Real-World Project Management

Book Review: Real-World Project Management by Richard Perrin

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership, Book Reviews

I very much appreciate the work that Perrin has accomplished in pulling together a vast amount of project management information into one useful volume. Having been through several implementations of Enterprise software, much of what Perrin has to say strongly resonates with me. Perrin has more than 30 years of consulting to major companies in many industries. He has “seen it all,” and his opinions on some of the inexplicable actions (or perhaps more importantly, lack of action) of corporate managers come through in what he refers to as “rants.” Perrin is also a fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, and refers to it frequently.

The organization of the book and Perrin’s clear and interesting prose makes it an excellent reference for the project manager and team. Perrin refers the reader to several on-line sources as well as the usual book references, PMBOK and Quality manuals. There are two sections: (1) In the Project Trenches and (2) Technical Tools for Quality Management, Risk Management, and Financial Management. There are ample footnotes and references as befits an excellent reference manual.

Perrin lays the documented project failures at the feet of inept management – middle managers to and including executive managers. For those not familiar with the data, Perrin lays it out:
January 2004 CHAOS Report showed the following:

  • Total project expenditures: $255 Billion
  • Total project success rate: 34%
  • Total project challenged rate: 51%
  • Total project failure rate: 15%
  • Cost of failed or challenged projects: $55 Billion
  • Average cost overrun: 43%

The above represents a success rate which doubled over the 1994 report from the same organization. The failure rate was more than cut in half, and cost overruns were cut by more than 75%. Perrin declares that “Most of this change was attributable to implementing effective project management controls where none or inadequate controls existed before and the development of repeatable, predictable process in the form of quality improvement.”

What needs to be emphasized is that this improvement cannot happen without Executive Management, from the CEO on down, championing the project and continuous process improvement. In spite of the improvements, the grades are not acceptable and project management must continue to improve.

The second section of Real-World Project Management focuses on some of the tools available to the project manager. The tools are grouped into Quality Management, Risk Management and Financial Management and reviewed at a high level, providing enough information to determine why and how one might use the various tools.

The last chapter puts it all together by creating a project utilizing most of the tools discussed in the second section. The project is a familiar one – an operations center comprising all the help-desks in the organization and is to be available 24/7. The goals were clear, and the project was much needed so that there was commitment from the management team. From that base, Perrin takes us through the project demonstrating the use of tools. Through the use of this example, the reader has a chance to understand how all the information provided in the previous chapters come together to successfully navigate the minefield of project management.

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