<< Back

Book review | Management Without Tears

I have recently completed the lecture of a book entitled "Management without tears. A guide to coping with everyday organizational problems". It was written by James O. McDonald almost 40 years ago, in 1981 to be precise. The book sets forth some managerial problems likely to be encountered during the career of a manager. For each problem, the author provides a solution based on his expertise. Although it is intended for managers - line managers, production managers, operations manager and functions alike - as a project manager I could relate to a few of the problems listed in the book. It is worth noting that most of the issues we face in our everyday work are nothing new, they have been there for a long time and will probably still be there when we retire.

Number three puts a spell on me - I guess since the time I learned at school that the compositions had to contain an introduction, a "knot", and an ending. I have picked the top 3 issues, and summarized the author's view on a proposed solution.

Get things off your chest

The author refers to the manager's secretary and her frequent tardiness. The manager decides to not bring this up to her to avoid losing his "nice guy" reputation. As you can imagine, this approach did not work out and she kept arriving late to the office. The manager decided to confront her. She said that she was not aware that her tardiness was such an issue, and from that moment on she was on time. In projects the same approach works; when something gets off tracks, avoid sending a memorandum sitting behind the computer. Politely confront the team - or whichever stakeholder - and get it off your chest. Being a pleaser can easily end up backfiring.

Know your job

It is frequent that an engineer, a software developer or a researcher gets dragged into project management. Becoming a project manager presents then a challenge. The technical knowledge in these domains become less relevant; instead, planning, personnel, budgets, purchasing, negotiation and a wide array of administrative tasks make up the new life. Getting this mental fix is essential for a successful new career.

Be yourself

This topic is particularly interesting. It is quite common to find opinionated colleagues regarding how a project manager should behave. Some would say "Stand tough, or they'll walk all over you" whilst others would advise on the opposite direction. Leadership tone has to be decided by the practitioner, and the practitioner alone. It is up to the practitioner whether to be tough, soft or somewhere in between. In words of the author "effective management requires integrity, conviction, knowledge, courage, awareness, timing. These qualities determine how you react in any situation".


View the archives


Click below for details on how join our chapter.

Learn More