A Date with Dennis Lock

Dennis-LondonZoo

With over 45 years under his belt you would think that project management author, Dennis Lock, would be ready to hang up his pen and indulge himself in other interests. Not Dennis though. In 2013 alone he has three books out from Gower Publishing, and it’s these three books that prove there’s life in the old dog yet.

I met up with Dennis on a gorgeous summer morning at London Zoo to discuss life, career and monkeys. As we sat in the shade we talked about the inspiration for one of his latest books – Naked Project Management. This is a book aimed at students or people newly interested in getting into project management – absolute beginners in other words. In true Lock style, the book has just the right amount of detail. Essential project management processes are brilliantly described. It’s something that Dennis has become known for in the project management book community; if you want to understand the nuances of techniques like critical path, earned value and work breakdown structures, Dennis is your man.

Naked Project Management is a nod to Dennis’ most recent working career, lecturing at Southampton and Surrey universities on project management for their various Masters degree courses in management. This followed over 40 years working in a range of management positions in sectors such as defence, medical instrumentation, heavy engineering, manufacturing and mining.

His first book was published during his time at Honeywell in the 1960s and I was keen to find out if there’s still another book in Dennis. He told me he does have at least two other ideas, but wants to keep them close to his chest for now (having recently finished the 10th edition of the PM bible – Project Management). I also asked him what he thought of Prince2 and he went very pensive before replying somewhat disparagingly –  ‘Well, it was designed by a committee’.

I was also keen to see if there was anything Dennis didn’t know about project management. Agile was the area he singled out – and asked if he wanted to know more about it…the answer was Not really! I guess there comes a point in your career where you stick with what you’re good at.

Looking back on a career that started as the Second World War was coming to an end; project management didn’t exist in the way we’ve come to know it today. Dennis believes he’s been incredibly lucky to have the career he has had. When I mentioned that we make our own luck, he felt he was in a privileged position with a lot of the organisations he has worked with. Those business leaders gave Dennis encouragement and were open to creativity and change in the way work was organised and carried out, so Dennis was allowed considerable freedom to bring in processes and controls. In those early project managers and some developers of project management software met and exchanged ideas freely, with the encouragement of their various employers. Dennis was also able to move fairly effortlessly between companies and positions to expand his project management and domain experience, having little or no competition from others. Such were the early days of project management!

I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with Dennis as we worked on the new Handbook in the series for Gower. The Handbook of People in Project Management, due for publication at the end of September 2013 has been over 2 years in the making. We’ve edited over 60 chapters on all aspects of the ‘softer’ side of project management. I think Dennis will agree with me that there were some topics he enjoyed more than others! During that time I’ve really got to understand the man behind the books. We’ve gossiped about the uselessness of The Apprentice; shared photos from holidays (Dennis is a keen fan of hill walking and more recently cruising); and giggled our way through entertaining dining dates. At 83 years of age he’s my oldest Facebook friend (something he calls a waste of time but still can’t resist checking and commenting). Aside from his project management interests it’s probably a little known thing that Dennis is also a fellow at the Zoological Society of London. He has some brilliant stories from behind the scenes at the zoo as we walked around. The new tiger territory at London Zoo also looked tame compared to Dennis’ exploits decades ago…Our day at the zoo also wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the monkey enclosure, homage to the time that Dennis used to keep monkeys at home!

At the end of the day we wandered off in our separate directions, and as Dennis is such a lover of classical music I imagined I could hear the opening of a Brahms symphony as he made his way home, ready to start thinking about the next book.

Tiger-cub-for-Lindsay2

Dennis-Monkey

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