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HBR Project Management Handbook [Review]

(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.
There is a new project management “bible” in town that could replace some of your heavy tomes (Lock, I’m thinking of you).
Get your copy of The Harvard Business Review Project Management Handbook. How to Launch, Lead and Sponsor Successful Projects. This book is a masterclass on how to make project management work for modern businesses. The book was written by Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez (past PMI Chair) and is designed to raise project management skills to managerial levels.
The book begins with an articulate and effective explanation of why projects are necessary in modern economies (the “project economy”), and why leaders cannot ignore this discipline any longer.
The Project Canvas
The Project Canvas is a simple way to create a common foundation for a project. It links people with the work to be done and matches that to the investment and benefits. It’s kind of like a business case on one page. This idea is great and will be a great help to organizations who use project portfolio management to prioritize and identify incoming ideas.
The book is divided into four parts:
Project fundamentals for everyone, which examines the context of project management and how it fits in with the business.
The Project Canvas introduces the domains of the tool and the building blocks that make up the framework for the book.
This article examines the skills and abilities required to succeed in both individual and organizational projects
Projects for a better future, which is about the intersection between project management and megatrends that affect business, creating opportunities, and presenting challenges that we can’t ignore.
This book is full of business theory and context-setting, but also contains a lot practical information. I loved the idea of matching implementation methods to project types and it was explained very well. The book is easy to read and understand, even though the concepts can feel unfamiliar or confusing.
Some odd things seem to have slipped by, such as calling out IPMA or APM separately, since APM is one the membership organizations within IPMA, and there are many other international bodies that are the equivalents of APM. Perhaps this is a reflection of the likelihood that this book will only be read by English-speaking people. PRINCE2r isn’t spelled correctly at places (“Prince 2”), and while other certification agencies get a mention in the book, AXELOS, the awarding body and guardian’ for PRINCE2r doesn’t. These are minor things that don’t distract from the main messages of the book.
Project management: Bringing benefits to your projects
I recall having a heated debate with someone years ago about whether project benefits should be included in project management. That didn’t sit well with me. Nieto-Rodriguez isn’t open to the idea that benefits are outside of the project’s scope.
Benefits are an integral part of project lifecycles. The book explains why.
New thinking
The book challenged my assumptions and beliefs by including “run” in the project lifecycle scope. I guess it all depends on what your role is. When I looked back, as a program manager, running was my responsibility, at least for those projects that were completed while the program was still in progress.
There are many moments in the section on “What project management is now” that will make you say, “Yes!” such as the discussion on the new triple constraint. You will also find useful information on portfolio management and project prioritization. These are topics you can discuss with your executive team to help them understand the value of not doing All. The. Things. All at once.
A manifesto for a new approach