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 various authors.
Published here August 2015

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary

What We Liked

The reading content, embodying many novel ideas with which the reader may or may not agree, is intense, but generally not difficult to follow for those with Project Management experience. With so many authors involved subscribing only one or two chapters, we feel that it would be invidious to single out comments on only a few chapters and far too onerous to comment on every one. However, we do think the "Editor" is fair game!

We really liked the way Rodney introduces his book thus:[5]

"Projects and project management are now widely recognized by organizations as being essential to achieving their strategic objectives. [This] often involves change, and that change needs managing in a different way than managing the routine work of the organization. The change can take several forms:

  • An engineering construct, [e.g.] a new building, new infrastructure or a new product or production machinery;
  • An information [construct], [e.g. a] system involving new information and communication technology; or
  • A social construct, [e.g.] new processes, new organization's structure or new skills in the workforce

In each case, the organization that wants the new asset creates a temporary organization, a project, to which resources are assigned to do the work to deliver that beneficial change."

That makes it clear what this Handbook is about — serious stuff. At one stroke Rodney rules out a whole range of projects such as research that is purely exploratory, theatre and entertainment, and that is to say nothing of simple one-man household maintenance projects.

However, there is more significance in the text just quoted. The perceptive reader will observe that the last line clearly indicates the similarity of approach across all three of the bullets listed, while those bullets all refer to markedly different outcomes. In other words, project management is similar across all three types of product quoted, whereas the processes for managing the development of the different types of products involved are all different. If only academics could recognize this distinction, a lot of conflicting opinions, confrontations and conflicts in the literature and actual project management application could be avoided. After all, arriving at this conclusion is only a matter of applying the well-established technique of work breakdown structure.

Following this introduction, Rodney then explains the purpose and content of each of his book's five parts: Projects; Performance; Process; Portfolio and Perspectives. Notice the alliteration here — good piece of salesmanship! Notice, too, that another very likely candidate for the string is "People". However, as we mentioned earlier, while found in previous editions, this time this topic proved too large to be included, and in any case is covered by another recent Gower publication.

Rodney goes on to postulate "five simple assumptions or premises, and from that develop an understanding of what we mean by projects and project management."[6] From these five premises, Rodney manages to reach no less that 21 "Conclusions" that establish the scope of project management and underscore the structure of the whole book. Interestingly, it is not until Conclusion #18 that Rodney asserts that "The project life [span] is an inherent part of project management"![7]

From these observations, Rodney concludes:[8]

"From just five premises, I have shown that all of the elements of Parts 2 to 4 of this book are inherent parts of Project Management. They do not need to be assumed as Cleland and King (1983) did. I have shown that the use of some common tools and techniques are inherent, and some can be derived from other management disciplines.

The concepts presented here do not preclude existing theories, such as the systems approach (Cleland and King, 1983), the process approach (Turner, 2009) and the project as an information processing system (Winch, 2005). But they can be overlaid on this theory to provide additional insights. They do not need to be the primary focus of the theory, nor should they be. The concepts presented here set Project Management firmly as a part of Organizational and Management Theory, enabling the discipline to draw on insights from other management disciplines."

Book Structure  Book Structure

5. Ibid, p1
6. Ibid, p20
7. Ibid, p29
8. Ibid, p33
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