The views expressed in these introductory reviews are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the books under review are the copyright property of the respective authors.
Published here July 2013

Introduction to the Books
Book 1 - Project Management: Achieving Competitive Advantage
Introduction | Table of Contents | General Observations and Recommendations
Book 2 - 101 Project Management Problems and How to Solve Them
Introduction | Table of Contents | General Observations and Recommendations
Book 3 - Rescue the Problem Project
Introduction | Table of Contents | General Observations and Recommendations

Book 3 - Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure by Todd C. Williams, 2011

General Observations and Recommendations

This book explains to the reader how to " Rescue the Problem Project". However, to do that we must first understand what is a "Problem Project"? Author Todd Williams' answer to that is:[17]

"A project [that] has a problem that needs corrective action. The team is aware of the trouble and is frustrated. The members have tried to describe the issues and their negative implications to senior management, but their concerns have gone unheard. This problem will continue until management acknowledges it.

Before a project can become a candidate for recovery, senior management must:

  • Recognize that the project is in trouble.
  • Make a commitment to fixing it.
  • Establish recovery guidelines.
  • Assign a recovery manager.

Unless management commits to these four steps, the project will continue to flounder and failure is inevitable."

But what is (project) failure? Since failure is the converse of (project) success, what then is project success? Here, the author explains that:[18]

"All projects are actually two projects - the customer's and the suppliers'. And, depending on the structure required to build the product, there may be numerous other project perspectives; for example, [that of] a subcontractor selected to work on some part of the project. Figure 1 illustrates the varying perspectives that are possible for a project."

Figure 1: Perspectives on a Project
Figure 1: Perspectives on a Project [19]

Hence, in Todd's judgment:[20]

"The definition of project success is:

  • The project delivers value to all parties in the project
  • The project maintains the scope, schedule, and cost established by the original definition, as well as any before-the-fact change orders.

Delivering value to all parties means that both the customer and supplier get what they need; the project's original definition is irrelevant in determining whether that has happened."

It follows that:[21]

"A project is a failure when its project is unsuccessful in providing value to all the parties. From the customer's standpoint, the product the project is building provides the value; from the supplier's side, it is likely the revenue. If a project is supposed to deliver on a certain date, no sooner and no later, finishing early will have as negative a result as being late. To ignore an issue and let it continue unabated will result in failure."

We are not sure that we entirely agree with that last statement. We suggest it depends on by how much.

In our view, this book is well written in a clear and persuasive style. It includes a number of short illustrative case studies, summary bullet-point tables, and computer-generated illustrations. However, it is not "light reading", especially for those who may not be familiar with the project environment that is the subject of this book.

Nevertheless, we found it reliable and realistic and conclude that it is a valuable reference for those involved in complex projects.

R. Max Wideman
Fellow, PMI

Table of Contents  Table of Contents

17. Ibid, p1
18. Ibid, p4
19. This diagram is understandably simplistic. To understand just how complex a large construction project can be, see Figure 1 - Project management in a corporate environment on this page: (originally developed in 1987)
20. Ibid, p5
21. Ibid, p7
Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page