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4.0 out of 5 stars How to Save a Failing Project, 4 April 2012
Rolf Dobelli "getAbstract" (Switzerland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Save a Failing Project: Chaos to Control (Paperback)
Project managers Ralph R. Young and Steven M. Brady and engineer Dennis C. Nagle Jr. promise that business project failures are often fixable, whether the problems arise from flaws in planning, process development or communication. They note that companies often can repair broken projects by replanning them in greater detail, and they tell managers how to do that, one small step at a time, by replacing milestones in a project plan with a larger number of "inch stones," or objectives that involve short-duration tasks. The authors, using a clear expository style that only occasionally succumbs to jargon, explain that the human touch is also a crucial factor in project success or failure. For example, they say managers should encourage their team members to discuss errors openly so they focus on improvement, not blame. Although the book clearly applies to software development projects, getAbstract also recommends it to readers in other industries because the content is helpful and relevant for many other types of projects.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "Chaos to Control" Guides Through PM's Troubled Waters, 7 Dec 2010
This review is from: How to Save a Failing Project: Chaos to Control (Paperback)
EDITOR'S NOTE: Both How to Manage a Camel and Project Management Tipoffs will regularly feature Book Reviews pertaining to project & programme management issues, many written by our stable of freelance practitioners with the energy and style to relate a book's importance to its project-related audience.

--Reviewed by Andreas Splett

Numerous statistics say that more than 50% of all projects are failing. But there is little to no survey on the art of saving a failing project. It would be necessary to give any advice how to save these projects.

Some consultancy companies have specified on saving troubled projects as firefights. Thus far, it is their business secret on how to get the job done. The book "How to Save a Failing Project - Chaos to Control" discloses this secret by giving hints and enabling the reader to discover that his or her project is out of control before it's reached the tipping point. The book is a mixture of well-chosen references by the three different authors and a guidance to help you through the troubled waters of project management.

The book starts after an introduction to the subject of why projects fail and how to recognize the key factors. And the key factors read off like a good book as preparation for what to avoid in any project management certification process: poorly defined requirements, scope creep, different expectations, poor quality control and blaming others for their incompetency and faults.

But this book does not end with this chapter - it is continuous on reference points along the project timeline that indicate shortfalls. It all ends up that a project plan is the most valuable tool for a project manager. And the adjustment of this plan has to be maintained until the closure of the project. It builds the reference point at all times for change and discrepancy. This may sound strange to a newcomer and may appear like someone who preaches the methodology of project management over and over again, but to someone who has done firefighting in big projects quite often this is an unavoidable fact. If you don't have an adequate schedule, you cannot say whether you're on track or not, nor can you determine how past change requests where affecting the original scope of work, the timeline or the expenses.

The authors give readers detailed tips about how to archive a good planning objective and how to develop the plan over time. This includes reviews and change control. Another perspective is gaining back control by establishing a plan. The experience of the authors is omnipresent at all times in the book, meaning is not only based on theoretical discussions, but even more, it is founded on the knowledge and operational experience with facts and hints to solve daily challenges.

The book isn't lacking in the fact that project management is a people-based business. It is important to have the right people on board and to build on the strengths of the team and enable them to do better in sections they're lacking experience. This starts with defining the team composition and also with pairing specialized personnel with newcomers.

Adding my own experience and opinion to the training aspect is that any project management certification is adding value for the staff and the team by building a foundation of speaking with the same expressions and to employ the same meaning. The second thought is that consistency within your actions, combined with bringing all your theoretical knowledge to life, will enable you to save failing projects and gaining back control from chaos, even if you're not as experienced as you would like to be.

In summary, the book is a great reference for newcomers to project management or people who are dealing for the first time with failing or struggling projects, but it still offers new reference material for experienced project managers, too. The book provides hints on how to deal with the situations and which tricks could turn critical situations into a successful story. It's a source for inspiration and contribution for project managers who successfully shifted a failing project from chaos to control.

ABOUT OUR REVIEWER: Andreas Splett, Head of Project Management (M&E) at Abbott Laboratories Ludwigshafen, Germany, and always on the hunt for inspiration.
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How to Save a Failing Project: Chaos to Control
How to Save a Failing Project: Chaos to Control by Dennis C Nagle Jr (Paperback - 3 Jan 2010)
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