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 August 2016.

Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked
Downside | Conclusion


The essential theme behind Ron Basu's book is to bring together R&D and project management in such a way as to enhance the relationship between the two. Ron notes that R&D is vehicle by which organizations and economies create opportunities and innovation designed to secure a steady stream of future products and services, the lifeblood of a thriving economy. That is why R&D is so important for the sustainable growth of both businesses and the national economies contributing to human wellbeing.[8]

However, Ron also records that: "Project management is the discipline of organizing and managing resources in such a way that these resources deliver all the work required to complete a project within defined scope, time and cost constraints."[9] The problem is, of course, that in R&D you don't know with any degree of certainty what you will find when you look (scope). Nor how long it will take (time), nor how much "resources" you will consume, and hence how much it will cost (cost). As an aside, by the foregoing description and the general discussion of project management in Chapter 3, Ron is clearly thinking in terms of single project management (SPM).[10]

The driving force behind a project manager's work to reach success is moving towards completion by strict control of time and cost (i.e. project efficiency) and, sometimes, by throttling back on scope and product quality to meet mandated time and cost targets. In contrast, a researcher is inspired by personal curiosity and creativity and, by implication, will take as long as it takes.[11] No wonder there is an inherent tension between the two parties, and a clash of business cultures where each looks at the other with suspicion!

But why are we so bent on applying SPM to R&D in the first place? Clearly it is the wrong discipline! We suggest that the "right" discipline, still within the project management profession, is the application of Program Management. Program Management (PgM) recognizes the difficulty encountered in many areas of project management application where there is such uncertainty, but in which an appropriate degree of organizational management control can still be exercised. This is obviously not the place for us to give an explanation of the benefits of PgM over SPM under the circumstances of R&D, so perhaps author Ron Basu could elaborate on this in his next book?

In general, the book is well written with clarity of thought. However, the text is tightly packed into the pages in a relatively small sans-serif font and with numerous long paragraphs, some of which also contain long sentences of up to 50 words. All of this means very limited white space. That not only makes it a challenge to the eye of the reader, but also leaves little room for the reader to flag, annotate or comment on sections of particular interest. As a consequence, we found that some sections are more difficult to digest than necessary.[12]

This is a pity, because the purpose of a textbook is to assemble and convey information to its readership. And, in this day and age of a fast paced world, the transfer of information should be made as easy as possible. Otherwise, readers skip or abandon text, often essential, and consequently the writer's efforts could be correspondingly wasted. In our opinion, sad to say, all of this makes the book heavy reading for all those who are other than academics with the time and determination to digest every word.

Having said all of that, we should add that this practice seems not unusual in British publications.

What We Liked  What We Liked

8. Ibid, Extracted from the Introduction on p1
9. Ibid, p1
10. See discussion of "SPM" here:
11. Basu, R., Managing Projects in Research and Development, p13
12. Ibid, see examples on pages 55, 63, 147 ...
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