The Rational Project Manager
By Andrew Longman and Jim Mullins
John Wiley and Sons, $27.95
Putting aside for a moment that this book is as choked with jargon as a middle-aged man with a herniated esophagus (and I should know), these fine Kepner-Tregoe consultants present a pungently wise conceptual framework for managing projects in organizations. But we won't hold it against them.
After years of sincere effort and crushing failure, I conclude that managing projects in organizations of all types and dimensions, including my own family, is beyond me. I have come to accept that the project of transporting a used towel from the floor of my daughter's room to the bathroom towel bar is impossible. Some projects are just that way.
But not to Longman and Mullins, no, sirree! There are so many methods and tools out there: critical paths, PERT diagrams, EVAs, PVs, ACs, feedback mechanisms, performance systems, situation appraisals and problem analyses. This book is a Costco of ideas about project management. The shelves are full and there is no waiting on checkstand 7.
Pay special attention to Chapter 5, "Managing People in Projects." The authors would agree that it is not the project that will get to you; rather, it is the people in the project that will get to you. This, then, is wisdom, confirming once and for all what my grandmother, Lina Fulani Corsini, once told me in broken Italglish: "People have more problems than anybody." In this chapter the authors distinguish themselves as true human performance technologists. They beautifully capture and interpret the complexity and artistry of designing systems to help all those wonderfully complicated people produce results in spite of themselves. —S.C.