Project Management for Humans

Helping People Get Things Done

By Brett Harned

  • Project Management for Humans Cover
  • Project management—it’s not just about following a template or using a tool, but rather developing personal skills and intuition to find a method that works for everyone. Whether you’re a designer or a manager, Project Management for Humans will help you estimate and plan tasks, scout and address issues before they become problems, and communicate with and hold people accountable.

    Stop banging your head against the wall when it comes to your web projects. Harned provides specific guidelines, motivational tips, and empathetic advice that will align your teams and elevate the way you plan, run, and manage your projects.

    Ahava Leibtag, President, Aha Media Group

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    Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: You’re the PM Now
    Chapter 2: Principles over Process
    Chapter 3: Start with an Estimate
    Chapter 4: Getting to Know Your Projects
    Chapter 5: Create a Plan
    Chapter 6: Managing Resources
    Chapter 7: Communicate Like a Pro
    Chapter 8: Navigating the Dreaded Difficult Conversation
    Chapter 9: Setting and Managing Expectations
    Chapter 10: Scope Is Creepin’
    Chapter 11: Facilitation for PMs

    FAQ

    These common questions and their short answers are taken from Brett Harned’s book Project Management for Humans: Helping People Get Things Done. You can find longer answers to each in your copy of the book, either printed or digital version.

    1. I’m not a project manager. In fact, I know nothing about what project managers do. Can you tell me a little more about it?
      The role of a PM can certainly be a mystery—particularly when it’s not done well. There are specific characteristics that make a great PM, like being a clear, calm communicator, or adaptable and flexible. And there are a ton of tasks that many PMs take on, such as creating estimates, crafting process, and reporting on project status among others. It’s equal parts technical and soft skills. Check out Chapter 1, “You’re the PM Now,” for the full details on what makes a good project manager.
    2. I keep hearing about Agile, but I can’t tell if it’s right for me. Is it?
      People tend to think that Agile means “fast,” but in the context of project management, it’s a formal method that is characterized by the division of tasks into short phases of work and frequent iteration and adaptation to meet a goal. It’s made up of formalized roles and meetings or “ceremonies” that help guide projects. There is a lot to consider when adopting a new process: project types, goals, budgets, and people. It’s best to learn a little about other processes and discuss the pros and cons with your team before just diving in. To learn more about project management methodologies and digital project management principles, check out Chapter 2, “Principles over Process.”
    3. I’m terrible at estimating projects. How can I get better?
      Hey, creating accurate estimates is tough work. As the word “esti- mate” implies, there is a lot of guesswork involved. However, if you want to get closer to a really good estimate, you should examine projects or tasks and break them down into subtasks to determine a level of effort. You’ll find that information in Chapter 3, “Start with an Estimate.”
    4. I’m nervous about talking to my client about how our project is going to be over budget and probably late. Do you have any tips for how I can handle this?
      You’ve got to be comfortable addressing sensitive or difficult issues head on when you’re leading projects, because they tend to come up quite often. Whether you’re worried about scope creep or you need to address a performance issue with a team member, it’s best to take a measured approach that is empathetic and gets straight to the point in order to resolve it quickly. Check out Chapter 9, “Setting and Managing Expectations,” to learn about how to set and manage expectations better in order to avoid some of these conversations, and Chapter 8, ”Navigating the Dreaded Dif cult Conversation,” for some tips on how to navigate the conversation itself.

    Foreword

    After more than 20 years of creating and making things for the internet, I’ve learned a thing or two. And when it comes to project management, I’ve found the following to be true:

    • Project management is hard. Variables like virtual teams, unknown technology, and scope creep can turn seemingly simple projects into mission impossible. Sometimes, it takes every ounce of your energy, patience, discipline, and all the soft skills you can muster to even complete a project, much less make it great or timely.
    • Project managers are routinely underappreciated. Let’s face it—if you’re good at your job, your contributions often go unnoticed. And typically, the spotlight is given to other disciplines, like design and development.

    I am a designer by trade, but I’ve often been put into a leadership position. Which means that I’ve had to practice project management out of necessity, not by choice. Until now, there have been very few resources available to help practitioners like me understand how to manage people and projects. So when Brett told me that he was writing this book, I said, “Take my money!” because Project Management for Humans is sorely needed.

    Having worked with Brett for the past seven years, I knew firsthand that he’d earned his knowledge the hard way. There’s nothing in this book that Brett has not lived through, dealt with, and, at the end of the day, delivered as a project manager.

    There are two audiences for this book: the dedicated project manager, and everyone else who finds himself or herself tasked with leading projects and teams (designers, developers, strategists, and executives, for example).

    For all you project managers out there—whether you’re hoping to learn new ideas, change career paths, or validate the hard work that you’re already doing—this book provides the advice and ideas you’ll need to handle any project situation, no matter how complex.

    For the designers and developers who are taking their first steps into project management, you’re in good hands. The road ahead will not be easy; pay heed to Brett’s advice in the following chapters, and it will help you form great teams and launch successful projects and products.

    Finally, a word to the wise: if you are leading projects or teams, seek out the fellowship of your peers. This book is just a start, and it will certainly help you take giant leaps in your career. However, collaborating with your peers will give you even more confidence and enable you to achieve victory often.

    Go forth and be great!

    Greg Storey
    Austin, Texas
    @brilliantcrank

    Testimonials

    A great mix of proven approaches and new ideas; the craft of digital project management finally has its bible.

    Carl Smith, Bureau of Digital

    This book is like a mentoring conversation with your fun uncle. It’s easy to read, includes loads of examples that bring the concepts to life in ways anyone can understand, and is grounded in business practices that really work. There are even sample layouts for templates. Brett’s done the thinking about how to make your projects successful, and distilled it into what you really need to know to deliver on your targets time and time again. Recommended.

    Elizabeth Harrin, creator of A Girl’s Guide to Project Management

    Finally, digital teams have a reference book that covers everything they need to know about project management, from scoping and budgeting to managing teams and clients. Brett Harned has written a guide that both project managers and designers can use.

    Karen McGrane, author, Going Responsive

    Brett’s book is full of great advice for those wanting to learn the ropes of successful project management. Whether reading straight through, or using it as a reference in a time of need, this book is a must.

    Aaron Irizarry, Head of Experience, Infrastructure Capital One, and author, Discussing Design

    Stop banging your head against the wall when it comes to your web projects. Harned provides specific guidelines, motivational tips, and empathetic advice that will align your teams and elevate the way you plan, run, and manage your projects.

    Ahava Leibtag, President, Aha Media Group

    I’ve always loved Brett’s authoritative-yet-comforting way of speaking and was psyched to see how incredibly well that tone came through in Project Management for Humans. The content is, of course, super-helpful but it’s his, ‘Look, I know this may seem tough, but we’re going to get through this together’ tone that really makes this book one that I’ll come back to again and again.

    Trish Tchume, independent consultant to nonprofit organizations and social justice groups