Published here October, 2009

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary

Book Structure

The chapters of André Costin's book: Managing Difficult Projects are as follows:


Discovering a project


Setting multi-year corporate strategy


Defining a project


Mobilizing the project


Managing people


Managing contracts


Scheduling work


Managing costs


Building quality and commissioning


Concluding remarks

The first three chapters of this ten-chapter journey begin by discussing the phased project delivery processes, and corporate strategy. As you will see, André takes us through the natural life span of a capital project investment. This is the life span of the "technology" that is overlaid with a typical project management life span. The two are not the same, but must function together much like the lungs, a separate organ of the body, must supply the essential oxygen to the heart for the whole body to function as a complex whole.

Chapter 1: Discovering a project. Here you will read about such things as identifying an idea that promises gain in the first place; how the concept must be transformed into a project definition, justified by forecasting market demand and trading rewards and risks; and the typical growth and decline of technologies, products and services.

Chapter 2: Setting multi-year corporate strategy provides the rationale for sequential project phasing and identifying one of several options for implementation ranging from traditional, to turnkey, to build-own-operate. This introduces the vital distinction between performance and prescriptive-type specifications for the project deliverable. In particular, Chapter 2 proposes using project management methodology in developing the corporate strategic plan. This merits careful consideration by corporate strategists because it allows for the integrated orchestration of diverse capital and operational initiatives and their alignment with the firm's vision and value proposition in the thrust towards growth and profit.

Chapter 3: Defining a project gives an overview of the project definition and design process, and the players and their roles in project delivery in both the technical definition and implementation phases. This includes key considerations of the project sponsor in appointing managers to fill key positions, especially in managing the technical definition process, work packaging (WBS), risk assessment and risk mitigation.

Chapter 4: Mobilizing the project guides the reader through three action themes, namely, structuring, aligning and committing. That is, shaping the plan of organization and mobilizing key staff members through five basic steps; bringing contract participants into the project team and developing a project implementation plan; and committing all parties to a set of priority guidelines, procedures and responsibilities.

Chapter 5: Managing people recognizes the difficulty of managing people on projects, especially in the presence of a disconnect between corporate human resources departments and the needs of project managers mobilizing for a project. Author André Costin suggests a five-point action plan and various techniques to mitigate these difficulties. He proposes the creation of the learning project organization, focused on building effective project teams guided by a process which he calls "Management by Objectives Plus" (MBO+) Process.

Chapter 6: Managing contracts introduces various contracting approaches, current trends and classic flaws perpetrated by the unenlightened. Thankfully, André follows this with clear advice on how it should be done.

Chapters 7, 8 and 9, look at Scheduling work, Managing costs and Building quality and commissioning respectively. These cover the more traditional project management territory of managing to the constraints of schedule, cost and quality, followed by final commissioning, testing, reviews and audits. Under each heading, André goes into some depth and provides valuable suggestions to ensure that these processes are effective. Nonetheless, the content is instructive for executives and managers alike.

In his Concluding remarks, Chapter 10, André sets out to answer some obvious questions like "Can you suggest orientations and principles that should govern the delivery of any and all project?" to which he responds with ten principles. He also answers some not-so-obvious questions like "What can a contract service provider do to help a sponsor manage his risks better?"

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