Is this the best planning book ever published?

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OK, now I’ve grabbed your attention with that very un-British boast, time to tell the story behind the headline.

APM president Tom Taylor in praising our efforts at the Planning, Scheduling, Monitoring and Control (PSMC) book launch last month, asked us to put away that British modesty and tell the world what a brilliant piece of work we had created.

So here it goes… we set out with the ambition to write the best book ever (in the field of project management anyway) and this is how we went about it.

Firstly, the subject matter. The PSMC guide fills a gap in APM’s range of publications. We are richly served by introductions, guides, papers that advance the practice of the project management discipline. But in the real world of projects there is a deficit in delivery of some of the basics. This guide was to be both a back-to-basics guide as well as touch on recent advances in BIM and agile, for example. We found that with a pan-industry author group we all learnt of some old techniques for the first time!

Secondly, we tried to cater for different learning styles, recognising that some prefer text, others prefer pictures. Feedback from the first and second tranches of peer reviews revealed very clearly who was reading each with the greatest attention! We ended up with over 150 illustrations and tables, some carefully adapted from our own organisations, many of them originals.

A key thing for us was to write clearly and simply. We adopted the ‘Emily Test’ – asking co-author Simon Taylor’s 10-year old daughter Emily to sense check the text when writing, reviewing and finalising the words we had written. The test challenged pompous and pretentious language; and also challenged us – the author group – to write in an easy-to-understand and succinct way. 

The finished product is not recommended reading for 10-year olds, but we did test the text against the Flesch Kincaid index to ensure we were writing at no higher than graduate level. Nearly all of the chapters pass this test, with many accessible to a lower educational level. Thus, we hope to have written something that is accessible to all, as well as useful to all.

So, on what criteria should the book be judged by? I think I can summarise this in four key bullet points:

  • Is it practical – in that it provides guidance that can be put to use by the practitioner?
  • Is it practical – in that it can be used as the basis for a syllabus and ultimately a suite of qualifications? (Watch this space.)
  • Is it practical – can anyone read it and understand the concepts held within it?
  • And finally is it fun?

On the last bullet point, the answer is perhaps not, although you could amuse yourself by spotting and counting the references to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, if that would help. But it was a lot of fun to write with this author group. Having fun while doing something serious was an important part of keeping the author team engaged and enthused. And you should have seen some of the cakes we ate!

Further details: The author group included: Keith Haward, Jenn Browne, Carolyn Limbert, Simon Taylor, Mike Prescott, Stephen Jones, Guy Hindley, Franco Pittoni, Ewen Mclean, and many others. The guide was peer reviewed by over 30 respected individuals inside and outside the Planning, Monitoring and Control SIG, and is available to buy from APM.

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