Overseeing 135 book reviews, what stands out?

I provided book reviews for all eight issues of a Dutch Project Management Magazine (Vakblad Projectmanagement). I used, for these eight reviews, book reviews that I wrote for this blog and www.managementboek.nl. On request of this Dutch PM magazine, I was asked whether one or more common threads could be discovered in all these underlying books. Since the first issue of this magazine appeared in 2017, I took the approximately 135 reviews that I posted on my blog in 2017-2019 as a starting point.

I have used the keywords from my conclusions of the reviews to generate a word cloud.

word cloud 135 boeken

If we look at the word cloud, a number of things stand out.

A lot has been written about frameworks. In my Bird’s eye view on the agile forest article I already describe and position approximately 70 agile frameworks. It now even contains a number of frameworks that help you achieve a more agile, organization-wide culture to support your agile delivery framework implementation.

The reviewed books in which a framework is central are all about project / product delivery frameworks. If I reviewed books describing the same framework, they are listed as separate frameworks in the word cloud, such as Scrum, DevOps and PRINCE2 and enlarging the word itself.

Many books are about business agility, culture and / or agile transition. And all these books indicate that the framework used does not really matter when achieving more agility. It is about accepting agile values ​​and principles throughout the organization (from top to floor). Think of organizations that do not trust their PO or do not give them a mandate, management that is not prepared to move decision-making as low as possible in the organization or organizations that do not consider the speed at which competitors develop (incrementally) or act as innovators and / or market disruptors. And all this in a world defined by the four-letter word VUCA (Volatile, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity).

Another topic that stands out is portfolio management. Here too the focus is on agile portfolio management. But that does not alter the fact that, in addition to agile product development, there is still a need for more traditional project approaches and hybrid projects that include both (permanent) agile delivery teams and temporary (business change) teams. I expect that there will be more attention (read new books) in the coming period for hybrid or bimodal portfolio management (see also my blog about bimodal portfolio management).

Roles, competences and skills are central in many books. A number of books focus on the Product Owner, their techniques to be used and a book devoted to the most important competence in my view, namely saying no by the PO. Various books on the project manager, the sponsor and leadership were reviewed too. Apart from a few books about team coaching and teams, I have not seen any books specifically written for the Scrum Master.

Finally, I pick out one last topic. You can’t make it up that crazy or there is a canvas and accompanying book written for it. I name a few: project canvas, change canvas, stakeholder management canvas, portfolio canvas, business model canvas, team canvas, change canvas, et cetera. And that reminds me of my first book I had written more than 10 years ago about project management building block documentation in which a one-pager was central (and still is, see my recent AgilePM documentation blog).

In short, the most important common thread through these 135 reviewed books is agiliy. I wonder if 2020 will change this.

For more details on these 135 book reviews, see:

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