Published here September, 2009.

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary

Book Structure

Project Management for Mere Mortals contains topics in fourteen chapters that generally follow the standard process pattern of planning activities, executing, monitoring, controlling, and closing.[5] The chapters are as follows:


Setting the Project Management Context


You've Been Assigned a Project!


How Big is This Project?


Laying Out the Work


The Art of Estimating


Quality - How Good Does It Have to Be?


Communication - What Do You Think About My Project?


Risk - What Should You Worry About?


Creating the Schedule


Budgeting - How Much?


The Rhythm of Project Execution


Keeping the Project on Track


Controlling Changes


Success! - Closing the Project

Answers to the Review Questions



Every chapter has five standard sections: Teaming, Politics, Summary, Case Study, and Review Questions. As noted earlier, the two sections: Teaming and Politics provide the opportunity to discuss people and communications issues relevant to the subject of the chapter. This is a valuable strategy in the book's structure since the subject of "Human Resources" and "Communications" are so often treated in complete isolation.

The Chapter headings are not always particularly descriptive of the chapter contents. For example: Chapter 2, You've Been Assigned a Project! covers "Chartering the Project" and a concept titled "Measures of Performance" (MOP).[6] An MOP is defined in the Glossary as "A measurable business result that is the objective of a project. A Measure of Performance consists of a driver and restrictions." A driver is defined as: "A single statement that describes the business result that must be achieved. It is always in measurable terms. It does not describe the activities of the work; it sticks to the result or outcome of the work." A restriction is defined as "A boundary you will need to work within to succeed."[7]

We found this MOP concept particularly interesting because it appears to be in close alignment with our description of a Key Success Indicator[8] that we have been advocating for projects since 1997. We prefer our KSI label of course because it speaks to project success, whereas MOP refers to "performance" that could mean any of the project's meeting its time and cost targets, or the functionality of the product of the project, or the business benefits achieved through the use of the product.

Another example of surprising content is Chapter 3, How Big is This Project. This chapter covers "Defining the Scope; Product Requirements; Creating the WBS; and Desk Testing." Desk Testing is the name used by the author to conduct "a human test of the work so far, to guarantee that you are still in the scope that you defined. This verification should be done at the end of every level of decomposition that you complete."[9]

The titles of subsequent chapters are more self-explanatory. You can pick and choose chapters to read out of sequence, but the book makes more sense if it is read sequentially. This is particularly true if you want to follow the twists and turns of the case study storyboard.

This book is well illustrated with frequent diagrams, tables and templates.

Introduction  Introduction

5. Ibid, p xix
6. Ibid, p24. This MOP concept is attributed to Wendi Peck and Dr. Bill Casey of Executive Leadership Group, Inc. reference Chapter 92 of Business Driven Information Technology: Answers to 100 Critical Questions for Every Manager, Stanford Press 2003.)
7. Ibid, Glossary pp 472-475
8. In 1997 we developed a Project Management Information System (PMIS) for a client and the PMIS included an "indicator" that we called Key Success Indicator (KSI). The objective was to shift the project focus away from just "On time, on budget" to the business results of the project. We defined KSIs as: "Those project management indicators that: Are determined at the beginning of the project and listed in order of priority; Reflect directly on the key objectives of the project, and Provide the basis for project management trade-off decisions during the course of the project. And, after completion of the project: Are most likely to result in acceptance of the project and its product by the project's stakeholders as being successful in terms of customer satisfaction, and Can be measured in some way, at some time, on some scale." Ref:
9. Project Management for Mere Mortals, p90
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