This book, Proactive Project Management, by my good friend Morten Fangel in Denmark, is essentially about the body of knowledge of project management, its structure and practical reality in a world of "How to" rather than a "What is". To this end, Morten has subtitled his book: "How to make common sense common practice". It is certainly refreshing to come across a book that is about the Body of Knowledge of Project Management, yet takes a thoroughly realistic approach to its application based on years of practical experience.
Morten explains his approach by observing:
"The concept of proactive management has often been expressed as 'well begun is half completed'. Being proactive is both common sense and universally accepted ... To plan before execution; to see potential risks before they occur; to focus on the whole rather than single parts."
Then Morten hastens to add that:
"But many examples from practice show that being proactive in this way is not at all natural."
Morten goes on to justify this observation by arguing:
When a project or a new phase is initiated, attention is spontaneously focused on the project content. This is the natural reaction when we start a new task.
- From the start, and for as long as possible in the process, we focus on the project execution, i.e., the solution of the project itself.
- Attention given to management aspects is used reactively when challenges threaten the progress of the project.
There are many good reasons for this pattern:
- We are stressed for time.
- Uncertainty around the project is too great.
- Management of the project can be a rather diffuse experience for many participants, it is much more satisfying to discuss the content.
In short, Morten asserts that:
"[This] pattern could be seen as a natural law for projects - almost like the power of gravity."
None of this should come as a surprise. We have long held that the starting point for brainstorming a new project is to simply start with a listing of the most obvious things to be done. Indeed, we said on the topic of project Objectives and Outputs:
" Normally, if you follow textbook theory, you state your objectives first and then talk about all the work that has to be done to achieve those objectives. However, most of the time it is difficult to get a clear idea of the objectives (outputs or 'deliverables') to start with, and time is wasted just arriving at a definition of what is to be accomplished.
In any case, people find it easier to "work the problem" by thinking of all the things that have to be done, and get that off their chest, so to speak. Typically, everyone can think of pieces or parts of the work that need to be done. This gets people warmed up, and you can then arrive more quickly at a much better definition of the project's objectives. That's why it helps to talk about work items first." (Emphasis added.)
Nevertheless, as Morten sees it, it is a kind of natural law that we immerse ourselves in the execution of the project first; with the consequence that project management then takes place re-actively. That is, after the problems have already occurred during the project's execution. The aim of Morten's book is to shift this attitude away from being reactive to being proactive.
About the author
Morten Fangel is Managing Director & Chief Consultant at Fangel Consulting Ltd., a company he founded in the Copenhagen Area of Denmark. The company is dedicated to management consulting and education. Morten is an Honorary Fellow of the International Project Management Association (IPMA) of which he has been a President and Chair and has been featured in IPMA's Thought Leaders section. He is also an honorary member of the Icelandic Project Management Association for his work as co-founder and supporter of that association.
Project Management © Fangel Consulting, Saettedammen 4, DK 3400 Hilleroed, Denmark.
2. Ibid, p12. Note: The emphasis is the author's.
5. Ibid, p13.
7. See Scope-Pak Planning "Step 3: Objectives and Outputs" at