Published here September, 2009.

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary


Claudia M. Baca, PMP, is an independent project management consultant with over 20 years of experience in the information technology, telecommunications and E-commerce industries. During this time she has managed multiple mission-critical projects for organizations as varied as a major telecommunications company to an Internet start-up company. She was also a member of the leadership team working on the Project Management Institute's Organizational Project Management Maturity Model (OPM3). Claudia has also written extensively contributing to books, papers and guides.

The style of the content of this book: Project Management for Mere Mortals[1] is interesting. It is written in narrative form rather than prescriptive and, at nearly 500 pages, goes into great detail. For those who like this style of learning, it is addressed to you personally. The book has a good storyboard case study worked through in great detail to illustrate the various concepts and ideas portrayed in the main text of each chapter.

As Kim Heldman[2] observes in her Foreword:

"Each project starts with an idea, a plan is developed to describe the work, and then it's carried out to fulfill the objective of the project. Along the way, the work is monitored and, when things stray, action is taken to bring the work back into compliance with the plan. The project management processes themselves are very similar, no matter what professions you work; of course the actual work that's performed varies from project to project and among industry areas."[3]

In other words, while project management is similar across most areas of application, managing the work to produce the product can be very different. And since project management cannot exist in a vacuum, i.e. without the context of a product, Claudia's solid background necessarily provides the backdrop for her current book. That is, readers from the information and corporate administration project industries will be most comfortable with Claudia's discourse and examples.

So, notwithstanding the importance of the "people" element in project management, the amount of time that Claudia recommends the project manager should devote to "relationships" may be unrealistic. For this reason, some readers may have difficulty in translating this work for use on an actual project. Nevertheless, Claudia has managed to tie the two main so-called facilitating functions of the Project Management Institute's Project Management Body of Knowledge ("PMBOK"), i.e. "people" and "communications", to the core topics of scope, quality, time, cost and risk, in a very interesting way. Every single chapter includes two standard section headings titled "Teaming" and "Politics". These two headings provide the opportunity to discuss people and communications with specific reference to the topic of the chapter in projects of high social intensity.

So, those managing projects that involve a relatively large number of stakeholders, and that place a premium on intellectual skills, will find this book most useful. In contrast we suggest that those involved in large projects involving extensive trade work will find it less interesting, notwithstanding the book's attempts at universal application. But then, the PMBOK® Guide itself is more of a vehicle to a qualification than a universal project management modus operandi.

We do wish project management book covers would make the context of the book's content clear for the benefit of unsuspecting book buyers. For a commentator to suggest that: "[the book] is a must read for all project managers with responsibilities for large or small projects regardless of industry or product"[4] (emphasis added) is simply not helpful and could be damaging to the author's market reputation.


1. Baca, Claudia M., Project Management for Mere Mortals, Addison Wesley, NY, 2007
2. Heldman, K., author of PMP® Project Management Study Guide, see
3. Project Management for Mere Mortals, p xv
4. Ibid, reviewer's comment, back cover
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