Whether you are managing your first project or have been doing it for years, you’re always looking to improve your skills and learn how to be a better project manager. It’s always helpful to take professional courses in specific areas, like how to master agile management or a specific PRINCE2 training, but with the help of the right resources, you can actually learn a lot on your own.
While there is nothing like learning from experience and project management training, taking the hard-won advice from experts in the field will save you from making countless avoidable errors. But with so many project management books out there, it’s hard to know which are actually useful.
Don’t worry. Hive’s got your back. We’ve searched the internet, read through Amazon reviews, and asked other project managers to find the best project management books on the market. Based on our research, here are the most essential project management books for all PMs to read.
1. Alpha Project Managers by Andy Crowe
Based on his survey of 860 project managers, this is one of the best project management books available. Andy Crowe breaks down all the key traits that make the best project managers achieve more. His research debunks common knowledge about what it takes to succeed as a project manager. For example, his survey found that the best project managers send fewer emails per day and spend less time in meetings than their less-successful counterparts.
What makes this analysis stand out is that fact that they also surveyed 4,398 clients, team members, and senior management that worked with these project managers. As a result, the findings reflect a comprehensive view of the project manager’s performance, and not subject to biases of many self-reported surveys.
If you are ambitious and looking for strategies to propel you up the corporate ladder, this book has a lot of great insights.
2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Running effective projects takes more than just good strategy and the best project management tools. It’s also about the people. That’s the focus of Patrick Lecnioni’s compelling book, and why it’s one of our top project management books.
As another one of the best project management books on the market, Patrick uses the power of storytelling to highlight five common areas where teams fail. This book is a quick read filled with helpful insights that you can take and implement on your team right away. If you want to get better at improving team dynamics, this one will be a great asset — it’s one of our top project management books.
3. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute
Known as PMBOK, this book is considered absolutely essential and one of the must-read project management books for anyone studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam, an important industry-recognized certification. The Project Management Institute (PMI), who is responsible for setting industry standards, write each edition of this text.
Yes, this book is academic and dense (over 600 pages!), but it is one of the most comprehensive guides out there. While most people take a PMP course as well, we definitely recommend the book as an extra source of information to help study for the PMP exam or just deepen your project management knowledge.
4. Getting Things Done by David Allen
This is one of the most influential business, personal productivity, and project management books ever written. The Getting Things Done (GTD) method emphasizes the importance of getting your tasks out of your head and breaking them down into an organized system. When you do this, it frees up your mind to think creatively and make better decisions. The book is filled with practical guidance on how to set up task lists and structures that help you feel less stressed and more organized.
For all project managers overwhelmed by stress, the book has the answers you need.
Where to buy it: On Amazon
5. Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams by Terry Schmidt
This book is a practical guide to turning ideas and goals into coherent, actionable plans. The author suggests that there are 4 critical questions that a project manager must answer to build a strong project plan:
- What are we trying to accomplish and why?
- How will we measure success?
- What other conditions must exist?
- How do we get there?
This mental framework ensures that you have considered all important aspects of a project before you get started. If you are looking for a more strategic approach to project management, check this book out!
6. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
This is a classic business book that should be on anyone’s bookshelf. Jim Collins and his team did an in-depth analysis of 28 companies and discovered what were the key determinants that led to significant improvements in performance. Although not specific to project management, this substantive analysis into how companies made real improvements in performance has lessons you can apply in any context.
If you are looking to improve your leadership skills, this book is the one for you.
7. 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
Laura Vanderkam is a leader in the time management and organization space (we even interviewed Laura on some of her top productivity tips). This book is a great guide for those of us looking to reevaluate how we’re spending our time. Her thesis is that there’s always enough time if you start by making sure there’s time for the important stuff. If you plan your time out with that in mind, when things go awry, only the less important items suffer.
It’s a great read if you’re struggling with time management, in a new role, or just want to better manage your schedule — it’s one of our top project management books.
8. Project Management’s Sacred 7 by Neel Mehta, Parth Detroja, and Aditya Agashe
This book is authored by three rockstar project managers at Google, Facebook and Microsoft. It’s a great book about all of the skills required to get you hired anywhere as a project manager. While they were writing this book, the authors interviewed dozens of hiring managers for PM roles, which helped them better understand what skills were in demand.
The book culminates in seven main themes that you should focus on to get hired as a PM anywhere.
9. Scrum: The Art Of Doing Twice The Work in Half The Time by Jeff Sutherland and JJ Sutherland
If you know project management, chances are you’ve heard of scrum. Scrum is a framework that helps people accomplish work through adaptive processes. In this book, you learn about scrum’s origins and how you can apply the scrum framework into everyday life or to how you manage and lead a time. And you might even actually learn how to do twice the work in half the time.
10. Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure by Todd Williams
This is a great project management book for anyone who has ever struggled with project failure, which is, let’s face it, all of us. Williams give great insight into turning disaster projects around, much of which he’s gleaned from helping top businesses around the world do just that. In this book, you’ll start by learning tricks to identify the root cause of the problem and how to accurately assess project problems instead of finger pointing.
Where to buy it: On Amazon
11. Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers by Lyssa Adkins
Built for people managing agile teams, this book is a great option for anyone who wants to re-energize their team’s work environment and adopt principles of the agile project management methodology. In this book, Adkins helps agile coaches understand their successes, failures, and how they can better optimize their team’s strategy, workload, and more for optimal output.
12. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogan
Project managers come in all shapes and sizes. And just because you don’t have the phrase project management in your job description, it doesn’t mean you don’t do it on a daily basis. This book believes that everyone who manages projects is considered to be a project manager, no matter what you’re official title is. And if that’s true, your team can significantly benefit when everyone fine-tunes those small, unofficial project management tasks.
So if you’re someone who isn’t an official project manager, but often find yourself assisting with the planning and execution of projects – this book is for you.
13. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel K Pink
This book is all about the power of timing. Most of us believe that timing is all a matter of luck, but author Daniel Pink thinks otherwise. Using stories and practical takeaways, Pink explains how timing is actually a science, and how readers can use this knowledge to live richer, more engaged lives. If you’re feeling stuck or immobile in your job or on a particular project, this book could give you the fresh perspective you need to get over the hump.
14. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Whether its the coffee you pour yourself right when you get up, or its the daily to-do list where you list all of your priorities, it’s clear that habits make a big impact on our daily lives. In The Power Of Habit, Charles Duhigg uses science to explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. This book takes vast amounts of scientific information and distills it down into narratives that present a brand new understanding of human nature and its potential.
This book believes that whatever you’re trying to achieve – whether its a big job promotion or small improvements to your daily productivity – hinges on your habits and understanding of the way they work.
15. Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaos by Darrell K. Rigby, Sarah Elk, Steve Berez
Agile is all about inspiring a flexible response to change in an unpredictable environment. The Agile methodology of project management refers to an iterative approach to both software development and project management. The methodology is based on constant planning, learning, development, teamwork, evolutionary improvement, and early delivery. Agile is indeed a powerful way to bring outstanding results to an organization, however, it needs to be implemented in the right way. According to the authors, the key is balance.
In Doing Agile Right, the writers break down how agile works and when it doesn’t and also explain the importance of scaling agile properly in order to reap its full benefit. Agile isn’t the final goal in itself; but instead a means to becoming a high-performance organization.
16. Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace, by Phil Simon
Companies are improving their hybrid work environment, forcing project managers to adapt and create new productive routines. Award-winning writer Phil Simon compiles his research on Agile software development, human resources, supply-chain management, organizational behavior, cognitive psychology, and labor economics in his newly published “Project Management in the Hybrid Workplace” book.
In his work, Simons details case studies but also brings practical advice making the book a must-read for any product owners, new and seasoned PMs, service providers, freelancers, small business owners, and students taking PM classes.
So there you have it – 16 of our favorite books to help you refresh your project management skills and widen your perspective in the workplace. Do you have a favorite project management book that we left off of the list? Let us know in the comments below!