Book review - Advances in project management

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Posted by APM on 10th Jul 2014

This book is a collection of 21 separate essays by different authors on subjects as diverse as improving the calculation of earned value and the role of spirituality in successful project management. It is an eclectic mix of reflective pieces, research summaries and more practical chapters on new ways of working.
 
The key themes of the collection are risk and uncertainty, leadership, people skills and team formation and new thinking on techniques and processes.
 
I found much of the content interesting and informative, although some of the chapters gave insufficient detail to be truly useful on their own signposting instead to other volumes in the Gower range.  Many offered genuinely new insights into the profession, although some simply restated things that I already knew. Each of the chapters sits in isolation so it is entirely possible to dip into the book picking subjects that are relevant to your current needs.
 
Here is a flavour of the content:
 
Whats new in risk management?

I liked this chapter, very practical. Problems identified with;

Principles risk = uncertainty that matters. Risk that the project poses to the organisation needs to be considered as well as risk to the project
Process failure to turn analysis into action, missing out the post-project review step
People risk management is itself put at risk by the attitudes of people towards risk itself impacting their judgement and behaviour.
Persistence risk management energy drops off over time and there are key points in the project were risks take a back seat. This needs to be addressed with critical success factors and other encouragement techniques.
 
Spirituality in project management

The writers argue that there is more to successful leadership than the more technical aspects that tend to receive the most focus.
 
They suggest that paying attention to the spiritual needs of oneself and the team can result in a more cohesive and effective team. It needs to be stressed that the spirituality being proposed is non-religious but that parallels to the approaches suggested can be found in a religious context as well.
 
Five approaches are proffered: alignment, servant leadership, esprit de corps, communication and creativity.
 
Governance

Offers governance techniques that mitigate against the impacts of change, turbulence, uncertainty and people on projects and programmes.
 
An interesting taster that contains useful content. Offers 4 project governance paradigms:

Flexible economist
Versatile artist
Conformist
Agile pragmatist
 
These represent differing levels of autonomy vs control and are appropriate dependent upon whether the organisation is return on investment or stakeholder focused. They rely upon varying levels of skill on the part of the project manager. Depending upon the mix of projects determines whether governance focuses on projects (validation of outcomes delivered by trusted project managers) or project management (validation of the project management process through methodology compliance and audits).
 
The chapter then goes on to explore the question of how much project management investment organisations should make based upon the proportion of their business that is project-based.
 
Overall, I would say that the book achieves what it sets out to do which is provide a taster for some of the latest research and techniques in the project management profession. Many of the chapters provide signposts to other books that provide more detail on subjects covered, themselves only skimming the potentially deep waters of the subject matter. It is well written with a readable style and Darrens introductory reflections on each subject are often interesting in their own right not just as introductions to the authors work.

Advances in Project Management is published by Gower. ISBN 978-1-4724-2912-4

Colin Parker has been a project manager since 1997 and a member of the APM since around 2004. Before going freelance in 2007 he fulfilled a number of roles, including project manager, service manager and operations manager for a software house.
 
Since then he has been busy working for a number of large clients including Thames Water, Veolia Water, Vennsys and Babcock.
 
His work generally includes a mixture of IT and business change with a recent focus on large contract transition management in the water utility sector. Recent projects have included an IT Infrastructure transition, Waste contractor business transition and an ERP selection project.
 
He has been described as being relentless in his attention to detail without losing sight of the big picture and enjoys the challenge of helping clients to get their stuff done.
 
LinkedIn Profile: uk.linkedin.com/pub/colin-parker/1/b92/216/

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