Book Review: Reinventing Project Management

Spider from Morton Arboretum Big Bug Walk
Spider from Morton Arboretum Big Bug Walk

There is a Buddhist proverb that says when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. In my life, books play a similar role. Books that have languished on my shelves for years now have insights that I know I’ve read over before.

At the library, I find books buried in the middle of a shelf that speak to an issue I’ve been thinking about for weeks. Other books come to me as recommendations at just the right time.

This week, I read a book recommended by PM Network.

Reinventing Project Management: The Diamond Approach to Successful Growth and Innovation, written by Aaron J. Shenhar and Dov Dvir, is a book that I will add to my collection and I recommend that you pick up a copy too.

My Takeaways

I measure a book’s value by the number of pages I copy before returning it to the library. When I copied more than 10 pages, I realized that I absolutely needed to have this book in my library. There are many valuable insights that are in this book, but a few of my quick takeaways are:

  1. We need to take another look at our success criteria for projects

    The authors understand that the triple constraint all too often fails to capture whether a project has been successful or not. While I’ve read books that propose alternative success criteria, I like the five sets of measures they suggest:

    a) Efficiency: Schedule, Budget, Yield

    b) Impact on Customer: Meeting requirements, Benefits, Customer satisfaction and loyalty, Brand name recognition

    c) Impact on Team: Team satisfaction, morale, skill development, growth, no burnout

    d) Business and direct success: Sales profits, Market share, ROI, ROE, service quality, cycle time, Organizational measures, regulatory approval

    e) Preparation for the future: New technology, new product line, new core competency, new organizational capability

    I’m sure we’ve all been on projects where everything seemed to turn out ok, but it didn’t quite have the all-around positive effect the customer or the organization expected. Tracking and managing these measures might give us a more comprehensive view of project success. The program or project manager may not be able to directly influence all of these measures, they can influence people who do own them.

  2. We need to take a look at how we identify a management approach for a project

    After the past few months, I’ve become even more convinced that moderation in all things is best. While I tweet on the PMBOK, Reality always intrudes on its guidelines and best practices. And while Agile can be useful on some projects, it doesn’t fit every situation. So how do you best determine which approach to implement?

    Reinventing Project Management suggests that by using what they term a “diamond approach”: evaluating a project by looking at its complexity, technology, novelty (is it a derivative or breakthrough product) and pace (is it a time-critical versus ‘crisis’ project), the organization would make better decisions about which processes/ approaches to implement. This idea alone made me want to make this book a permanent part of my book collection.

  3. We need to expand our thinking on risk management

    In an earlier post, I recommended using a risk taxonomy to surface unknown or unexpected risks. The authors of Reinventing Project Management suggest that using the “diamond approach” (Complexity, Technology, Novelty and Pace) as a taxonomy, project managers will find unexpected risks that they can then mitigate in their plans.

    The value of using their paradigm as a taxonomy could be significant: by looking at a project’s technology, for example, a project manager might see a customer introduction/ support risk associated with bleeding edge technology that might not be as significant on a platform that is slightly derivative.

    Learning from other project managers’ years of experience is always a smart decision. Why continue to fall into the same potholes that someone else has already figured out how to step around? I highly recommend this for your library. Have a book to recommend? Leave me a comment or send me a tweet. My id is jgodfrey.

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