The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here February 2017

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary


Perhaps the best way we can summarize the contents of Paul Barshop's book is to quote the sub-headings of his last chapter: Executive Role, Executive Control — 12 Essential Rules. These Rules are as follows as follows:

Rule #

  1. Use the Stage-Gate Process
  2. Start by Framing the Project
  3. Ensure Project Sponsor Involvement
  4. Develop Clear Objectives
  5. Invest in Owner Teams and Provide the Support They Need
  6. Reach a Strong Level of Project Definition
  7. Factor the Accuracy of the Capital Cost Estimate into Decision Making
  8. Set Contingency in Accordance with Project Risk
  9. Build an Effective Steering Committee
  10. Use a Robust Risk Management Process
  11. Keep the Stage-Gates Strong
  12. Be Coachable

Each of these rules is explained in detail in the book's Chapter 12.

R. Max Wideman
Fellow, PMI


As readers may recall, it is our practice to submit our book reviews to the author for comment before publishing, to ensure that we have not made any errors of fact. In this case, Paul Barshop has made these interesting observations that are most welcome.


Thank you for the very thorough review. I believe you have captured the book quite well. I only have some minor comments are in the Downside section (as I am sure is very common!).

For IPA's clients anyway, the percentage of projects that get weeded out during the front-end is less the 1 in 10 figure you cite. Reliable data are hard to get, but the number is closer to 50 percent, rather than 90 percent. Industrial companies tend to screen projects out prior to entry into the first phase of the stage-gate process (SGP). Once a project makes it into the SGP, there is a pretty good chance the project will make it to authorization.

Still, I think your point that the executive position tends to be understaffed is valid, making it a challenge for executives to perform their role early in the SGP. The way to combat this problem is for the project management organization to offer the support needed to minimize the burden on executives.

I also agree that executives tend to be self-confident, which can get in the way of accepting the need and seeing the benefits of the SGP.

In your last paragraph, you say 'the front-end process should be made part of the standard project management offerings' ... 'Then, and only then, might more executives be willing to heed the message.'

This may work, but I am not convinced. Many IPA clients have made the front-end process and the SGP a corporate requirement, yet these same companies struggle to get a sufficient level of executive participation. I do not think it is enough to overcome the barriers you listed (understaffing plus self-confidence).

Thank you again for the review.


Note that Paul says: "Industrial companies tend to screen projects out prior to entry into the first phase of the stage-gate process (SGP)." In other words, there is an even earlier gate, perhaps unofficially, than that shown as Gate 1 in the illustration presented earlier.

Downside  Downside

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