paradox?
The books simplify complex psychological human brain activity into three categories human, chimp and computer.
Human represents rational thought and really the way we like to think about ourselves. Chimp is our emotions or primate brain within you. A computer is your automated responses to bad and good, something that is preprogrammed in the past.
All three groups influence your behaviours and thoughts. However, rational thought is the weakest influencer, given that it has evolved most recently. The problem is that your chimp and computer adjusted to living in the wild and sometimes maybe incorrectly suggesting how to act in a city or professional type of environment.
How do you know that chimp is thinking for you? Well, these are all feelings, thoughts or actions you do not want to have, but you still do.
What Is The Project Profession Application Of The Chimp Paradox?
You can take many great insights from the book and apply both to yourself and the people around you. A lot of what is being said is self-evident when you think about it in detail, but having a simple framework helps apply it more often.
For example, you are a project manager who is dealing with an overly emotional individual. It could be various reasons for emotions, from reduced responsibilities to poor performance. Now, if you read a book, you might say that this individual is not acting rationally at this point, and the chimp is taking over instead of the rational human. While the chimp is active, the other person will not listen. Thus, it would help if you gave a chimp some more time to come down to have a normal conversation. The worst thing you could do is to unleash your chimp because then all hell will break loose. The thing is, you cannot control other people—only yourself.
I discuss similar principals in my blog post: 5 EMOTIONS OF SARAH MODEL: THE CHANGE CURVE FOR PROJECTS.
You might be dealing with stress because of an unexpected situation on a project, and somebody is threatening your career/territory or ego. Trust me; your chimp will go wild! Yet, you might want to recognise the effect the scared and angry chimp might have on you because it may make even more damage. There are few techniques in the book you can apply to limit the impact and get great composure to address new challenges with an optimal state of mind.
A Final Word On The Book The Chimp Paradox?
The book is easy to digest but still very powerful. It will make you think twice before raising your voice or reacting to somebody else’s tantrums. Spending time thinking about the book’s concepts made me a better leader and definitely a problem solver when it comes to people.
Also, The Chimp Paradox was the first book I have listened to on audible. If you are interested in checking out Audible, see the link below, which will give you one free book for 30 days. Actually, you could find all five books in the shop. I like to listen to my books while walking to work, making breakfast or just resting my eyes from looking all day at a computer; by doing that, I become more productive and get some fresh ideas. Why not try!?
If you more into reading Kindle has a similar deal.
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Check out the Fiverr marketplace if you do not have time to run your own projects or just need extra help. They do have multiple project professionals, including project managers. Maybe you will find just the right fit to take some burden from you. I have used Fiverr in the past. The prices are also not too bad. If you seek PM via corporate route, it will be easily 5x the price.