Published here November, 2003.

Introduction | First Impressions | Shifts in Focus
Comments on Other Chapters | Downside | Summary

Comments on Other Chapters

Under the heading "Improving Project Management Capabilities", Chapter 3[13] is new and covers the benefits and costs of systematic project management, formalized bodies of knowledge, maturity models, and recommended approaches to improvement. The discussion focuses on portfolio management but the advice offered requires subjective assessments. Given the current state of flux of these topics, it is difficult to make reliable judgments, especially by those most in need of improvement. Still, any operation suffering from any one of a long list of "Typical causes of poor project performance"[14] is clearly in need of expert help.

Chapter 3, '76, described the role of the project manager in various capacities.[15] This is replaced by Chapter 4, '03, which broadens the discussion to a variety of associated roles and their attributes in the project environment.[16] The bulleted lists of respective responsibilities provide clearer definition and valuable guidance.

Chapter 6, '03, describes project teamwork and some key human aspects of project management including the idea of commitment. Specific to project work, "Commitment is knowing where you want to go and being persistent in your efforts to get there."[17] We couldn't agree more. However, obtaining that commitment from someone else is a different slant and requires observable benefits and possibly negotiation. Russ suggests that you need to go beyond commitment with a willingness to be flexible and adopt innovative behaviors, these four in particular[18]

  • Searching for improvement
  • Challenging expectations
  • Creating an open environment
  • Encouraging risk taking

We are not sure of the appropriateness of these in all phases and certainly "searching for improvements" involves spending time and money to do so.

Russ suggests that the term "project management office" should be reserved for enterprise-wide project management activities, while the term "project office" should be used only to refer to a specific, individual project (or program) office.[19] This would make a lot of sense if the project management community at large could buy into this distinction. The various roles involved in this scenario are described at some length in chapter 9, '03,[20] which follows closely the contents of chapter 7, '76.[21]

Chapter 10, '03, is a major enhancement of chapter 7, '76. New to chapter 10 are concepts such as

  • Project planning in the context of the project life cycle[22]
  • Project objectives, strategies and scope[23]
  • Formal project initiation using a project charter,[24] and
  • The "successive principle" for planning under uncertainty[25]

Russ observes that the "successive principle is an integrated decision support methodology or process that can be used to address a variety of business problems or situations, and is particularly well suited to conceptualizing, planning, justifying, and executing projects."[26] And "How it works. The successive principle incorporates the concepts of holistic, whole-brain, systems thinking and the team approach with the mathematics of uncertainty and probability."[27]

Driver-type project managers will love this kind of stuff of course, but the general description of the method that follows seems to track typical project risk management steps. The source's author, Steen Lichtenberg[28] subsequently reported great benefits from the approach.[29] Well, he would wouldn't he? The chapter concludes with a good flow chart of project planning steps based on Bob Youker's work.[30]

Chapters 12 and 14, '03, are minor updates of chapters 8, 9 and 10, '76, except that earned value receives a more in-depth treatment and the section on Project Management Information Systems has been dropped in favor of chapter 5, '03, discussed earlier.

Shifts in Focus in 25 Years  Shifts in Focus in 25 Years

13. '03 pp54-81.
14. '03 p68.
15. '76 pp34-58.
16. '03, pp82-106.
17. '03, p141.
18. '03, p143
19. '03, p149.
20. '03, pp201-225.
21. '76, pp111-134.
22. '03, p227.
23. '03, p229.
24. '03, p231.
25. '03, p236.
26. '03, p237.
27. '03, p238.
28. Lichtenberg, S., Experiences from a New Logic in Project Management, Dimensions in Project Management, Heidelberg, Springer-Verlag, 1990,pp137-154.
29. Lichtenberg, S., Proactive Management of Uncertainty Using the Successive Principle - A practical way to manage opportunities and risk, Lyngby, Denmark, Polyteknisk Press, 2000, pp19-20.
30. '03, p278, from Youker, R., A new Look at Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) (Project Breakdown Structure - PBS), Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Seminar/Symposium, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, October 1990, p712.
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