Before launching into a review of this book, we must first declare our bias. This book is a compendium of chapters by a variety of authors, albeit generally well known by most people in the project management industry. In the past, we ourselves have been invited to contribute to other books in this way, typically being persuaded to do so on the grounds that it would give us extensive exposure if we presented something new, or at least of value. This would therefore enhance our exposure and recognition, and bring opportunities, etc., etc.
It never did. On the contrary, we learned that contributing a chapter to someone else's book was an easy way for an editor to spread the work load of assembling sufficient material to justify publishing a book, and garner the exposure and recognition for themselves. The contributing authors, for their part, tended to dig out some material that they had already drafted, most likely for riding one of their favorite hobbyhorses. The result was inevitably a compilation of disparate thoughts by different people, with different perspectives, and different motives. As an exercise in assembling entertaining commentary like an extended magazine, that's fine. As a useful reference book as a part of an individual's personal reference library, such books are virtually useless.
Having approached editor/author Rodney Turner's book with these thoughts in mind, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we were mostly wrong. On the contrary, Rodney sets out to provide a new handbook on project management with a clear structure and consistent thread covering the theory and practice of project management through a project's natural evolution or life span. That is, from the institution and merits of change within an organization as a matter of strategy, through commentary on performance of the well established components of project management, to delivery and start-up or deployment of the resulting products. Along the way, Rodney also incorporates highly relevant views on other topics of the day such as corporate management of projects and governance, sustainability, and the anatomy and implementation of Project Management Offices.
As Rodney observes in his Preface:
"This time [unlike previous editions] I should start with projects, and work outwards to corporate strategy."
However, he cautions that:
"As before, I don't necessarily share the views of all the authors. I think it is healthy that a book like this should have a wide range of perspectives. Again there is nothing that I violently disagree with, and since I think Project Management is a social construct, I would not even say anything is 'wrong', just different perspectives of the same thing. A cylinder looks like a circle if you view it along one axis and a square if you view it from the side. So you can put a square peg in a round hole; it can look like a circle to some people and a square to others. Neither is wrong for expressing their views. Project Management is the same."
Well, that should quell any tide of criticism. In short, Buyer Beware! However, we do feel comfortable with vouching for the cadre of many new authors that Rodney has assembled for his purpose.
As to Rodney's target audience, he says:
"This book is intended as a handbook for project management practitioners. The aim is to give an introduction to and overview of the essential knowledge required for managing projects."
Note that this does not mean that the book provides the "information" a project manager needs to apply to a particular project, but rather just the "knowledge" that such information must exist. Therefore, with the extensive References and Further Readings provided at the end of each chapter, we suggest that it looks like those who are most likely to benefit are other authors and researchers. That is, those who are striving to develop a common understanding of what project management is and encompasses, and all that this implies.
About the author
Rodney Turner has an impressive academic background. He is Professor of Project Management at the Lille School of Management and the Centre for Project Management in the Kemmy Business /school, Limerick. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney, and visiting Professor at Henley Management College. He is editor of The International Journal of Project Management, and has written articles for journals, conferences and magazines.
Rodney was for twelve years a member of Council of the UK's Association for Project Management. He is now an Honorary Fellow and Vice President. He has also been President and Chairman of the International Project Management Association, the global federation of national associations in project management. He lectures on and teaches project management worldwide.
1. Turner, Rodney, editor/author Handbook of Project Management, Fifth Edition, Gower Publishing Limited, Surrey, UK, 2014, p xx
3. Ibid, p1