But Thatís Not Good Enough For Managing A Project


THE PRINCIPLES OF PROJECT MANAGEMENT, by Meri Williams. Sitepoint PTY Ltd,  Collingwood, Australia. 204 pp, Paper, $39.95 USD.


            Projects that need to be  managed Ė getting something done in an orderly and timely fashion Ė are always with us. Useful planning and step-by-step control, is not.  Engineers, unlike ordinary people, understand the concept. For most of the rest of us, making lists, and sometimes time lines, seems to be sufficiently efficient Ė until we run into project complexities that compound and confuse and add costs and time, and lose sight of the objective.  Then we wake up to the possibility that thereís more to it than we thought.


            And so welcome Ė and I mean really welcome Ė Meri Williamís new book. Itís 204 pages of the wisdom of  sound and effective project management.  This book effectively wipes the cobwebs of project management away, by meticulous and clear step-by step instructions, and turns the average business person into a project management marvel. It works for the engineer building a bridge and the builder renovating an old house, and even the parent planning a daughterís wedding.  Whatís more significant  for professional service marketers, it works beautifully for keeping a marketing project on course and in control to the very end. And then the book tells us how to assess the results.


            Williams dissects the project management process, beginning with a clear definition of project management. A project, she says, ďis distinguished from regular work in that itís a one-time effort to change things in some way.Ē From a more technical point of view, she notes four aspects Ė time, budget, scope and quality Ė that make up a balance quadrant, which demonstrates the interrelationship between the four aspects, and how a change in one aspect will unbalance the quadrant. In other words, itís a dynamic process with many steps, most of which are interrelated. Thus, a change in one element of the process promotes change in other aspects of it. There is an interplay among the elements of planning, controlling and executing the process, which dictates the functions as a loop.


            She then describes the project life cycle, starting with the initiation, and then discusses the techniques of planning, controlling and executing the elements of the project, and brings it to the closing.           


Thus, managing every project, from the simplest to the most complicated, requires  attention beyond merely listing every element of the project, in a time line. Subsequent chapters explain every aspect of project management, including planning, executing and controlling the process and the job itself.  Beyond that, she details communications, managing the people involved, and the various forms of charts to visualize the progress and tasks of the project.


            An appendix details aids and resources, such as templates, documentation, risk management, and tools, such as software. Included also are qualifications for project management professionals and professionalism.


            More than just a mundane discussion of the project management process, this is a textbook. There is no detail of the process, from the most important to the most miniscule, thatís left out. At the same time, it reads well, unlike most textbooks.


            As someone who has participated or managed many multifaceted projects, Iím impressed with the comprehensive nature of this book.  I remember some of the early project management software, which was at times extraordinarily complex, and not always successful. This may be the first example of a book replacing software.