The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright property of the author.
Published here January 2015

Introduction | Book Structure
What We Liked – Part 1: Constructing Project Management
What We Liked – Part 2: Deconstructing Project Management | PART 2

What We Liked – Part 1: Constructing Project Management

As Raymond Levitt observed when reviewing Peter Morris's book in draft:

"[This book is] a tour de force on the philosophy, methods and practices of project and program management; a feast of PM lore, knowledge and insight ..."[2]

And so it is. It is a delight to read; the more so because it confirms so much of what we have been saying for years, decades, even. But the conclusions that Peter has reached are not just the result of philosophical thought, but the careful analysis of many large-scale projects in which he has been involved, or otherwise had occasion to study. In fact, Appendix 1: Critical Success Factor Studies lists 64 such studies, complete with each studies' findings and topic areas.

As the introduction to the Appendix observes:[3]

"CSF studies identify the factors that cause projects and programs to succeed or fail. In other words, they show what factors need to be managed in order for project management to be successful in performing its delivery function.

What the following data show is that these factors consistently arise from the area of strategy/governance, technology/requirements, commercial organization, control and people, hence demonstrating the broad range of subjects, topics, functions and disciplines that managers of projects need to address.

A further observation is the high incidence of Governance and the relatively low incidence of Control — which is particularly interesting given that Control was, as we saw in Part 1, the primary driver behind the creation of the discipline, and of course still is the overriding ethos of what one might term 'basic project management'."

Which brings us back to the evolution of "basic Project Management" in Peter's first three chapters. For starters, Peter observes:[4]

"Projects are organizational entities. They differ from non-project organizations in that they all follow the same generic development sequence. Something like: (1) idea; (2) outline concept and strategy; (3) detailed planning; (4) execution; and (5) completion/close-out. All projects, no matter how complex or trivial, large or small, follow this development sequence."

Note the avoidance of the use of the term (project) "life cycle". Perhaps at last we have a new label! If "project life span" is a non-starter for some reason,[5] then let us call it "project development sequence" or PDS – a label that has the solid backing of a renowned academic.

To quote all the interesting snippets of information would find us writing another book! But along the way, Peter describes the impacts of projects like the Giza pyramids, Stonehenge, the magnificent Roman aqueducts, roads and bridges and vaulted buildings in roman and Arabic architecture. And more recently, Sir Christopher Wren's role, together with Robert Hooke, an Oxford physicist, in responding to the catastrophic Great Fire of London.

"The huge amount of materials and personnel necessary called for careful management of the work and control of costs. The beginnings of modern construction management can be seen in the way Wren's office was organized. The complimentary roles of architect, engineer, surveyor and contractor emerged."[6]

Then there are military projects ranging from the activities of William of Normandy to Napoleon. These examples are offered to make the point that people have been managing great projects long before the advent of the tools, language, and concepts we associate with the discipline of project management today.[7] Peter goes on to describe the early attempts at formal project integration, by the work of people like Henri Fayol, Henry Gantt and others. His examples range from the logistics of building in less than nine months the huge Crystal Palace in London in 1850,[8] to the systems thinking behind the urgency of the USAF's "Atlas" program, America's first intercontinental ballistic missile program in the 1950s.[91]

From here on, various project management tools appeared to evolve rapidly, but not necessarily with greater success. Peter describes several very large projects that were less than stellar. Peter then takes us through his view of various attempts at establishing formal project management knowledge bases. Of the Project Management Institute's: A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), he quoted PMI: [10]

"... much of the general management body of knowledge should be recognized as a given or prerequisite for project management and not included in the PMBOK® Guide unless it was considered that aspects of this knowledge are an integral part of the project management process."

From this, Peter goes on to say:[11]

"This unfortunately created a fundamental shortcoming: the PMBOK® Guide did not, and still does not, represent the knowledge that is necessary for managing projects successfully but only that which was considered truly unique to project management. ... PMI's construct was a process ... a simple 'initiate → plan → execute → monitor and control → close' set of process groups. ... An extraordinarily disembodied and inadequate definition of the thing that PMI is the profession for!"

By way of contrast, he observes of the Association for Project Management's Body of Knowledge (the APM BOK):[12]

"The APM based its Body of Knowledge not on the knowledge that is 'unique to project management' but on what you need to know in order to manage projects successfully. In practical terms, it considered the PMBOK® Guide misguided in its omission of the front end and too narrow in its definition of the subject. APM thus produced a broader document which followed the 'management of projects' model, recognizing topics such as objectives, strategy, technology, environment, people, business and commercial issues, and so on."

Thus, Peter concludes that:[13]

"The model of project management represented by the PMBOK® Guide is one essentially of delivery execution: one where the requirements have at most to be 'collected'; where the cost, schedule, scope and other targets have already been set. The ethos of the discipline is then to 'monitor and control', not to actively shape and drive solutions."

In subsequent chapters in this part of the book, Peter goes on to describe, with major projects examples, a variety of techniques and tools now available to project managers, but with which most practicing project managers will be familiar.

Book Structure  Book Structure

2. Raymond E. Levitt, Kumagal Professor of Engineering, Director, Stanford Global Projects Center, University of Stanford. Reconstructing Project Management, back cover.
3. Morris, Peter, W. G., Reconstructing Project Management, First Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., West Sussex, UK, 2013, p 289.
4. Ibid, pp12-13
5. Probably because it was invented here!
6. Ibid, p15, reference Cooper, M. (2003), A more beautiful city: Robert Hooke and the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, Sutton: Stroud.
7. Ibid, p16
8. Ibid, pp20-21
9. Ibid, p28
10. Ibid, p54, taken from Stuckenbruck, L. C. (1968), Project Management Framework, Project Management Quarterly, XVII, 2, pp27-28
11. Ibid, p54
12. Ibid, p61
13. Ibid, p60
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