“Whether you accept it or not, you are a project manager. Sure, you may identify as a designer, content strategist, developer (or any of the many roles and titles there are in our industry), but as a human being, you are a project manager.”
— Brett Harned, Project Management for Humans, p. xiv
Brett Harned’s Project Management for Humans introduces the general process by which digital projects are managed. It is explicitly targeted towards all the digital project workers out there who are well-versed in their own area of expertise, but have begun to take on more project management roles. It covers the general timeline of projects and what is expected of project managers (PMs) at each stage, from proposal to scope creep to facilitating meetings.
Within that frame of mind, this book is a must-have for fledgling PMs. Harned doesn’t advocate a specific process so much as he provides an overview of the PM’s core responsibilities and descriptions of how agencies big and small handle them. Everyone works differently, so focus is placed on showing the reader that there are a ton of different ways to solve the problems everyone is going to end up facing.
Harned took on a huge challenge by writing this book for non-dedicated digital PMs. Digital projects are so widely varied in terms of team, scope, and requirements that it’s impossible to give specific PM advice that won’t alienate large portions of readers. Harned mitigates this by introducing each concept with anecdotes from his life outside of work. This approach also reinforces one of the foundational concepts introduced early on — that project management isn’t a job skill so much as it is an essential life skill that’s even more essential at work.
That’s part of why this book is a good one to share your whole team, even those who are far removed from the PM process. For example, it explains how thorough documentation and frequent communication keep small snags from growing into huge issues without getting into the weeds of specific PM techniques.
With all of that said, it would be difficult to be a functional member of society without some of this book being a review of concepts you’re already familiar with. This lends more weight to Harned’s “PM is an essential life skill” idea, but it also means that most people will run into a chapter or two that explains something they already know. On the other hand, it’s always nice to hear that something you’ve already learned is important from someone who’s been managing projects for a long time.
Overall, this is a wonderfully accessible book for those seeking an introduction to digital project management. With that said, if you already consider managing projects to be one of your core competencies, you can probably skip this book.