While setting up a book club, I decided to adopt some PRINCE2 principles, themes and processes to help structure the running of the book club. As a result, my research on book clubs was more thorough and my plans better detailed, making starting and running the book club much easier.
Step one: determine the general purpose of the club.
This step is similar to ‘preparing a project mandate' in PRINCE2. Ask yourself the following questions: Am I setting up a book club in order to diversify my reading portfolio? Form better relationships? Be more innovative/self-constructive?
For me, it was a matter of needing to diversify what I read. Knowing others are reading and that there will be a discussion of the book was motivating.
Step two: contact potential members with the idea and confirm interest.
The potential members of the book club are the key stakeholders in this project as they determine how successful it will be. Since this is an informal project, sending a text or calling them up is sufficient. Present the concept of the book club, its purpose and what may be required of them if they join and in turn, they will decide and inform you whether they want to join.
Step three: clarify their expectations/needs.
Knowing your customer/user requirements is one of the main activities carried out in the ‘Starting up a project process’ in PRINCE2 and it is essential when creating a book club. As the project manager for this project, the most important things to know are:
- Which genre of books both you and your potential members would like to read and where to purchase them.
- What platform/location and time is preferable to hold discussions.
- How many pages/chapters should be read before each discussion.
In my book club, meetings are held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and geographical distances between members. I have also carried out surveys to determine what my fellow book clubbers want, asking questions like:
- How long are you willing to dedicate to reading daily?
- What book genres are you interested in reading or would you rather not read?
- What are your preferred time and platform for meetings and why?
- Any suggestions on how to improve the club?
Step four: plan and appoint roles.
Whether your project is informal or formal, those who fail to plan, plan to fail. You may not need something as elaborate as a project brief document, but you should certainly keep a note of member’s expectations, do your research and draw up a plan for how the club would operate, then let each member know the plan and their role in it.
For example, my book club reads one book per month, with a follow-up discussion scheduled at the end of the month. We alternate between fiction and non-fiction genres each month and all members are tasked with choosing a book based on what we call a ‘book decider roaster’ made available to all members. The chief moderator of the club (the role I play) reminds each member when it is their turn and notifies other club members as required. As chief moderator I mostly assist the person meant to moderate the discussion that month or fill in if they cannot, other times I lead the discussions.
An e-booklet and audio recording of the club’s mode of operation and other information is also available to all members for reference purposes.
Step five: get consent, keep records.
You have planned and handed out responsibilities: now ensure the members agree to it and make changes where required. Do not forget to keep records as this helps keep track of the quantity of books you have read as a group, the genres you have explored and future genres worth exploring.
Step six: grab a book and start reading!
To successfully deliver a project, PRINCE2 covers the following performance targets: scope, time, cost, quality, benefits and risk. So, if you have just started a book club or are contemplating starting one, please consider and continually evaluate these six targets.
Managing cost includes budgeting for books or refreshments for meetings, or looking for book deals. The scope considers the requirements and expectations of the club members and managing it may involve having a defined method of vetting/selecting books or venues so that no member’s preference is neglected.
Time for book clubs refers mostly to the start or finish dates of a book, how long it will take to read it, discussion periods and how long they should last, etc. It is important to manage this so that your group’s reading goals can be achieved.
To prevent members leaving your group, quality must be considered. Managing your book club’s quality is making sure your key stakeholders are enjoying the chosen books, how the book club is run, etc. You could ask members to rate the books to get their preference?
Managing the benefits aspect of your book club ensures that it satisfies all members: Do you enjoy the book club? Has it been useful/helpful? Does it match your expectations? And so on.
Lastly, you must manage risk. Identify events that could affect your book club either negatively or positively, the causes of such events, and mitigate/exploit them. For example, given the current state of the world (people getting infected with the COVID-19 virus), there is a risk of members not showing to discussions held in physical locations.
PRINCE2 successfully standardizes a management style for even the most unique, creative projects!