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Rocky Mountain Entrepreneur
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I just finished reading this book as part of a doctoral course on project management. I already have an MBA in finance. It is not the first book I have read or used for project management (and probably won't be the last). To give some background, I have worked in government, the private sector, and the not-for-profit sector for the last 18 years which has included a variety of projects in often unusual forms. I have managed and/or planned and executed projects ranging from several thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars.
The book is broken down into four parts: Part I: Defining and Using Project Management, Part II: Establishing Project Management Life Cycles and Strategies, Part III: Building Effective Project Management Infrastructure, and Part IV: Managing the Realities of Projects. The subtopics range from a basic discussion on manning a project to a great discussion throughout the book on different models that could be used to manage projects (e.g., traditional, agile, extreme, Emertxe and various subtypes in between). Major topics also include: Establishing a project management/support office, establishing project scope, planning, launching, monitoring, trouble shooting, closing, and portfolio management. There are a number of other smaller topics as well.
The book is written at a fairly easy reading level (e.g., entry MBA level) so students and others can get a grasp of the information. However, the lack of examples and case studies makes it difficult to relate to or internalize. This is a major drawback for readers with limited experience working in this field or working in industry in a management position. I think a main assumption is that students taking a class with this book or readers that are using it as a reference or for professional development have a background in at least a basic course in management and one in organizational behavior. More than one would be better. I don't recommend this book for undergrads due to their lack of experience and the need for them to have a wider breadth of life and course experience which would help them more fully maximize this book's potential.
This book does have several significant benefits but I found it to be lacking in several areas. The advantages include:
1. Scope discussion. The discussion of scope was well done and emphasized throughout;
2. People focus: Focus on having the right people;
3. The role of client participation;
4. The use of project teams;
5. Good (not the best but good) on troubleshooting problems using eight different methods;
6. Tips and tricks that the author has used in his career. These are are good (more would be better, but other books I have don't have this much at all)
There are also a number of major areas for improvement in this book including:
1. Use of acronyms. There is too much use of acronyms. While the acronyms appear throughout. Being someone that works in a world of acronyms it makes the reading harder because you are always trying to remember what they are in the book. Many acronyms become confusing with ones you may be familiar with elsewhere;
2. Discussion on models. There is too much discussion on the models one can use to do a project which didn't leave room for other important topics;
3. Lack of hands on project meat. It seemed that the discussion revolved around everything but actually getting down to business and doing the project. There was heavy emphasis on client involvement, scope, building the team, and roles of players, but not much on scheduling, developing a plan, estimating, risk management, reducing project duration, leadership, and performance measurement. These other topics are discussed, but unlike Gray and Larson (among others), they are not discussed in detail. If I had only had this book to rely on for training or even this book with a post graduate course, I would not feel confident in doing project management.
4. International project management. There was little discussion about international project management;
5. Weak examples. The book examples were weak. They often focused on technology and IT and were very vague. This book needs a wider breadth of examples;
6. Use of case studies. More case studies are needed to improve this book in order to help the reader understand how the concepts were applied in a variety of settings. There is a case study that students may be assigned to do that runs throughout the book on a pizza firm, but it is very vague and far too repetitive to really be of value.
7. Scope change request process. The section on scope change requests was too thin and needed examples to back it up;
8. Lack of examples. There were many cases where the author would refer to a prior discussion on templates and tools but there was little discussion on how these tools actually worked in a business setting with clear examples. Again, there was too much theory and not enough practical examples.
Overall, I was expecting more meat with hands on project management and less theory and repetition on models. Project Management by Gray and Larson is a better book that will provide more meat. I would use this one as a secondary source that focuses on people and models and Gray and Larson's book (not sure what their new edition is) to actually manage a project. Over all, while the author has a lot of industry experience, I found it difficult to connect the information together into a comprehensive project management toolbox. The lack of examples that tie theory to application, the focus on IT projects in the given examples, and too much of a theoretical approach are the primary reasons for giving it a 3.75/5 which may be a little generous.