Published here August, 2007.  

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Summary | Postscript


This book is well structured and well written and for those who work in the field of project management and are also interested in history, particularly French history, this is a fascinating read. Author Jerry Manas succeeds admirable in his purpose, that is, as he states:

"The lessons from Napoleon's rise and fall can show us how to be successful in this [management-by-projects] approach both in our organizations and in our personal lives."[12]

Provided always of course that you follow the positive lessons and take heed of the negative ones.

For the most part, it will probably underscore what you already know. There is no question that Napoleon had extraordinary abilities that he exercised to the full at a time of chaos in his country. Unlike most of us, he appeared to be as comfortable in developing a broad vision for his endeavors as he was in committing to paper the details of his Napoleonic code that formed the basis for law and order in France. Most project managers are comfortable at one end of the spectrum or the other. And whichever that is, the other end either appears to be tedious or it appears frightening. It's a question of personality trait and comfort zone.

As Jerry observes:

"His sheer breadth of accomplishments will probably never be repeated. Even his greatest adversary, the Duke of Wellington, when asked who the greatest general of his day was, responded: 'In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.' Perhaps that is why countless military leaders throughout history have studied and benefited from Napoleon's principles and techniques, and why many modern leadership and marketing books quote Napoleon to this day."[13]

Well, we hope that readers and authors of future "modern leadership and marketing books" do not take that too literally, for Napoleon made two monumental mistakes. One was that he allowed his ego to take control such that his mission eventually ran away with his original vision and that led to his downfall. The other was that he allowed the basis of his code to be effectively backwards. That is, a person accused of a crime could be remanded in custody, i.e. imprisoned, for an indefinite period - leading to a de facto presumption of guilt. In France, as well as many other places, the Napoleonic code is still in effect today.

R. Max Wideman
Fellow, PMI

Downside  Downside

12. Ibid, p4
13. Ibid, p256
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