In this book, Aaron J. Shenhar and Dov Dvir introduce and develop what they characterize as "a new approach and a new formal model to help managers understand what project management is all about. This new approach is based on a success-focused, flexible, and adaptive framework. We call it the `adaptive project management approach [APM],' and it differs from [and is preferable to] the tradition approach in several significant ways" that are identified in the first chapter. Rather than replacing the traditional approach, APM builds on it by taking into full account the strategic as well as tactical aspects of project performance in both the short and the long term as well as taking into account, also, the points of view of various project stakeholders, including customers.
"To address differences among projects, we present a diamond-shaped framework to help managers distinguish among projects according to four dimensions: novelty, technology, complexity, and pace (NTCP)." By invoking the metaphor of a baseball diamond, Shenhar and Dvir correctly suggest an essential paradox of project management that I have personally observed for many years: projects are conducted within fixed parameters according to established rules (four "bases" 90 feet apart, beginning at "home plate" and proceeding to "first base,"
three "outs" to an inning "at bat" or "on the field," etc.) and yet projects are usually messy and their results seldom predictable. Hence the importance of having a generous "owner" or benefactor and a capable "manager" as well as talented and skilled "players" who work effectively as a "team."
With regard to "keeping score" to determine whether or not the "game" is "won," Shenhar and Dvir suggest that the new success criteria involve at least five dimensions (or metrics): project efficiency, impact on the customer, impact on members of the project team, business results, and preparation for the future. "Each metric may have several submeasures, and it may differ from project to project in detail, intensity, importance, and other aspects."
With regard to the specific material provided, Shenhar and Dvir carefully organize it within three Parts: A New Model for Managers, The Four Bases of Successful Projects, and Putting the Diamond Approach to Work. Shenhar and Dvir also include total of 11 "Research Appendixes." Of special interest to me is what they have to say about managing projects for innovation (Chapter 8) and reinventing project management for the reader's organization (Chapter 11). Here is a brief excerpt from each chapter that correctly suggests the thrust and flavor of Shenhar and Dvir's narrative:
"The innovator's dilemma [per Clayton Christensen] presents a risk for companies: to follow customer demand based on sustaining progress may cause you to miss the opportunities presented by fast, disruptive change. The project management solution to the innovator's dilemma is to learn the distinction between breakthrough and platform projects. While investing in sustaining large businesses, what are handled by platform or derivative projects, companies must initiate a few breakthrough projects that are managed separately according to different rules, thereby addressing the potential opportunities of disruptive change." (Page 159).
"Every project effort creates a unique learning opportunity. [In fact, too many to count.] Things change rapidly, decisions are constantly made, and mistakes are made. Lessons can be learned every week and at every milestone, and clearly at project completion. But few organizations have the habit of recording, documenting, and sharing project lessons throughout the company. For example, whenever a project is terminated, there are valuable lessons that must be learned. Yet managers (perhaps because of human nature often tend to avoid discussing or dwelling on any failures; they would rather move on." (Page 212)
Whether or not the "Diamond Approach" (NTCP) is the best approach to take is, of course, for each reader to determine. My own rather extensive prior experience with all manner of projects and their teams clearly indicates that the given approach (whatever it is) must be comprehensive, cohesive, flexible, consistent, and cost-effective. Moreover, each project team must have a strong leader. That said, all project management teams and those who lead them would be well-advised to remember what Peter Drucker observed in 1963: "There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all."
Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out books that Christensen has co-authored (The Innovator's Dilemma, The Innovator's Solution, and Seeing What's Next) and Geoffrey Moore's Inside the Tornado, Crossing the Chasm, and Dealing with Darwin. Also Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson's Enterprise Architecture as Strategy as well as Dean Spitzer's Transforming Performance Measurement, Adrian Slywotsky's The Upside, and Richard Ogle's Smart World.