on 16 October 2013
Most project management books are cookbooks for the practitioner to implement the same old ready-made recipes. This accessible text by Professor Morris is not that kind of Project Management book.
Project Management has grown bodies of knowledge through practitioners writing what they think are proven best methods. That means the existing bodies of knowledge mainly concentrate on instruments of calculation. This book is a comprehensive manifesto for moving project management out of the machine age and for blending best practices with better theory.
Projects can be unpredictable and deliver wide variations in success, especially at the extremely large such as complex organisational change. This demands that we look at the foundational assumptions and broader cross disciplinary approaches that the contemporary project leader needs that Professor Morris advocates.
I recommend this book to all project managers prepared to think radically about needed reforms to our craft. I am a senior programme director responsible for methods development across a range of major Information Systems change programmes in a global corporation. Viewing this book from a practice perspective I value Professor Morris' analysis and proposals for reform. The messages are pertinent to the present and future of programme leadership and to achieving greater project effectiveness; especially through enabling people to perform in more highly effective teams.
The diversity of influences on project management from sector, enterprise, business unit and programme drive our techniques much more than the bodies of knowledge address. This means a much more diverse and practical range of leadership models are called for. Project and programme management must come of age as a value adding discipline important to the success of enterprise alongside marketing, finance and strategy. This is especially important as almost all change in organisations is project based.
on 1 December 2014
I have read with interest the various reviews posted on Amazon.co.uk about Peter Morris' book. Some feel it is over-priced and not for the uninitiated, others feel it is a thoughtful and reflective piece of work that has many wise comments and suggestions. I declare bias, as I have studied under Peter, worked with him, and have now taken over from him at UCL. He neither asked me nor knows that I'm writing this.
The book is not for those uninterested in project management and the comments that there are other good project management 'cookbooks' is very true. They will have more pages, lots of tools and techniques and easier to flick through. None, however, will be as insightful or thorough in their consideration of how the field of project management came into existence, altered and was buffeted by the history of the latter half of the twentieth century and is as we know it today - a rich, diverse and still challenged area of management.
Peter take a personal view on all this - and his credentials are really beyond question. He has studied, practiced and consulted on project management and has contributed extensively to the development of project management as a rigorous profession. It is certified, but is a profession as many would understand that term - that is an open question.
So who should buy this book? My suggestion is those that understand that projects are entities worthy of appreciating so that their management can be considered, developed and crafted. Whilst some projects are simple and a 'dummy's guide' may suffice, many projects are not easy - and for those managing this more challenging form of project I'd recommend this book. For serious scholars of the subject - I'd say this book was essential reading.
Projects in all sectors of the economy, large or small, need careful planning and consideration. Over the years, project management has evolved considerably to become a crucial standalone genre of management studies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, literature on the subject has mushroomed. Industry veteran and UCL academic Peter Morris has lent his thoughts via this book, which though intentioned as an academic text - is not bland and dry like some other titles vying with it for attention.
In a book of over 300 pages split into four parts and 22 chapters, Morris has offered his take on project management techniques, modes and methodologies drawing on lessons from the past, current discourse and ongoing trends to chart the road ahead. Part I of the book (Constructing Project Management) discusses the history of modern project management and how it evolved into a standalone discipline. Invariably among the sub-components, oil & gas projects come into view and Morris does justice to the sector by flagging it up early on in one of the chapters. The author then moves on to discuss the development of project management methodology and standards such as, but not limited to PERT, CPM, APM, PMBOK. In order to contextualise and substantiate his thoughts, there are case studies aplenty.
Moving on to Part II (Deconstructing Project Management), Morris discusses management principles, governance and most importantly the impact (and facets) of risk, governance, people and procurement. Part III (Reconstructing Project Management) sees the author come into his element, offering his take on the context and character of project management as we know it (or we think we know it) and join the dots to organisational performance. The final Part IV of the book contains a summary and the author's concluding thoughts.
Overall, it's a good read and a written work likely to retain its value for another couple of decades if not more. The only caveat I'd like to flag up as an industry observer (and not a practitioner) is that this book is not the meatiest volume out there on project management. For an outside-in look, what's here is more than sufficient but some practitioners may beg to differ and demand more detail. Nonetheless, there is strength and uniqueness in brevity too when it comes to tackling such a detailed subject. Hence, I am happy to recommend it to those interested in or involved with project management.
Sadly, the first thing I have to mention when reviewing this book is the price. The publishers want 55 of your hard earned pounds for this book, and it is very hard to see where the costs to justify that price have been incurred. Certainly not in the design - it looks like a text book from the seventies.
Of course the reason the price is so high is that the publishers really don't expect to sell a lot of copies of the book, so need to be able to cover their costs even if fewer than 1000 people buy it. The reason they will be so pessimistic about its sales potential is that, while it is sort of book that is important and valuable, it is not the sort of book that anyone really desperately needs. You will be able to get through a very successful career as a project manager without ever opening the covers of this book.
Given that, you might ask why I have given the book four stars. Because, although you don't need to read it to be an effective project manager, you will become a more thoughtful one if you do. Unless you are an academic, I doubt you really need to bother with the first section of the history of PM (although it is mildly interesting and well written) but the rest of the book is well worth dipping into.
Project management in general tends to be viewed as a rigid set of processes, the point of which is to get the job done (this outlook also applies to far too many project managers of my acquaintance!). The author's approach is one which is much more grounded in the real world. First, he appreciates that the point of project management is not to get the job done, but to deliver value. Secondly, project management is not a body of abstract rational and perfect knowledge but messy and context specific.
You can buy three excellent books on how to be a better project manager for the price of this one volume, and any one of those books will probably be more useful to you on a day to day basis - but, that said, if you can afford the time to read the book, it is worth the effort. I'll leave it to you to decide if you can afford the price - remember there are always libraries!
on 18 July 2013
Alan Sugar's self promotional TV show dressed up as 'edutainment' (The Apprentice) has quite a bit to answer for regarding current British perception of the terms 'Project Manager' and 'Project Management'. In a nutshell, the scenario showcases a bunch of people who don't know what they are doing being overseen/told what to do by someone who knows even less, with everyone looking out for who to potentially hold responsible should they end up on the losing side of the task with (carefully created via cynically motivated selective editing) excruciating/embarrassing/amusing results. Reconstructing Project Management by Peter W.G Morris, a long serving and respected academic in his field will leave nobody in doubt that Project Management is actually a serious discipline, conducted by serious people. Admirably, even exhaustingly academic and thorough, even the price of the book (around £50 depending on seller) is telling you, THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF. For anyone who wishes to operate in this field, current practitioners who wish to refresh their neurons a LOT when it comes to their field or students seeking deep and cogent analysis, there probably is no more complete 'no stone unturned' tome they could reach for.
Taking in commentary on decades of Project Management theory and practice, taking the discipline apart piece piece and then as the title implies, putting it all back together again with a strong viewpoint on how the discipline could/should develop to retain relevance or even regain relevance it might have lost (due to application of theory as an end in itself over the concept of how theory and reality sometimes have to negotiate at least a little), Morris approaches his subject with perhaps a minor touch of the arrogance of the career academic evangelising his own conclusions, but he does so with the gusto to completely carve up the subject and challenge his own entire field to respond. That is how pioneers operate and this may go on to be regarded as a book that doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but explores why and how the wheel being round is necessary, and how the wheel can turn more usefully.
# can be used, along with separately available additional case studies and the Project Management Body of Knowlege, to self study for Project Management Institute PMP Certification Exam. At the end of each chapter there is a revision check list and sample questions
# There are extensive "side bar" cross-listings refering to the PMBOK and the book is structured to work alongside the PMBOK and a it gives a high level exploration of PMBOK material
# the book is also designed for the reference and college market. There is a instructures manual and website for lecturers. There are extensive case studies at the end of each chapter and a separate publication providing additional studies.
# it is not a Project Management for Dumbies but a substantial project management refernece text - it covers a wealth of supporting material exploring manay general management concepts as well as areas that are more specific to Project mangement - covering work by the likes of Maslow, Monte Carlo process,KISS, McGregor,PERT, CPM, mathematical models for risk assement etc etc etc -
# at the beginning of each chapter there are cross references given fo the Case Study book, the PMBOK AND a workbook (so you problabley need this too!)
# this is not the book you need if you want to pass you Prince2 exam, or your APM certificate as it doesnt' focus in on their requirements or simple "how to" book on the basic concepts of Project Management but it is an EXCELLENT reference/text book that should find its place on the book shelf of anyone who is a serious project management professional. Excellent value for money - it covers such a wide area of material.
# I wish I had the Kindle addition as the text book is too big to carry around if it was on kindle I think I would refer to it on a regualar basis.
If a definitive text in project management is what you are seeking, as was I, then I have a feeling you need look no further than this volume by Peter Morris, a recognised expert in the field. My own interest arose in the joint needs of academic and practical considerations. Seeking promotion in an academic institution has always been a somewhat indefinite art form, but now more than ever, with financial and logistic constraints at breaking point, managerial skills are vying for position in the CV of the average academic who finds him or herself in that position. Being asked to undertake a project in the workplace that didn't solely require my own scholarly expertise but needed me to juggle the various components of a large ailing department, meant that I needed all the help I could get. It is too soon to tell whether we are out of the woods, but if not for the title under review I can honestly state I wouldn't have had a clue where to start, nor how to converse with the various stake holders in the project. Of particular personal interest was chapter 14: 'Adding Value, Controlling Risk, Delivering Quality, Safely and Securely'.
Whether you are new to project management as a discrete discipline, and old hand revisiting, or a student appraising the subject for a dissertation, the current volume is a very worthy addition to your library, and it is an easily read and assimilated form.
on 13 June 2013
I totally agree with the other reviewer about this text. Normally books of this price have a certain feel and look about them, whereas this one seriously gives the impression that the publisher has bulked up the price to account for what few sales they will get without investing heavily in the manufacture. Probably far more suited to academics rather than current project managers, but even though I have no experience of this field I didn't feel any more informed after reading this from cover to cover. It wouldn't benefit me to look, but I'm pretty sure you could find better texts than this on the market. Definitely a book to loan rather than buy.
on 25 February 2015
Excellent book. Every PM should read this.
Reconstructing Project Management by Peter W.G. Morris is a weighty text book covering the history and development of modern Project Management fundamentals. I work in Project Mgt for a large international bank so am always interested in learning more in my field, hence why I chose this book. The book is broken in to 4 sections;
Constructing Project Management: This section covers the history of and development of Project Management methodology through various case studies (Manhattan Project, Polaris, etc) and the development of various standards such as PERT, CPM, APM, PMBOK, etc.
Deconstructing Project Management: This section breaks down organisational behaviours, Management principles, governance strategy and the effects of risk, people, context, etc.
Reconstructing Project Management: This brings everything back together and covers Managing Context, Character of our PM knowledge, etc, bringing the principles back together.
Summa: This final section covers Summary and Conclusions.
The book is well written and readable; it's not overly dry like some academic texts. I'm not sure how much I would actually use day on day but it's useful to understand how and why PM principles came about. The book is not particularly relevant to Prince 2 but I'm sure I will fund occasion to refer to this text. Only drawback is it's overly expensive for what is essentially a text book.