The Little Black Book of Project Management

Authors: Michael C. Thomsett
Publisher: AMACOM

Advice or text books of any sort of professional/academic calibre are showing their increased desire of late to break up the pages – sub-chapters, sub-sub-chapters, changes in boldness of text, tables and figures, famous quotes, indented text, indented again text, etc. It’s nothing new, but it does split a book’s readership into two camps: those who want the meat and potatoes without the distractions (i.e. they don’t like it), and those who think the meat and potatoes need enhancement (i.e. they like it and/or need it).

Michael C. Thomsett’s third edition in his nearly two decade revisions of The Little Black Book of Project Management may provide such division, but this reviewer found it enhancing and insightful. The American-written and published Black Book features constant breakaway from endless text consistently, and critics of such style when employed here by Thomsett seem to be dust specs of over think and nitpicking. After all, we live in a world where tools that keep us hooked are necessary to alleviate from all other distractions we didn’t face 25 years ago. A full-time author who has written in the past on real estate, stock market investment, business management and even a historical work on Hitler, Thomsett wants to do more than just tell you what he knows or has learned – he wants to show you how it works in real-life scenarios through example, framework and diagram.

Nothing from Black Book resonated with me nearly as well as the notion of “everyone has a customer”. Having come to this way of thinking in my own daily course of life, I cannot emphasize enough how right Thomsett is and how valuable it remains for anybody in any part of the working ladder (regardless of delegated function) to treat those they interact with as businesses treat a customer. Under this guise, the fellow delivering office mail treats all his deliveries as valued customers, whether they all work under the same umbrella or not. The customer in your working function does not necessarily mean “external to the company”; rather, it is the person you interact with frequently and are most keen to satisfy and deliver for (so to speak). It’s not that you’re selling: it’s that they’re convincing them of your ability to help matters.

Black Book more than lives up to the implications of its title. Though hardly the industry’s Holy Book, Black Book considers everything and leaves open to the reader whatever answers they choose to be right for them. In keeping with Arras People’s belief that no one methodology can possibly live up to the quirkiness faced in each project, Black Book concurs as such on page 173, in a passage about Project Control Documentation:

“Because every project is different, no exact level of documentation is going to be appropriate in every case. It has to be dictated by need.”

Thomsett can take elements like establishing a project schedule, break down the options available to the project manager, and effectively put you in a position to make the informed decision the situation requires. That is a testament to the continuous updates of Black Book as an evolution, as accounting for the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) would attest. Ultimately, Black Book is a quick read designed for you be informed and prepared. Provided you don’t mind too much information from all the text interruptions!

April 2010 – Reviewed by Dan Strayer, Editor, Project Management Tipoffs

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