Published here August 2012

Introduction to the Books | About the Authors and Their Books
Book 1 - What Executives Need to Know about Project Management
Book 2 - What Functional Managers Need to Know about Project Management
Book 3 - Value-Driven Project Management
Book 4 - Introduction | Book Structure | What We Liked in "Framework" / in "Integration"
Downside in "Communications" | Summary

Introduction to Book 4

After completing the review of the first three books in this trilogy, the publishers[1] pointed out that a very similarly structured book had since been published as a part of their series. They suggested that it be added to our set of book reviews. That explains why there are four books in this trilogy!

If you have arrived here directly, you may wish to go back and read the Introduction to our series, especially About the Authors and their Books. The only difference is that the second author this time is Carl Belack. Carl is a Senior Consultant and Trainer for International Learning, Inc.

In this book, Harold Kerzner and Carl Belack set about the difficult task of distinguishing between "complex" projects and "simple" projects. Based on their findings, the authors examine the ramifications of this difference in what the project manager of a complex project should expect and how it should be managed. At 394 pages, this book is by far the largest in the series. It represents a serious attempt to depart from the description of the application of project management techniques that are now generally considered to be standard practice in today's business environment. Therefore, the authors go to some length to explain what they mean by "Complex".

To facilitate the discussion, the authors prefer to identify the two types of project as "traditional" and "non-traditional". For example:[2]

Traditional Projects

Non-Traditional Projects

Time duration of 6-18 months

Time duration over several years

The assumptions are not expected to change over the duration of the project

The assumptions can and will change over the project's duration

Technology is known and will not change over the project's duration

Technology will certainly change

People that started on the project will remain through to completion (the team and the project sponsor)

People that approved the project and are part of the governance may not be there at the project's conclusion

The statement of work is reasonably well-defined

The statement of work is ill-defined and subject to numerous scope changes

The target is stationary

The target may be moving

There are few stakeholders

There are multiple stakeholders

Figure 1: Table of significant differences in logistics

However, while this table describes some of the attributes of a complex project, it does not provide the definition of "complex project" itself. To this end the authors point to the "complexity of defining complexity" and to resolve this conundrum they first choose to redefine "projects" with traditional characteristics as follows. Those that:[3]

  • Have a specific objective (which may be unique or one-of-a-kind) to be completed within certain specifications
  • Have defined start and end dates
  • Have funding limits (if applicable)
  • Have quality limits (if applicable)
  • Consume human and non-human resources (i.e., money, people, equipment)
  • Are multifunctional (i.e., cut across several functional lines)

So, for purposes of the book, the authors define "complex projects" as those involving one or more of the following five elements:[4]

  • Size and cost. The budget could be in hundreds of millions or, if your company works on projects up to $5 million, then this project might be $20 million. Further more, the project is being accomplished for a client external to your company.
  • Interactions. You must interface with several subcontractors or suppliers, and many of them may be in different time zones.
  • Cultural implications. Because some or all of your team members may come from various locations around the globe, the cultural differences can have a severe effect on the management of the project.
  • Uncertainty. This project is unlike any other project you have managed, and there is a great deal of uncertainty.
  • Stakeholders. There are several stakeholders that you must interface with, and getting them all to agree on the scope, the deliverables, and the approval of change requests will be difficult.

However, within this scenario, certain other typical conditions should be included. For example:[5]

  • The project manager may possess sufficient knowledge for some technology decision-making, but not have sufficient business knowledge to select the best course of action that is in the best interests of the company as well as the project.
  • Management of the project may be one role, but management of the technology may be a separate role, or indeed, several functional manager roles. In other words, decision-making has to be shared.
  • Finally, while control over the project may be ideal, the reality often is that the project manager simply has authority only to open and close charge numbers or cost accounts for the project. Once a charge number is opened, the team members performing the work and their respective functional managers are actually in control of how the money is being spent - so long as the charge number limits are not exceed. That in itself is a difficult challenge.

The author's go on to describe a variety of other factors that may bear on complex projects.

Book 3 - Value-Driven Project Management  Book 3 - Value-Driven Project Management

1. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NJ
2. Kerzner, Harold, and Carl Belack, Managing Complex Projects, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NJ, 2010, p xvi
3. Ibid, p2
4. Ibid, extracted from descriptive summary on p7
5. Ibid, p9-10
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