Published here November, 2008.

Introduction | Book Structure
What We Liked | Downside | Summary

What We Liked

As we indicated in the previous section, Dhanu writes in a light-hearted way. Take this for example from essay #2: Responsibility without authority.

"How often do you see a project where you have authority over all the factors associated with a project? Consider a simple example of remodeling your kitchen or renovating the basement. You decide on a budget, draw up a plan, select the cupboards, order the material, hire a contractor and sign a contract. Guess what happens next? The delivery of cupboards is delayed, you knock down the drywall and find a gaping hole, and you have to do electrical work that you didn't expect. The project will now take three months instead of the one-month that you planned, you are living out of a makeshift kitchen in the basement, and every one including your spouse and the kids, are talking about this 'Project from hell'".[3]

Worse than that, Dhanu didn't mention that at the 75% project completion-point the spouse decided to change the whole color scheme ... !

The first order of business for a new project manager is to understand his or her responsibilities. Dhanu provides a good "fishbone" diagram as shown in Figure 1. Not exactly a cause and effect chart but the layout is familiar. Students of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) will recognize the eight knowledge areas plus the overall Integration Management. Each fishtail provides a four-point thumbnail of each area and, as such, is definitely limited. Nevertheless, it does provide a quick reminder of the extensive coverage of the project management discipline.

Figure 1: Dhanu's characterization of the project manager's responsibilities
Figure 1: Dhanu's characterization of the project manager's responsibilities[4]

Another valuable lesson is found in Chapter 3 that sheds light on a project from senior management's perspective. This is a discussion not always found in standard books on project management that is well for the project manager to keep in mind. As Dhanu says:[5]

"Management is primarily interested in answers to the following:

  1. Why are we doing this project?
  2. Who in the organization wants this project to be done?
  3. Who is sponsoring the project?
  4. Where is the budget coming from?
  5. What is the Return on Investment (ROI) for the project?
  6. What's the priority for the project?
  7. When will it be completed?
  8. What are the business risks associated with the project?
  9. How will the project help us to meet our business goals?
  10. Where is the Business Case including a statement of needs and cost/benefit analysis?"

Of course, a Business Case is more than that, but that's a pretty good list to start with when many projects do not seem to have a Business Case at all! And what if a project is undertaken without senior management backing? Dhanu goes on to state:[6]

"Without management support, commitment and approval:

  1. When projects cross departmental boundaries, as is often the case with enterprise-wide projects, they do not have the necessary commitment or 'buy-in' from all the departments.
  2. Departmental managers are unwilling to cooperate, as they do not have the budget allocated for what they see as a corporate project. This is especially true of organizations structured around the Line of Business (LOB) concept.
  3. The Clients and Departmental Managers do not see value or benefit from the project, or do not trust the [departmental] organization that is delivering the projects.
  4. There is not discussion of potential risks; or project assumptions are unrealistic or cannot be validated.
  5. The organizational and project goals are divergent. Departmental priorities, metrics and performance measurements do not align with project urgency and goals."

The bottom line here is the question: "Who should pay and be responsible?" Not content with highlighting the potential difficulties, of course, when you are confronted with a new project, Dhanu offers six very good steps you should take to improve your chances of completing your project successfully. But you'll have to get the book to find out what they are!

Subsequent essays in the book track through the PMBoK knowledge areas as per Figure 1, and integrate them with the typical project life span. However, that is not immediately evident from the descriptions in the Table of Contents.

In essay #10 on Uncertainty, Dhanu makes an interesting point: "The Project Manager needs to clearly differentiate between Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Changes". He then explains the differences, but warns against turning a risk into an unrealistic assumption. As he says:[7]

"An assumption usually serves as an escape clause, an excuse or a prop for the Project Manager, and it gives the mistaken impression that it will provide some kind of protection in case of non-performance. Firstly, no one reads the assumptions, and secondly, assumptions are seldom contractually binding."

Also in essay #10, Dhanu suggests that one way to identify risks is by grouping them into four categories: Technology; Implementation; Management; and Organizational (TIMO).[8] He goes on to explain the differences between each.

In essay #14 on Communication, Dhanu makes an important point. He says:[9]

"[Communication] is the most important skill for a Project Manager. [It] is the least understood and appreciated aspect of Project Management. And yet, it is the only vehicle at the PM's disposal to drive the project."

He might have added that as a closely related but distinctly separate skill, "Listening" comes a close second. However, in essay #15 on Soft Skills, there is a brief paragraph on "Effective Listening skills".[10] In this same essay, he reminds us of another important and related point: "the one who controls the minutes, controls the project"![11]

Book Structure  Book Structure

3. Ibid, p11
4. Ibid, Figure 1 on p6
5. Ibid, p17
6. Ibid, p18
7. Ibid, p82
8. Ibid, p84
9. Ibid, p119
10. Ibid, p132
11. Ibid, p129
Home | Issacons | PM Glossary | Papers & Books | Max's Musings
Guest Articles | Contact Info | Search My Site | Site Map | Top of Page