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Since it was first published in 1997, Creating an Environment for Successful Projects has become a landmark work that shows how to develop project management as an organizational practice. This second edition offers solid, results-oriented advice on how upper management can create an environment that supports the success of special projects and the development of new products. The book also includes a wealth of examples from the authors' workshop participants and readers of the first edition who have successfully implemented these concepts within their organizations. New in the second edition:
All too commonly, people become project managers by accident. One way to become a project manager is to ask a question at a meeting and then be told, "That's a good question. Why don't you take on the project of dealing with that problem?" Or somebody comes up with an idea and is tapped to make it happen, or the generator of the idea looks around for the first person in sight to whom it can be assigned for implementation. Experience indicates that in the process of developing projects, upper managers often appoint inexperienced or accidental project managers (APMs), give them a project to manage-and then systematically undermine their ability to achieve success. Upper managers do not usually undermine APMs on purpose, but too oftenthey apply assumptions and methods to project management that are more appropriate to regular departmental management. Projects are in many ways a totally different beast. Everyday management generally is a matter of repeating various standard processes, but projects create something new.
In addition, upper managers are often unaware how their behavior influences project success or failure. Because previous examinations of project success focus almost exclusively on the functions of the project manager, there is an understandable lack of awareness of the importance of the project environment and the behavior of middle and higher managers in organizations-those managers of project managers that we refer to as upper managers. It is important to understand the impact of their behavior on the future survival of organizations. Roles and responsibilities are changing as organizations become organic and projectbased-that is, driven by internal markets and team accountability for specific results. Any lapses by upper managers in the authenticity and integrity of their dealings with project managers and with managers in other departments are likely to have a severe impact on the achievement of project goals.
Many upper managers voice increasing frustration with the results of projects undertaken in their areas of responsibility. They lament that despite sending people out for training and buying project management software, projects seem to take too long, cost too much, and produce less than the desired results. Why is that? To help understand the problem, consider the following scenario.
An upper manager gets an idea, perhaps from reading a book or attending a conference, and has a vision of a product or service that the organization can offer. This vision may differ from what the company normally provides, so creating the product becomes a special project. Talking it over with associates, the manager is delighted when one of the best engineers becomes interested. To get the concept rolling, the manager asks this engineer to manage the project. They both figure the project can be done quickly because the engineer has achieved good results on past work. The new project manager talks to a few friends, and soon a team of engineers begins working on the design. After a while, the team comes back to the upper manager with good news and bad news. The good news is that one needed technology is available inside the organization; it was developed in another division, however, so the team needs to borrow a few people from there to get it. The bad news is that another needed technology is not available in the organization, so new people will have to be hired. The upper manager arranges to borrow people from the other division and authorizes the new outside hires.
Delay begins about here. The new hires must be approved by the executive committee and then must have job descriptions defined and developed by the personnel department. As these new people know the latest technology, they are expensive; even so, once on board it takes them longer than expected to become productive because they are not used to the ways of their new employer. Eventually, however, the whole group gets working-until a manager from the other division, for which this special project is not a priority, takes back the borrowed engineers. Work slows again as the upper manager tries to negotiate their return. Some engineers are finally freed for the project, but not the same ones as before, so there are more delays until they are brought up to speed.
When work finally resumes, questions arise about marketing the new product and about using patented technology to create it. The upper manager must therefore add people from the marketing and legal departments to the project. Sure enough, the lawyers ascertain that the new hires inadvertently used a technology patented by another company; the upper manager must decide if it is cheaper to pay for its use or develop an alternative technology. The new project team members from marketing are difficult to communicate with because marketing uses a different e-mail system than that of engineering and legal. Decision making is further delayed as upper managers argue over a number of manufacturing issues that had come up on previous projects but were never resolved.
The team grows disgruntled as it becomes clear that the great engineer is not skilled in planning and conflict management; the situation is not improved when the engineer disappears for several weeks to fix problems that have arisen from a previous project. Elsewhere in the organization, people begin to grumble that the project is costing lots and accomplishing little. The upper manager spends time justifying the project to other department managers but cannot avoid finally being called before the executive committee to explain why it is taking so long and costing so much.
If this scenario seems at all far-fetched, consider this letter received by one of the authors...
Preface to the Second Edition xv
Preface to the First Edition xxi
The Authors xxv
1 Leading the Change to a Project-Based Organization 1
2 Giving Projects a Strategic Emphasis 37
3 How Upper Managers Infl uence Project Success 77
4 Developing and Supporting Core Teams for Project Success 109
5 Organizing the Project Management Effort 139
6 Developing the Project Management Information Systems 163
7 Selecting and Developing the Project Manager 187
8 Developing a Project Management Learning Organization 209
9 Developing a Project Management Initiative 239
10 Creating an Environment for Successful Projects in Your Organization 263
Epilogue: Leadership in Evolving Project-Based Organizations 287
Posted September 28, 2012
The book is more targeted to senior management than project managers. The authors provide senior leaders an approach to prepare their organizations for project management success. As expressed by the authors this approach is based on these leaders both understanding, and living up to, their responsibility and leadership in their organizations. The authors couple this directive with an approach for creating cultural change, based on a methodology for holistic functional and organizational development. The book is a bit on the academic side in terms of its’ tone but it is an easy, enjoyable, and enlightening read. Because many senior leaders are not formally schooled in the science of project management this book, in my opinion, is a must-read by those in senior positions. However, project managers should read it too, so as to know have an understanding on how to either coach senior leaders or at least what ideas to offer for consideration for the pursuit of project management success. To me this book, and all future editions, is one to keep as a handy reference. And it has the best definition of project management I've seen to date - "Project management is the art and science of converting vision into reality and abstract into concrete."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.