By his own admission, author Jerry Manas has an affinity for history. He believes, and rightly so, that there is much to be learned from history and, more particularly, by studying the great leaders of the past there is much to be learned that is applicable to project management specifically. After all, aren't all great project managers also great leaders? There seem to be two issues here. First, is it fundamental to being a great project manager that you also have to be a great leader? Second, was Napoleon really such a great leader, given his final catastrophic project? I'll leave it to our readers to debate, hopefully without prejudice to Anglo-French relations.
My first thought on picking up the book is that the title is a bit misleading. I doubt that in his day, Napoleon had even heard of project management. So what the book is really about is Jerry's view of Napoleon's activities from the perspective of project management - and hence what can be learned from those activities.
Napoleon's goal at the time was to salvage the French nation.
"When Napoleon took over as first consul, France was in a dreadful state. Over a million people had died during the French Revolution. France was beleaguered, surrounded by enemies, not least of whom were the expatriates who had lost power and clamored for a restoration of the old monarchy. The recently formed government was in a state of collapse, the economy of France was in a shambles, and another revolution was breaking out."
In short, Napoleon had a serious people problem. Given that project management is largely about managing people and given all that has been written in the last half century about this aspect of project management, it is difficult to believe that there is any more to be learned. In fact, therefore, what Jerry's book does is to underscore the connections between Napoleon's "sheer brilliance, work ethic, and tenacity" and all that we know about the people side of project management in today's world.
For those who are comfortable with the idea that a project manager could or should be someone who is ready to conquer the world and who brooks no obstacles, this book is a great read. Even though ultimate failure is inevitable, as history has shown time and time again, there are important lessons to be learned. Not least of these is the work ethic and tenacity that I just mentioned. Through it all, the book that is, Jerry captures his key findings in two graphics, namely: "Napoleon's Six Winning Principles" and "Four Critical Warning Signs".
1. Manas, J., Napoleon on Project Management, Nelson Business, Tennessee, 2006, p268
2. Ibid, p ix
4. Ibid, p257
5. Ibid, p258