Published here November, 2005.

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Some Gems Worthy of Note | Downside | Advice From an Expert | Summary

What We Liked

As we said earlier, this book on a subject that otherwise might be dry and forbidding is easy to read and periodically punctuated with little bits of humor to lighten the way. For example: "Fact: project managers rarely have a delegated authority to buy on behalf of their companies. This revelation sometimes comes as a shock and a disappointment to project managers."[6]

Actually, if you are a construction manager working for a contractor on a construction site, you do usually have authority to purchase temporary materials up to the line item limits of your construction budget. The way it works is this. You do the source selection and price negotiations and, when you've reached a deal with a supplier, you issue a purchase order. That's as good as a personal check without actually handling any money. Head office will pay upon you approval of the supplier's invoice.

Or consider this humor: "The top person in most organizations will go by various titles ...Without being told, we instinctively know who they are, because they have the best office and the best parking spot in the organization."[7]

Or this jibe: "In the game of American football there's a play that is called the 'Hail Mary Pass'. This pass is used whenever a team is in desperate straights, and they have no other course of action ... Some times it works. Most of the time it does not ... There are two conditions calling for the use of the Hail Mary Pass: (1) sheer desperation, and (2) no definitive plan of action."[8] Of course, that would never occur on any of our reader's projects, right?

We liked this one about evaluating seller's proposals: "Once the proposals are received everyone, virtually everyone, wants to be a part of the source selection process. It is prestigious to be on the proposal selection committee. And besides, they typically are served free cookies and coffee."[9] Quentin might have added that being on the committee also confers an impression of some authority that might be used to future advantage - without being used unethically, of course.

And this one on negotiation: "Most large companies have professional negotiators on their staff. Typically they are housed in organizations called contracts, proposals, supply management, sometimes legal. These individuals all share a common trait: they can talk for hours ... and commit themselves to doing nothing."[10] Now there's the voice of experience speaking!

Turning back to the presentation of Quentin's book, the layout of the text is excellent - short concise paragraphs and sentences throughout. This is what the academics would describe as Grade 11-12 reading level or "Reader's Digest" equivalent. Maybe it's odd to be harping on this, but clarity and simplicity in project communications is an essential, and an under-played requirement, in effective and successful project management. And nowhere is it more important than in contract language, if the parties are to clearly understand their respective obligations under the agreement, so that they accomplished the work smoothly and without rancor. Oh that more lawyers and bureaucrats could understand this, instead of expecting everyone to hire more lawyers to interpret what the parties think they have to do!

Book Structure  Book Structure

6. Fleming, W. Q., Project Procurement Management, p7
7. Ibid, p7
8. Ibid, p47-8
9. Ibid, p164
10. Ibid, p198
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