Nuclear Cleanup To Bridge Upgrades: How Top Projects Get It Done

London Tower Bridge (Pixabay)

London Tower Bridge (Pixabay)

Best practices. World class projects. Top performers.

You hear these words thrown around as you attend conferences and training sessions. Have you ever wondered what top performers in project managers actually do and accomplish?

Through 2016, I have reported on outstanding projects and professionals in the field for In today’s article, you can find links to those resources all in one place.

From AT&T To Project Consulting Success: A Profile of Frank Saladis, PMI Fellow Profile

While I find methodology and method helpful, I’m often more excited by the people who make projects happen. In PMI Fellow Profile: Frank Saladis, you will learn about how this highly successful project manager built his career. While with AT&T, Saladis started to present at conferences which helped him to launch his career. To get ready for your next conference, read How To Get The Most Value From Conferences In 6 Steps. Saladis also played a key role in starting International Project Management Day over a decade ago, an annual tradition that draws participation from project managers around the world.

University Health Network: Lessons From The Healthcare Sector

Governments, companies and patients around the world want better healthcare services. Project managers have a role to play in making that happen. In this webinar – Lessons From An Award Winning Project – you will learn about the processes and methods used by the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada. I’m especially delighted to report on UHN’s success as I live in Toronto. Adopting a “train the trainer” approach was a key approach on this project. The project also brought people together by enrolling them in a University of Toronto educational program.

How Symcor’s PMO Improved Performance and Client Satisfaction

Do PMOs improve project performance or do they simply add bureaucracy? Symcor’s PMO shows that PMO processes and governance can add value! In my article, Insights from a High-Performance PMO, I explore how the organization improved their results. The PMO takes client satisfaction seriously – Symcor uses multiple surveys to understand their clients and ensure the project is achieving the goal. In addition, Symcor invested in outside assistance to better understand risks when it launched a complex program involving multiple financial institutions. It’s a must read article if you run projects in the financial services industry.

Keeping The Fuel Flowing: Chevron’s Project Success

Sustaining production at a major oil refinery is a tremendous challenge. In Project Profile: How Chevron Sustained Production in California, you will learn about Chrevron’s project success. With a budget over $150 million, the project team had to upgrade equipment at the El Segundo Refinery. This refinery plays a key role in California’s economy: it has over 1,000 employees and is a major supplier of jet fuel to the Los Angeles International Airport. Managing a variety of stakeholder in the state while maintaining an excellent safety record are among the project’s significant achievements.

How to Repair Hundreds of Bridges Under Budget: Lessons from Oregon

Public sector projects and programs are often criticized for waste and poor performance. It doesn’t have to be that way. Oregon’s multi-year program to upgrade and improve hundreds of bridges was achieved on time and under budget.  The program’s approach to building talent in the region and working productively with contractors stand out as highlights. The program also made a great contribution in growing the next generation of talent in the trades and engineers who will keep Oregon’s infrastructure running in the future.

To read more about Oregon’s achievement, read How to Repair Hundreds of Bridges Under Budget: Lessons from Oregon.

For Fun: Infrastructure never gets the love and respect it ought to. For a fun take on this theme, consider the satirical movie trailer for “Infrastructure: The Movie” courtesy of John Oliver. The whole video is great – the trailer starts at around 17:30. “In a world where a few feet of concrete makes the difference between life and death…”

Cleaning Up Nuclear Waste and By-Products

For many years, I have been fascinated by nuclear technology and how it has impacted the world. One of my political science professors in university was an expert of the Cuban missile crisis in fact. But I digress…

While nuclear power has many advantages, it does create dangerous waste and other by-products. Fortunately, the River Corridor Closure Project program has made great progress in cleaning up Washington State. In Lessons from a Successful Nuclear Project, you will learn about the program’s safety program. With a $3 billion dollar budget, the program cleaned up multiple nuclear sites in Washington. Even more impressive, the program had to address poorly documented nuclear sites dating back to the 1940s.


Continuing Education Highlights: 12 Ways I Earned PDUs in 2015

Learning PDUs

Continuing education is a responsibility to maintain your PMP certification. Similar continuing education requirements apply to other professionals such as accountants, physicians and lawyers. Here are my notes on what I learned from a variety of experiences in 2015. I exceeded the PMI minimum requirement because there is so much to learn!

University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Courses

As a University of Toronto graduate (BA degree and a Master’s), I have found great value in taking continuing education courses with the institution. The instructors bring industry experience from several sectors including IT, government and volunteer work with PMI. Here are the courses I took last year.

1. Project Implementation & Control

This course explored the details of project management control. The most valuable aspect of the course was the multi-part assignment where a project team had to recover a troubled project. I also developed additional Microsoft Project skills with this course.

2. Leading Projects in Organizations

Leadership has been an interest of mine for a few years and it was great to take this course. The course started off with big picture matters such as vision, values and strategy. I found the section on values most interesting, especially the case studies of companies such as Zappos. During the group presentation, I took the role as change management lead at Accenture, a leading global consulting firm.

Project Management Institute PDUs

There is much to learn by learning directly with the Project Management Institute. In 2015, I had the opportunity to take programs with my local chapter and at the PMI Global Congress. Here are some highlights of what I learned.

PMI Southern Ontario Chapter

I am a proud member of the PMI Southern Ontario Chapter. As a member, I have enjoyed participated in a number of learning events and social program as well.

3. Project Management: The Journey from Good to Great

I have fond memories of this session for a special reason. I attended this session the same day I passed the PMP exam (5 Lessons Learned From Becoming A PMP). This event took the form of a panel discussion where consultants and other experienced professionals shared their perspectives. It was a free form discussion and there were some good discussions during the Q&A. It looks like large organizations such as Fortune 500 companies and government organizations continue to be a great place to learn and practice project management.

4. TD Bank: Enabling Project Manager’s Professional Development

There is great value in learning from case studies, especially in project management. In this presentation, Ilana Sprongl presented on TD Bank’s approach to projects and professional development. As an organization with hundreds of projects underway, it was fascinating to learn how TD has grown over time. I also enjoyed this presentation format – a networking dinner followed by a presentation. The world needs more presentations like this – detailed case studies that help the rest of us to improve.

5. Putting Humour to work for less stress and more success

What a fun presentation! I learned about the value of humor to managing stress and improving communicator. The presenter, Michael Kerr, delivered great material and kept the audience’s interest with his energy. The ideas on how to make meetings more interesting were particularly interesting.

PMI Global Congress

In 2015, PMI invited me to attend the PMI Global Congress in Orlando, FL. It was an outstanding experience! I wrote a detailed article about the conference at PMI Congress 2015: Lessons Learned.

6. Up Your Relationship Skills Index: How to Work with the “Crazy-Makers”

The title of the session grabbed my interest immediately. Philip W. Bristol from Projectivity Solutions delivered great insights in this section. His approach is informed wide ranging professional development including earning the Certified Management Consultant credential. The session offered practical ways to engage with people who make you crazy at work. A key insight – people who drive you crazy (in many cases) simply have a different personality style or different goals. That doesn’t make them bad or irrational, just different.

7. How the U.S. Defense Department Trains its Top Project Managers

Did you know what the U.S. Defense Department has a multi-year project management training program? In this wonderful and detailed presentation, Dr. Owen Gadeken shared how DOD provides project management training. I think we can all learn a lot from the DOD approach. The  Defense Acquisition University provides basic project management training through online courses. The in person sessions are reserved for detailed case studies that use real names and situations. The highest level of the training program includes visits with Congress and others who play an important role in the U.S. military organization.

8. Drew and Johnathan Scott: Strategies for Success: The Scott Brothers Method

Best known for their TV shows about real estate, Drew and Jonathan Scott made a great impression. At first, I wondered if a two person key note address would work well. In fact, it worked well and I learned a lot from the session. Key points include viewing continuing education requirements as a minimum (i.e. keep learning!) and building an effective team. I’m also impressed by the fact that the Scott Brothers have successfully built an organization even though they have different professions and management styles.

Online Education PDUs

Online education has come a long way in recent years. The best online education programs bring high quality materials (e.g. video, audio and written material) and a clear program of study. Last year, I studied with two online education companies. I had a great experience with both organizations. Here is what I learned.

Skillsoft Courses

Skillsoft is a major provider of online education and has been in business since 1998. I’m impressed by the sheer variety of Skillsoft courses available to students. There is much more to learn here. I would welcome the opportunity to work with Skillsoft as an instructor.

9. Achieving Goals through Perseverance and Resilience

Goals are important! Yet, many of us encounter problems and setbacks in the pursuit of the goals. If you have felt like giving up on goals, this course helps you to reconsider. In this course, I learned strategies to overcome problems that occur in the pursuit of a goal. I liked that the course provided practical scenarios involving professionals seeking a promotion and other situations. A key lesson from this program: expect challenges and roadblocks before you start. That way, you will have the right mindset and the opportunity to plan.

10. Getting Results without Direct Authority: Building Relationships and Credibility

This is an outstanding course that I would recommend to every project manager. Like the course above, there are quizzes and scenarios to help you master the content. The course makes a great point that trust and keeping promises are required to build and sustain relationships. All the technical skills in the world will mean little if others do not trust you with substantial assignments and projects.

Lynda Courses first became known as a provider of high quality video courses teaching photography, design and technology skills. has recently expanded to other areas including marketing, leadership and interpersonal skills. LinkedIn acquired Lynda in 2015 so I expect that Lynda will continue to improve and expand further.

11. Insights from a Project Manager

Imagine watching a documentary interview with an experienced project manager. That’s what you get with this course – a series of Q&A interviews with Bob McGannon, PMP. Topics covered include learning to say no, why projects fail and the PMP certification process.

12.  Time Management Fundamentals

Led by Dave Crenshaw, this two hour course gives a sweeping introduction to time management. The approach covered here reminds me of David Allen`s “Getting Things Done`book. It is great to see that Crenshaw covers digital and physical organization (though the course emphasizes digital). I like that the course starts with basic principles before diving into the details.

15 Best Books of 2015: Productivity, Perspective & More


President Truman said it best with his famous quip about the link between reading and leading. It’s the same principle that has powered a popular business podcast: Read To Lead podcast by Jeff Brown.

Looking back through my reading list for 2015, I read 54 books. Some of those books reflect my long standing interest in science fiction (The Martian by Andy Weir, Redshirts by John Scalzi and The Beam Season 1 and The Beam Season 2). Other books reflect a focus on marketing such as Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World and Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port which help me to grow

As you plan your professional development in 2016 and beyond, I urge you to make reading a key part of your program. In this article, I will highlight book suggestions for you to consider.

Become More Productive With Habits, Mornings and Checklists

The art and science of productivity is an excellent area to learn and practice. As project managers and knowledge workers, we have considerable autonomy in how we run the day. That means we have the opportunity to create results or drift through the day. Use these books to make the most of your working hours.

1. The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers by Patrick Lencioni

I wrote about this book in December: The Truth About Employee Engagement. Lencioni’s approach of writing business fables makes it easy to learn new principles through story. At first glance, that may seem a strange approach for a book. Yet, I found it highly compelling. Lencioni makes a great case for the merit of being measured in a meaningful way.

2. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

An outstanding book about the power of habits, those actions that we do over and over again. Duhigg discusses both individual and organizational habits. As a New York Times journalist, Duhigg is well suited to present this book. I enjoyed the book’s and Duhigg’s explanation of habit formation (the habit loop). The book also explains the interesting link between marketing and habits.

Tip: Read Duhigg’s guide “A Guide To Changing Habits” to get started.

3. Getting Things Done by David Allen

I know that I have mentioned this book a number of times. That’s not by accident. This is one of the best productivity books I have ever read. A new edition of the book was published in 2015, so the book is well worth revisiting. It is one of the rare business books that delivers results over multiple readings.

Tip: Discover how to use The Weekly Review practice from the book – it is a game changer.

4. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

Are you happy with how you start your day? I have found that that I’m happier and better at my work when I start the day on my terms. In this short book, Elrod explains how to redesign your morning routine. The book proposes a series of habits to start your day each day including reading, silence and exercise. Waking up earlier is great, but it is not enough. You need to fill that time with good habits.

The book has over 1,100 Amazon reviews. That’s impressive!

5. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Did you know that experienced, highly educated medical professionals make mistakes? Some of those mistakes result in dire results. Gawande, an American surgeon, noticed these problems and looked for solutions. His insight: checklists, a simple low cost tool, make a big difference. I have found checklists an outstanding way to prevent errors.

Tip: Want to create a checklist? Use this article to get started – How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps.

6. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

There are many roads to becoming more productive. Using apps and technology is one approach. Delegation is another approach. McKeown makes the case for elimination and making difficult choices. One of the book’s best chapters explains how and why to say no to other people to maintain focus on the essential.

Lessons from Entrepreneurs

You may want to start a business. Or you may simple be inspired by those who have started companies. Here are some observations I learned from these individuals. My reading focused on technology entrepreneurs because their products and services impact my daily life to a great degree. That said, I’m aware that they represent only one part of the business world. Innovation is often created by mixing and matching ideas from different industries, so consider these books even if you are not in technology.

7. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

As the legendary co-founder of Apple, Jobs has attracted a great deal of media attention and several books have been written about him (e.g. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo). There are different lessons we can draw from Jobs’s experience. Here’s one key career lessons: you can achieve great success in an industry despite a lack of traditional credentials (i.e. Jobs was not an engineer). His contribution came from management, bringing consumer friendly design to computers and a willingness to take risks.

8. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston

As a long time fan of business interview podcasts – Mixergy and Entrepreneur on Fire – I was excited to read this book. The book covers an earlier generation of business founders in the technology industry. For example, we have Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), Caterina Fake (founder of Flickr), Max Levchin (Founder of PayPal) and
Mike Lazaridis (Founder of Research in Motion).

9. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel

This was one of the shortest books I read in 2015. Through his success with PayPal and as a venture capitalist, Thiel has attracted significant attention. He has an interesting explanation for why so many young people seek careers in management and finance – they seem like safe bets that make assumptions about the future. Thiel also makes a creative analysis about innovation and the decline of “world changing innovation” in favor of small, incremental change (he sees that shift as a legacy of the Dot Com Crash).

New Perspectives On The World

From time to time, I think it is valuable to see out new perspectives on the world. That’s one of the reasons I have enjoyed attending Hot Docs documentary film festival over the years. In this section, I highlight a number of books that inspired me to ask new questions.

10. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

This well researched book makes an outstanding case for the value introverts. If you have long been frustrated by open office environments, then this book will help you understand why. What I liked most about the book was the practical suggestions on how to thrive as an introvert. I hope that the book’s insights will influence future office designers and managers to take a broader view of management and related matters.

Resource: I presented a training webinar at based on this book which was highly popular (1500+ views and over 30 comments): How To Succeed As An Introvert Project Manager.

11. Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

Did you know that there are different kinds of thinking? In this book, de Bono presents six ways to think. This is a great book that solves two kinds of problems. First, you can use this book to improve personal creativity. Second, you can use this book to improve results in meetings and collaboration. A key insight from the book is to treat the types of thinking as distinct activities (e.g. restrict Black Hat thinking to the proper time and place rather than using it all the time).

Here are two examples of thinking hats (quotes from The de Bono Group)

  • Yellow Hat: “The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit.”
  • The Black Hat: “The Black Hat is judgment – the devil’s advocate or why something may not work. Spot the difficulties and dangers; where things might go wrong. Probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused.”

12. The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

This modern personal development classic came out with a new edition in 2015. The book provides a set of foundation principles (e.g. personal responsibility) and then provides additional principles. I also found the Success Principles Resources (e.g. the one year planning guide and the victory log) helpful. If you are embarking on a significant challenge or goal, you will find this book helpful source of encouragement and advice.

13. Washington A Life by Ron Chernow

This was the longest book I read in 2015 and it was well worth the effort. After all, it was the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. As America’s first President, Washington has attracted significant attention over the centuries. Chernow points out that many Americans tend to venerate Washington and fail to see him as a whole person. In this sweeping biography, you will learn about Washington’s early life, his family relations and many insights about his varied career (e.g. farming, surveying, military and political). I found the sections describing Washington’s time as President particularly interesting – he had to set expectations and traditions that would shape America for centuries to come.

Resource: We can improve our careers by taking inspiration from Washington: Career Hacks From Young George Washington.

Wine Books

“Good company, good wine, good welcome,” – Henry VIII, Shakespeare

On a lighter note, I am also interested in wine and enjoy studying the topic. Wine books weave together history, culture, travel, business and culinary pleasure. To that end, here are notes on two wine books I benefited from reading in 2015.

14. Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean

In this book, you will find an enjoyable introduction to the world of wine. MacLean covers various aspects of wine including the business (e.g. wine retail and serving wine in restaurants). MacLean does well in providing an excellent survey of wine. I think this book would make a great textbook for a beginner’s wine course.

15. Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines by Natalie MacLean

Learning about new parts of the world? Check. Discovering “undiscovered” gems in wine? Check. Fantastic end of chapter wine suggestions? Check. In her second book, MacLean tours the world and brings back reports on wine makers and suggestions for us to enjoy without breaking the bank. My favourite chapters covered Australia, Ontario (i.e. Canada), and Italy. I have tried several of the wines recommended in the book and enjoyed them! On a more serious note, I also found it fascinating to discover how the wine industry has evolved and changed over time (e.g. the resurgence of Sicily).


10 Apps For Highly Productive Project Managers

Image Credit: iPhone by FirmBee (

Image Credit: iPhone by FirmBee (

As a project manager, your personal organization and productivity is essential to your credibility. Can you imagine taking advice from a physician who was overweight and smoking? It would be difficult to overlook those points, even if the doctor was providing sound suggestions. Likewise, personal organization is essential for project managers. In this article, I will provide an overview of some of the productivity apps and programs available. The exact suite of apps you use will depend on your budget, your organization and budget. I hope you find this article helpful as you work to increase your productivity.

Keep in mind that productivity and organization technology will not help if you have no methodology. For personal organization and management, I recommend Leading Yourself with Getting Things Done. Once you have that basic framework in place, you can improve further by using some of these tools.

Task Management Apps

Tracking and completing tasks is the bread and butter of success at work and in projects. The art of writing down tasks in a useful way is an important skill. When possible, I aim to write down tasks that are complete and ready for work. For example, if I have a phone call task, I note contact details in the notes section of the task. Let’s get started.

1. Remember The Milk (Free and Paid)

Over the past few years, I have used Remember The Milk as my primary task management tool. I like that it is available as a web application and as a mobile app. I suggest creating several categories of tasks. For example, you can have a list for household management tasks, a list for Project A and an overall career management task. I also find it helpful to set certain tasks as recurring (e.g. to review certain accounts or websites on a monthly basis).

2. Nozbe (Paid)

Nozbe is a task management tool that I have seen quite a few people recommend (e.g. Michael Hyatt and Jeff Sanders). While I have not used it myself, it does look promising. I like the fact that there is an option to work with teams. Bringing your team onto a single app has the advantage of fewer emails sent back and forth. As much as I like email, it is not my favorite way to run a project.

3. Microsoft Project (Paid)

I have used Microsoft Project from time to time and find it to be an excellent product. You can plan tasks, create a Gantt chart and manage resources. I also like how the course integrates well with the rest of the Microsoft Office suite. The one challenge I have with the application is the sheer power and complexity of it. I will make an analogy to Microsoft Excel. I am a heavy Excel user (use the application for hours each day). Yet, I’m very aware of the fact that I am using only a fraction of the application’s power. Fortunately, there are many companies, books (e.g. Microsoft Project 2013 Step by Step by Carl Chatfield and Timothy Johnson) and other resources available to help you develop your skills with Microsoft Project.

4. Microsoft Outlook (Paid)

In my corporate work, I have used Microsoft Outlook for years. It is a powerful product especially if your whole organization uses it. In addition to email, I also find Outlook’s calendar and task management capabilities powerful. As an established and popular email application, there are many training resources and software enhancements available. For example, David Allen offers a guide on how to implement Getting Things Done with Microsoft Outlook. In an organizational context, the ability to book meeting rooms is helpful (and view the calendar availability of other people).

Calendar Management Apps

As Stephen Covey explained years ago in his bestselling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” there is a constant tension between the urgent and the important. Successfully managing both requirements takes training and a robust calendar. For ease of use (e.g. repeating calendar appointments), I prefer digital calendar tools. That said, I often use Moleskine notebooks when I attend meetings, conferences and courses so paper tools are still valuable.

5. Google Calendar (Free)

If I could only have one calendar tool, I would choose Google Calendar. I was first attracted to it because it is free. Over time, I learned more about the app. For example, I love the fact that I had set multiple reminders for appointments (e.g. 1 week ahead, 1 day ahead, 1 hour ahead). That is a helpful feature when you have a task that requires planning and preparation. I also like the fact that you can have multiple calendars with different colours. I also like the fact that Google Calendar can be connected with other websites and calendar tools (i.e. it is easy to add appointments and events to your main calendar).

Tip: You can also create and send calendar invitations by email with Evernote. It is a great way to keep your meetings organized.

6. Week Cal (Paid)

When I’m out and about, I like to have a clear view to my calendar. To that end, I use Week Cal. It displays my Google Calendar in a readable and useful way. This was the first smart phone app I ever purchased. At $2.49, I think it is well worth the cost. I also like the fact that it integrates smoothly with Google Maps to show me where my appointments are located. The app is also available on the iPad and Apple Watch. The company states that they have over three million users, so I would expect them to be around for years to come.

7. Schedule Once (Paid)

Do you organize a lot of meetings and phone calls? Do those scheduled events involve people outside of the organization? If so, Schedule Once is a great tool. I started to use it in August and find it helpful. Rather than trading emails back and forth, you can create your calendar availability and give someone a link to request an appointment with you. If you are a consultant or coach, there is a lot to be said for this resource. It did take me a week or two to learn how to use the tool. Now that I have learned it, it looks like a charm. A free trial is available for those interested in using the website.

Note: If your scheduling needs are more ad hoc, I recommend Doodle as a useful tool to gather availability to set up a meeting or a call.

Information Management

Keeping your information organized and available is important. In fact, I earned a Master of Information Studies degree where I explored this topic in great depth. In this section of the article,  I will discuss a few apps you can use to keep your information organized. I will also point out that digital information management is only one part of the puzzle. For many of us, there is still a requirement to manage paper records and physical workspace. Those are important points to consider and they are beyond the scope of today’s article.

8. Evernote (Free and Paid)

I have used Evernote for several years and consider it to be an excellent product. With over 90 million users, Evernote is a robust company that we can expect to stick around for a long time. What exactly can you use Evernote for? You can use it to store meeting notes, keep notes on your goals (thanks Michael Hyatt! Learn more with his podcast Getting the Most Out of Evernote), keep track of interesting books, movies or other items you might like to use. There is also great value in using Evernote as a place to store your rough notes, outlines and project notes – all those points that you write in traditional notebooks.

Project managers will be interested to read about Evernote Business, a version of the service that gives you added storage and the ability to share information with other people in your organization.

Note: Evernote is a powerful tool and some people find it difficult to get started. If you have challenges with learning Evernote, cut your learning curve short by buying Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly. The book provides an excellent overview of how to use Evernote and ideas on how to get the most out of it.

9. Google Drive (Free and Paid)

There are many file sharing services available and Google Drive is my favorite. I like the fact that users receive several gigabytes of free storage. I have used the application to store and share documents such as documents and spreadsheets. If you have a lot of documents to share and collaborate with others, Google Drive is a great tool. According to the Google website, “Google Accounts include 15GB of free storage to share across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos.” That’s a significant amount of storage. There is also the option to purchase additional storage space if you need it.

10. Carbonite or CrashPlan (Backup Service)

In some large companies, there are backup services in place for the data stored on your corporate PC. That’s a great peace of mind benefit for keeping your projects running smoothly. However, what about your files on your home computers? It is important to keep those photos, documents and other materials safe in a backup. I like using online backup services because such services are a great way to proactively manage the risk of a flood, fire or other disaster with your data. Of course, these services are not free. Then again, a backup service is so important that I see great value in paying for it.

Question For The Comments:

What are your favorite apps that you use to manage your calendar, tasks, and information?

10 Books To Become A Better Project Manager

Image Credit: Books by Stock Snap (

Image Credit: Books by Stock Snap (

Reading books is one of the most important ways to develop yourself as a project manager. In this article, I will share my recommendations for the 10 books that have made a major difference to my career growth. As you read the list, I encourage you to reflect on your reading and what you have learned.

In reading a book for business growth, there are a few key questions to consider before you start.

  • Problem Based Learning. Much of our reading and studying in professional development is focused on attempting to solve a problem. For example, I have read and studied productivity books to become more organized.
  • Goal Based Learning, Working toward a significant goal is another reason to pursue learning. For example, I have studied books and taken courses to improve my Microsoft Excel skills. I am also using a training plan as I prepare to run my first half marathon race later this month.

Before you visit Amazon, your local bookstore or library, have some idea of the problem or goal you are working toward. In the rest of this article, I will share my book recommendations and suggest ways to apply the concepts to your challenges. As a lifelong learner, it was difficult to limit myself to ten project management books. Given that point, I may write additional articles with book recommendations in the future.

A Note On Links. In this article, I am providing links to Amazon as they a leading online retailer of books. However, I understand that some readers are on a budget or simply do not want to add to their collection. In that case, please visit your local library! I am a huge fan of libraries – they are a great resource that you have already paid for with your taxes.

Productivity and Success Books

These half dozen books equip you with tools, techniques and methods to become more successful. You will find some powerful ideas below. These books would make an excellent “welcome to the organization” gift to someone starting a new job!

1. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Far and above, this is my favourite productivity book of all time. I read the original edition a few years ago and read the new 2015 edition with interest. Allen’s book presents a full organizational system to manage your work and business. Some people find “GTD” (Getting Things Done) too complex. If you are looking for a way to get started, I recommend that you read my article, “Why You Need A Weekly Review To Become More Productive.”

Buy Getting Things Done by David Allen on Amazon.

2.  The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker

Published over 50 years ago, this book remains one of my personal favourites for productivity. I first learned about it based on Mark Horstman’s recommendation (the co-founder of Manager Tools). As Horstman puts it, “The greatest management book ever written.” I’m inclined to agree. Key lessons from the book include taking a clear inventory of how you use your time, strong guidance on decision making and the merits of focus.

Note: Drucker uses the expression “executive” in a way that really means knowledge worker. You do not have to hold an executive title to benefit from this book.

Buy The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker on Amazon.

3. The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization by John C Maxwell

John C Maxwell been writing and speaking about leadership for more than thirty years. With dozens of books to his name, getting started with Maxwell’s work is daunting. I recommend this book to project managers because it is aimed at “middle managers.” The book does a great job of exploring and explaining the fact that managers have the challenge to wear two hats: being a follower to their leader and leading their own team. As with other Maxwell books, you will find reflection questions and exercises to work through the concepts.

Buy The 360 Degree Leader by John C. Maxwell on Amazon

4. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

How do people achieve success in various fields? Gladwell explores the question in this book. I have read most of Gladwell’s books and this one is my favourite. The book famously promoted the 10,000 hour rule of expertise – the notion that the best people have poured hours of deliberate practice into their work. I also found the discussion of Bill Gate’s rise inspiring. The book is a highly readable with outstanding writing and stories. The book’s example about the success of child hockey players (when you are born in the year impacts your chances of being placed on a time) is a great example of the importance of environment. It also shows that some games have rules of success that may not fit you.

Buy Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell on Amazon.

5. The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer

Earlier this year, I read the 10th anniversary edition of this great book. With over sixty success principles outlined, there is a great deal to learn here. Some of the principles that resonated with me include: take 100% responsibility for your life, commit to constant and never-ending improvement and several points relating to goal achievement. Even better, many of the stories are illustrated with examples from successful entrepreneurs, authors and athletes. The audio book version is also valuable – I listened to it last year. The Success Principles Book website is outstanding as well – the resource list is a great starting point to continue your growth.

Buy The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer on Amazon

6. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

If there is any field of work blessed with advanced education and knowledge, it is medicine. Yet surgeon Atul Gawande points out that many medical professionals struggle to consistently apply their knowledge. For example, patients have suffered incorrect procedures because the wrong side of their body was operated on. It is a scary prospect! Fortunately, Gawande shows that the checklist is a simple tool we can use to reduce errors and improve results. If you work in a high risk area (e.g. nuclear power, health, finance) then errors are extra damaging. Use this book to become better.

Resource: Want to get started right away? Read my article How To Build A Checklist In 6 Steps and you will have enough to build your first checklist.

Buy The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande on Amazon

Project Management Books

In this section, I cover a few vital project management books. I have read these books in my studies for the PMP exam and during my ongoing journey to improve my performance. If you are looking for standards, templates and other such resources, I suggest reviewing the Project Management Institute Marketplace.

6. Project Management For You by Cesar Abeid

Recently released by fellow Canadian Cesar Abeid, I was pleased to donate to encourage the creation of this book when Cesar ran a Kickstarter campaign. Project management frustrates some people as a complex and difficult to understand field. Abeid has done a great service for the community by writing a highly readable and easy to understand introduction to the field. Of course, I also recommend Cesar’s excellent Project Management For The Masses podcast.

Buy Project Management For You by Cesar Abeid on Amazon. Note: At the time of this writing, the book is only available via Kindle format.

7. The Keys To Our Success: Lessons Learned From 25 of Our Best Project Managers Edited by David Barrett & Derek Vigar.

As indicated by my love of biography (e.g. 6 Leadership Hacks From The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt and Career Hacks From Young George Washington), I think there is much to learn from successful leaders. In this book, we learn how a number of project managers have developed their skills and developed their careers. One of my favorite articles in the collection is “The Upwardly Mobile Project Manager – You Can Get There from Here,” by Kathryn Pottruff.

Buy The Keys To Our Success: Lessons Learned From 25 of Our Best Project Managers Edited by David Barrett & Derek Vigar on Amazon

8. Achieve PMP Exam Success, 5th Edition by Diane Altweis and Janice Preston

In studying for the PMP exam, this book was a key resource for me. Simply put, it provides excellent practice questions and clear explanations. If you could only have two books to aid you in preparing for the exam, I would recommend this book and the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide. I went through the end of chapter practice exam questions several times to improve my knowledge and get ready for the exam. In addition, readers also receive access to an online question resource for further practice.

Buy Achieve PMP Exam Success, 5th Edition by Diane Altweis and Janice Preston on Amazon

9. The Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute

No list of project management books would be complete without this book – often called the PMBOK Guide for short. There are two main reasons I think this book is valuable for project managers. First, it provides a common language and set of processes for project managers to use. This is a helpful starting point when you are working with people from different organizations. Second, this book is a vital resource if you are studying for the PMP certification exam. The only drawback is that the book is written as a technical standard, so it will not win any awards for “most fun read.” Aside from exam studying, I recommend using this book as a reference text.

Important Note: Members of the Project Management Institute are eligible to receive a free digital copy of the book. Visit the Project Management Institute website for details.

Buy The Project Management Body of Knowledge on Amazon

10. Leadership in Project Management: Leading People and Projects to Success by Mohit Arora and Haig Baronikian

Earlier in September, I enrolled in a leadership course with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. This book is our assigned textbook and I consider it helpful. I like that the book includes a chapters on knowing yourself and ethical leadership. As I progress through my studies, I may share additional examples from the book and my course.

Buy Leadership in Project Management: Leading People and Projects on Amazon (and