The Consultant’s Handbook

This book is a breath of fresh air. It’s a book which is exactly what it says it is – a handbook for consultants. It takes you through different elements of offering a consulting service, ed clearly explaining what’s needed and giving examples to help you fully understand the points made.

What struck me is that the advice in the book is all highly practical – it doesn’t just set out high level theory as to what a consultant is but really gets into the nitty gritty of it. For example there’s a chapter on Managing Client Meetings which takes you through how to plan the meeting and suggesting how to structure the meeting to get the best results. This is a level of detail which I often feel is missing from business books.

Although the examples in the book are from scenarios involving large businesses, viagra buy I could easily see how I could apply a lot of the techniques and structure to working on small projects. The client meetings section is one that particularly jumped out at me and I will be going through that again to feed into how we run meetings. Another area which really struck a cord with me is the importance of good communication in project work. This is an area which I always feel I need to improve, so I will be dipping back into this as well.

And I really do feel like this is a book which I will be able to ‘dip’ back into to pull out particular information, which is exactly what you need with a handbook. I love the way the chapters are laid out, with regular sub-headings to give each a really strong structure, the examples boxed out to differentiate from the rest of the content, and a summary at the end reiterating the important points. My tidy brain really appreciated the structured approach.

I think you can probably tell by now that I’m a big fan of this book. More of the same please!

Rating: ★★★★★

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Simply Brilliant

This is an interesting book. It describes itself as “The common-sense guide to success at work” and it’s all about applying common sense to your work. And there’s absolutely nothing wishy-washy about the book – it’s good sensible advice from beginning to end.

The author takes you through his seven rules of common sense. I was won over in the first chapter which “extols the virtues of simplicity in our thinking and encourages us to seek simple solutions”. I really like the idea of simple solutions. It’s very easy to overcomplicate things and it can be very stressful trying to wade through a complicated situation or process. I definitely like the idea of taking time to think about how we approach things and whether we could make our approach simpler.

It’s true, unhealthy isn’t it? Sometimes you can try to be too clever, or just not think things through clearly enough, and end up getting yourself in a tangle. If that sounds familiar then this book could really help you look at things differently.

Another rule that struck a chord with me was “There is always a sequence of events”. It stresses the importance of planning tasks so you are clear on the sequence of events. This is very true. If I jump into a task without planning it out first it will inevitably take me longer as I will jump around between actions as things occur to me, or I’ll miss something important. If, on the other hand, I plan the sequence of events I can then work methodically through the steps much more confidently and efficiently.

This book is all about common sense, in which case you might say “but I knew that already” but even the most obvious things are worth reminding yourself of and reviewing every now and then. Just taking the time to think with a slightly different mindset can make a big difference.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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The Little Book of Project Management

Little-PMThis is a fun little book and a surprisingly useful resource for such a tiny thing (it really is very small). It gives a very well-structured and easy to read introduction to the concepts of project management. I easily read it in one sitting but found myself thinking that I would definitely go back to it if I needed a reminder about a particular concept. It even covers methodologies such as Agile and Prince2 so if you’re new to project management and wondering what on earth they are you have the answer at your fingertips.

Each section of the book is colour coded, here making it easy to flick through and find what you need and the information is presented in a very digestible format with lists and charts which help you absorb the info.

Of course this isn’t going to teach you everything about project management but if you want to dip your toe in, or want a quick refresher, then this is a great place to start. It may well be just enough to get you on track, or interested enough to go and find out more. I’m going to keep it at the top of my list of project management books for when I need a quick bit of inspiration.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Make it Fly!

Have you got a goal you would like to achieve and would like a methodology to guide you through the process of achieving it? If the answer is yes then this is the book for you. Make it Fly! describes itself as “The step-by-step guide to make any idea, nurse project or goal to take off” and that is exactly what it is.

The method set out, view a combination of Project Management and Personal Development, would apply equally well to personal or business goals. The examples given are predominantly personal, so on the whole I found it easier to imagine applying it in that context. However, it would definitely work in a business context. What I would say is that it’s really designed for an individual to work through – so if you work on your own it would be perfect for you, or if you work with others but are working on a project single-handed I can seeing it being good for you too. But I think I would struggle to use the techniqes if I was working on a joint business goal or project.

What I love about the book is that it really is a step-by-step process. Each short chapter ends with an exercise and action points to build on previous chapters. If you follow it through you will end up with a plan to follow with a system for reviewing it regularly.

As well as helping you create a plan to reach your goal, the author also covers overcoming obstacles and staying motivated. One of my problems is that I enjoy the planning process but can easily lose momentum once that’s done. The techniques in this book should help me keep on track.

The book is an easy read and crammed full of practical tips, so you can’t help but imagine ways of putting it into practice. In fact I only just managed to make myself read it through first without taking action. I’m writing this review whilst sat on the train to London – still 3 hours to go, so I’m going to go straight back to the beginning and start following it for real.

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Rating: ★★★★★

What You Need to Know About Project Management

I’m very excited about this book. I picked it up on a shopping blip recently … one of those accidental splurges when you’re in the vicinity of a bookshop and you think ‘I’ll just have a look and see if there’s anything interesting’. Duh! I’m in the business section of a large bookshop, treatment of course I’m going to find something interesting!

So, I bought a copy of What You Need to Know About Project Management, and having just finished my first read-through I’m thinking I might have to get a couple of spare copies. You know, for when this one disintegrates from over-use. I’ve already had the spine go crunch on me when I flattened it out to type up one of the step-by-step processes, which I immediately applied to several of the projects I’m working on.

I’ve read a number of project management books over the last few years, and I don’t often find one that I feel was written for me. Most project management books seem to be aimed at managers of big projects – the ones that take months if not years to complete, have a large team working on them and have a budget of tens or hundreds of thousands. That’s definitely not me and I get a bit frustrated with the assumption that you only need help with project management if that’s the case. I tend to have a number of  projects on the go at any one time, and even though individually they’re very small, I still benefit from applying project management techniques to them. I found this book presents the information in such a way as to allow me to apply it to my own projects. And what’s more, it includes a section on running multiple projects, which had me jumping for joy – it’s all very well having a system for managing a single project, but if you’re juggling several this book also gives you pointers on that.

The style of the writing is very informal, making it very easy to understand. It doesn’t get bogged down with formal definitions of projects and over-complicated systems. Instead it sets out the facts in a very forthright manner so you know exactly what to do. And, after explaining each technique, includes a simple step-by-step so that you can apply it instantly.

This book has certainly made me think carefully about my approach to projects. I can see that I’m going to have to keep it close by me and refer to it again and again. If you are new to project management, or need a refresher, then pick up a copy – it will give you an excellent grounding and pointers to further reading if you’re so inclined.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Manage Projects

Manage Projects by Adny Bruce and Ken LangdonManage Projects: Meet your deadlines and achieve your targets by Andy Bruce and Ken Langdon is a great little book. It truly is little being just 120 pages long and smaller in size than most books. However, sick it’s crammed full of useful information taking you the process of managing projects. Just what I needed! It’s a very readable book with lots of illustrations, tables, and blocked out sections. Could have done with some greater contrast at times for reading comfort but apart from that it’s a very attractively put together book.

It introduces the subject of project management in easily understood language and provides many useful tools. It’s made me feel quite inspired to try out the process on our projects.

The one criticism that I have is that I would have liked a checklist bringing together all the different parts of the process in one place. I was hoping to be able to put one together myself but going back through the book found it difficult to extract the flow. However, it’s definitely worth persevering with and I plan to do some further reading to help me achieve my goal.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Project Management for Dummies

Project Management for Dummies by Stanley E. PortnyOK, discount viagra I admit defeat. I started Project Management for Dummies a couple of weeks ago and have so far managed a pathetic 80 pages. When reading becomes this much of a chore it’s time to give up so that’s what I’m doing. I thought ‘for Dummies’ books were supposed to be easy-going. Well I’m certainly not finding that with this one.

Part of the problem is that it’s obviously aimed at someone working in a large organisation but I’m not lacking in imagination so much that I can’t apply the examples to our small-scale setup. For example, I can easily substitute ‘go and see a solicitor’ for ‘consult the legal department’. However, I’m still don’t feel like I’ve been getting much benefit from it. It annoyingly combines a considerable amount of detail with very little in the way of practical examples, so half the time I don’t have a clue what the author is going on about.

Do I sound too harsh or just incredibly whingey? Either way the book will be winging it’s way back to the library tomorrow and I’ll be on to something (hopefully) more enjoyable.

Anyone know any good project management books?? Suggestions gratefully received, especially if they take into account that not everyone works in a large multi-department organisation. Even projects run by a two-man band such as us need some form of management.

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

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