Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace (Book Review)

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Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace is the latest book from Phil Simon – a guy I think is smart, with a dry sense of humor, and who obviously loves researching all the nerdy things that make a book great.

It’s about how, for decades, organizations have found it challenging to deliver projects. Even when we all worked together in co-located offices.

Today, that in-person world of work has gone. And it doesn’t look like it is coming back any time soon. Remote and hybrid workplaces, and project teams, are the way strategy is getting delivered now.

But working in a hybrid team is difficult. There are several obstacles that make managing complex projects more of a challenge. If I’m honest, even managing easy projects is made harder by virtue of not being in the same office as my colleagues.

When I was more regularly in the office, it was easy to get in touch with people. I’d arrive early to catch them before they got sucked into meetings, or walk with them between buildings even when I didn’t need to go to the other building. But working remotely means it is harder to find those water cooler moments for quick catch-ups.

Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace book cover

Not that I particularly want to go back to commuting 5 days a week. Just saying.

Phil draws from a wide range of critical research to bring together a multi-disciplinary look at why hybrid is hard and what we can do to make it easier.

There’s a lot in the book, but I felt it was a little light on project management content for me. Chapters are packed with evidence, anecdotes, and explanations of why you should care about new ways of working and the dangers of not paying attention to workplace shifts. These are all useful and interesting in their own way.

The last third of the book is the ‘how to’ section and I wish it had been given a larger proportion of space because I do like practical takeaways. There is advice for working with suppliers and in multi-organizational teams, which is so relevant to the complex procurement environments we work in today. However, the reader is almost expected to draw their own lessons from the stories. The chapter summaries do help bring the learnings and action points to the surface.

There is no doubt that Phil Simon is a gifted storyteller, pitching at an educated audience. I really wanted to love this book as the topic is much needed but I didn’t get enough actual advice on what to do differently.

However, there are several big points, discussed in a chapter each that ensures the ideas have time to percolate. You’ll go away with a few big ideas of how to change the way you work as a hybrid team, and how communication channels between colleagues could be improved for the good of project delivery.

If you have read another of Phil’s books, Message Not Received, you’ll pick up on some of the same threads about communication approaches at work and how best to get your message out there and understood. I think I probably preferred that book, to be honest, although it is not aimed at a project management readership. It’s relevant for anyone who communicates with other people at work. So that’s all of us then.

Best for:

  • Multi-organizational teams
  • Project managers leading complex projects and hybrid teams
  • Newbies with 0-5 years experience
  • People needing evidence of why old methods are dangerous to project success to share with their boss.

Not such a great read if:

  • You’re already practiced at hybrid
  • You only work with internal teams

The book is a multi-disciplinary take on what it means to manage work successfully in a world where people could—and frequently are—anywhere. If you’re feeling fried by the cognitive load of hybrid and remote work, this book will help you think and act differently. You’ll feel better for it.

Join me talking to Phil Simon about sushi, spaghetti, and side dish project management (amongst other things) on his show Conversations about Collaboration.

Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace (Book Review)
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Read my review of Phil Simon's book Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace.


Author: Elizabeth Harrin

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