The Juggler's Guide to
Planning, Peforming, and
Project Management: The
ONLINE, March 2000
Projects are defining the way a growing number of organizations do business. This month we take a look at some books to help get your project management skills up to date.
by Michael S. Dobson
ISBN: 1-880410-65-6 Published: 1999 Pages: 134; softcover Price: $32.95
If you are new to project management, this is an excellent book to get you going. Although it is designed to make managing multiple projects easier, the book provides plenty of guidance for those just getting started on their first project. The author clearly explains the basic principles of project management, including Gannt charts, PERT charts, critical path analysis, drivers, and time management. There are plenty of examples to help illustrate the various points, and most chapters end with related exercises for you to work through to hone your skills.
Working from the simple to complex, the author demonstrates how to determine the interdependence of various projects and tasks, and how to best schedule and manage resources. Of course, it will never seem so simple in real life, but following his guidance will make it easier to identify and manage the key projects on your plate. The first chapter helps you identify the types of projects you have-whether they are independent tasks (short discrete projects), independent project portfolios (a collection of discrete tasks that are not connected), or interdependent project portfolios (managing interconnecting tasks). Each of these types is discussed in its own section, showing how even the most complex project can be managed by breaking it down into smaller components.
Although the author makes brief mention of using software to help you in your project management, special software is not required to apply the principles discussed in this book. However, if you do use project management software, you will probably gain a greater understanding of what the software is helping you to do. For experienced project managers, this book may be a good refresher, but for those thrust into a new role, this book may be a lifesaver.
by J. Davidson Frame
ISBN: 0-7879-4662-1 Published: 1999 Pages: 232, softcover Price: $34.95
What makes some projects succeed and others fail? The competence of the individuals, teams and organizations managing the project. That's the basic premise of this book. The author describes the key skills, attitudes and resources required for successful project management, and suggests ways to identify these competencies, as well as foster their growth.
The book is aimed at two groups: those wishing to strengthen their project- management skills, and those needing to assess the project-management competence of individuals, teams, or organizations.
The book is divided into four parts. The first explains why competence matters, and cautiously states that some people are more competent than others, or have skills better suited to your particular project. The second part looks at the key skills an individual must have to be a good project manager, and concludes with an exercise to assess your own individual competence. The most important skills seem to be people skills-communicating and working well with others, and particularly being able to motivate people over whom you have no authority or control.
Part three of the book discusses the competent project team, including the different forms a team can take. The author wisely points out that a group of people assigned to a project does not necessarily form a team. The uniting factor is a definable goal that all the people agree to pursue through cooperative effort.
Part four discusses the project-competent organization and the resources that foster successful project management. The author notes that a highly competent team can easily fail if it is not supported in an appropriate way throughout the organization.
As more organizations focus on teams, outsourcing, and project-level management, information professionals need to determine their role in the new work order. This book will help you assess and hone your own skills-as well as evaluate the skills of those you manage and work with-to create the best possible project team.
by Robert B. Angus
Norman A. Gundersen, and Thomas P. Cullinane
ISBN: 0-13-099878-8Published: 2000; Pages: 290 hardcover Price: $53.00
Much more conceptual than the other two books, this one is designed as an undergraduate textbook. It is written in a very simple and clear manner, and includes an extensive glossary of related terms. It might include much more detail than you need, but it is easy to find and read just the section you want.
The best part of this book is its explanation of the entire process of project development. Many times we get involved in projects at the implementation phase, and forget all about the preceding conception, design, and study phases. Or, we try to do everything at once and combine the design and implementation, leading to last-minute changes and chaos.
The authors use one case study through the entire book, which is a group of students building an activity center for a local town. In some ways this is useful, as you get to see all the development phases related to one activity, but I think a variety of different case studies would better engage the reader.
For those interested in very practical, lets-get-it-done type of project- management information, this is not the book for you. Those suddenly required to start with a concept and develop a new product or service will get the most value from this book.
by Clifford E. Gray
and Erik W. Larsen
ISBN: 0-07-365812-X Published: 2000 Pages: 496, hardcover Price: $90.07
This book covers just about everything you need to know to manage projects in the real world. Although the book includes theoretical concepts, the focus is on applying those concepts in real business situations, and recovering when the real world doesn't perform as you expect.
There are many short vignettes scattered throughout the book to illustrate points made with true stories of real organizations. Also, each chapter ends with short scenarios of projects for you to use to practice your new management skills. An included CD-ROM contains quizzes and answers to some of the concrete exercises at the end of chapters.
The authors do an excellent job of balancing the technical skills required for project development with the equally important people and business skills that will ultimately determine a project's success. As they describe it, "Project management involves understanding the cause-effect relationships and interactions among the sociotechnical dimensions of a project." And that is what this book attempts to teach you.
If you just want to know the basics of project management and understand the terms used in your project- management software, the first book is your best choice. For those managing teams and choosing members, the second book will help you select better players. The third book is for those who want to get a conceptual grasp of the whole process of technical-project development, and the last book is for those who feel project management will play a significant role in their working life and want a complete understanding.
Deborah Lynne Wiley (email@example.com) is Principal of Next Wave Consulting, Inc. and HARDCOPY Editor.
Comments? Email letters to the Editor to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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