Radical Project Management, Rob Thomsett, Prentice Hall,2002.

 

Let me start by saying this book appears to be a collection of essays by Thomsett, as well as a book length treatment "The Busy Person's Project Management Book." I say these are essays since much of the verbiage is dated in the mid-1990's when Thomsett uses terms like "modern" and "current" for references in the late 1980's and early 1990's. This does not take away from the value of the book, but careful copy editing should have recognized that a book with a 2002 copyright needs modern references as well. Speaking of references, the book has them but again they are a bit dated. Much has happened in the field of project management, agility, and "extreme-ness" in the past few years.

For those with short attention spans, I recommend this book for the following reasons:

  • It covers a broad spectrum of project management topics

  • It focuses on the value creation aspects of project management rather than the ceremony of PM activities.

  • It has a somewhat correct examination of risk, following the SEI Continuous Risk Management approach.

  • It uses Quality Functional Deployment as the basis of quality, although I'll be darned if I can find where he defines the acronym QFD.

Since the book uses the spelling of eXtreme in the same way the early eXtreme Programming literature did, one would assume this book is about managing XP projects. It is not. It actually has a very traditional approach to PM with a bit of radical thrown in - hence the title.

What makes the book different is the focus on process of project management is a full contact sport. Project success is measured through stakeholder values and interaction. Although the PMI PMBOK is mentioned along with the Australian Institute of Project Management as the baseline, my take is this is a departure from the high-ceremony processes describes by those bodies. Much of the QFD work is applicable to large scale IT projects. What is missing from the beginning is a target context. Is this a book for XP style PM's or a book for portfolio managers in large IT shops, or for projects in between. Without such a positioning, the book can get a bit fluffy if the information is not appropriate for the specific reader. From the Introduction I understood the audience to be large scale projects, with sponsors and the formality of an IT shop. A focus on e–commerce projects is also mentioned, with all the attendant pressures for short schedules, mission critical applications, and emerging requirements. So with this audience in mind what's not to like about the book?

Missing Pieces

I for one have developed an affliction that I can't seem to stay focused without some overview map to return to. Since I never have time to read a book cover-to-cover, some form of a guide is needed to keep me focused as well as direct my attention to a specific section containing information I need at the time. Radical Project Management (RPM) is not one of those books. My poster child for such a PM book is Walker Royce's Software Project Management: A Unified Framework. But this is a personal issue and does not take away from the content - assuming you can find what you need without reading it all the way through.

As a counter to the above statements there is a "road map" in the beginning of every chapter, but it is a linear picture of the steps involved in radical project management. As such there is no "connectivity" between the concepts in a manner described in the details of the text.

These are trivial issues and should be ignored on the first reading. My copy is now highlighted and tabbed to create a personal road map so let's move on.

Good Stuff to Learn About

Personally I was pleased to see a reasonable critique of traditional PM methods such as waterfall. Iterative, concurrent, and fast track methods are described.

Glen B. Alleman

Niwot Ridge Consulting

www.niwotridge.com