Book review: The Lazy Project Manager

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Pull up a comfy chair, pour yourself a drink and wait for the project team to come to you. Welcome to the world of productive project management laziness, and Peter Taylor is the laziest of all. In a good way.

Peter’s book, The lazy project manager: How to be twice as productive and still leave the office early, contains everything you need to know to get even more done at work and still leave early.

I’m reading it at a time when I have taken on tasks myself that could very well have been delegated. Shame on me. Delegation is a key topic in the book and this is a very timely reminder that I could do a lot better. And when doing a lot better means better results all round and more time away from my desk I am all for it.

This is not The 4-hour Work Week. It’s a sensible approach to project management with a great title. It’s not about methodologies or doing the right documentation. It’s about how to get the most done, which basically boils down to knowing and relying on your project team.

Taylor bases his approach on the dinosaur theory:

All projects are thick at one end, much, much thinner in the middle and then thick again at the far end.

That’s hard to explain without the dinosaur picture but you get the idea:  work hard at the start to get things off on the right foot, then let your team take the strain, then close it down effectively and carefully with lots of involvement from you at the end.

I liked Peter’s book. It’s easy to read. He weaves the science in without you really noticing it. It’s all based on sound business, economic and military theory:  Pareto and a version of the Johari window make an appearance, along with enough diagrammatic grids to illustrate the key points in a coherent visual way. And it’s fun.

He writes about Monty Python, buses, reading the newspaper and there are jokes about frogs and balloons and it is oh so much more fun than I am making it out to be right now. OK, not hilariously, laugh-out-loud-on-the-tube-and-everyone-stares funny, but smirk-to-myself-and-goodness-it’s-my-stop-already funny.

The thing that really stood out for me is that Peter approaches the book and its readers with the same principles that he writes about. The 80/20 rule is the guiding light of The Lazy Project Manager and that applies to reading management books too, so Peter has distilled the essence of the book into ‘Quick tips to productive lazy heaven’ which is the penultimate chapter.

Then you get ‘Even quicker tips for the really lazy’, which distills the essence of the ‘Quick tips’. You get the idea. You can pick up some other tips at The Lazy Project Manager website.

The other great thing about this book is that it includes lots of anecdotes of times when things didn’t go well – and who doesn’t like reading about other people’s mistakes? We learn much better from people saying, “I messed up,” than we do from people saying, “I was so brilliant.”

The Lazy Project Manager isn’t going to teach you how to be a project manager. You need to know that before you open this book. But it will show you how to be more productive with the hours in the day, and in Peter’s book that equals more time away from your desk to do what you want.

So I will delegate more, and more effectively, at the right times. I will curl up in my comfy chair and watch re-runs of Gossip Girl. I just have to train my team to bring me tea and life will be good…